Feels appropriate that I watched this over the course of a week, since it’s pretty episodic. Apparently (according to scraps of the commentary track that I checked out) it’s about the gradual enlightenment of Jodorowsky’s title character. The dude could use some enlightenment, too, what with his woman issues, his murderous obsessions, his strange attraction to people with deformities, and his tendency to kill animals on-camera.
El Topo, riding across the desert dressed in black, abandons his son in favor of some woman. The woman demands he prove himself by defeating the four gun masters of the desert. Somewhere along the way they pick up an evil hot woman who talks like a man and I don’t know what that’s about. Anyway, Topo tricks and murders all four masters: blind guy; digs a hole in front of him, fall, fire… guy who always hits heart; ash tray in front of heart… guy who lives for love; distract him by crippling his wife… and crazy guy with no possessions, no gun, nothing; shoots himself to prove he has left no material desires!
Okay, but woman leaves him for the other woman, and they shoot him all up on a rickety bridge (give him the five wounds of christ, as a.j. immodestly explains on the commentary), then some mutants drag him into a hole, the end.
No! He wakes up 30 years later all white-bearded. The cripples and deformed have kept him alive as a god, and now he must leave the cave, go to the town and get help so they can all be free. Of course he does this by bringing a short woman with him and performing awful vaudeville routines for money to afford dynamite. Long story short, they free the cripples, the townsfolk mow them all down, and Topo duels his now grown son.
I had not-great memories of this one… remember most of it taking place inside the mountain (hardly any of it does!) and the picture and sound being bad, bad bad. New DVD looks miraculous… the desert sky so bright and blue. Movie not nearly as dull and drab as I remember it (and as recent restoration reviews have been saying), it’s totally watchable, and its horrible weirdness makes it worth watching.
Is it a GOOD movie then? Well it’s got some style (love the bridge scene, the rides through the desert) and it’s weird enough to recommend (most movies could stand to be weirder). I liked it more than I didn’t, so yeah, why not?