Doing Justice To SANTA SANGRE, Part III: The Incredibly Strange Film Show

Ok so the episode of the ISFS on Alejandro Jodorowsky was part of the unofficial third season entitled For One Week Only. This final series showcased more art house friendly filmmakers than grindhouse — Jodo, Lynch, Almodovar & Kaurismaki — but the format of the show remained the same. Soon-to-be highest paid UK TV personality Jonathan Ross took us on an enlightening journey through the entire colorful career of the subject filmmaker illustrated by interviews with key personnel and well chosen clips.

JR @ Hairspray prem

The first episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show aired in 1988 and was a fantastic overview of the work of John Waters (probably still the best that exists to this day). Broadcast on the eve of the UK release of Hairspray, I was later to find out from the subject himself that his interview was shot just a few days after Divine passed away, though the still-greatly missed rotund thesp did get to deliver a few choice soundbites at the Hairspray premiere. Other dreamlanders interviewed included Mary Vivian Pierce, Mink Stole, Vince Peranio and Pat Moran. Although I was aware of the work of Waters at the time, mainly due to some intriguing stills in John McCarty’s Splatter Movies, it was only when I saw this show that I became obsessed with the man’s work. Although most of his films were banned in the UK, thanks to some essential under the counter purchases at the Psychotronic Video store in London’s Camden Town I was able to procure all of his films to date, from Mondo Trasho to Polyester. I used to relish showing key scenes from Pink Flamingos to unsuspecting and often very appalled/concerned high school friends after an otherwise pleasant night at the pub. Then once I learnt that Waters had written an autobiography I had to have it. Shock Value was not at that time available in the UK either so had to be ordered from the US which took a painful 7 weeks! (oh those pre-internet years). It was this book that convinced me that I could finally disregard whatever ridiculous suggested path the school careers advisor was nonchalantly life sentencing me to and pursue a movie career of some sort.

So all the above is a rather roundabout way of saying that The Incredibly Strange Film Show was an extremely welcome weekly treat at a time in the UK when the world of cult movies could not be explored via the local video store due to dark censorial times, but only through dodgy underground trading, rare as rocking horse shit stores like Psychotronic and fanzines like Samhain and Shock Xpress (below). And that debut Waters episode of the show was just the tip of the iceberg, a mere taste of the dastardly delights to come. The following weeks would feature equally eye-opening 45 minute exposes on the films of Ray Dennis Steckler, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ted V. Mikels, Sam Raimi and Russ Meyer. A second season followed a year later cheekily titled The Son Of The Incredibly Strange Film Show exploring the works of Jackie Chan, El Santo, Ed Wood, George Romero and a pair of split episodes on Stuart Gordon/Tsui Hark and Doris Wishman/Fred Olen Ray.


The third season as mentioned above was called For One Week Only and while the Lynch episode was certainly intriguing, arriving around the time both Wild At Heart hit theaters and Twin Peaks hit the air, it was the Jodorowsky episode which proved almost as enlightening as the Waters debut. The imagery on display from El Topo, The Holy Mountain and in particular Santa Sangre was some of the most stunning I had ever seen. What kind of mind produced this stuff? And the man himself was just as fascinating. Never had I heard the joy of watching violence in cinema put so succinctly and with so much passion. Kinda how I’d always wanted to bark the answer at every censorial authority figure who questioned why I couldn’t watch nice movies about love and shit. Beautifully supported by comments from collaborators and colleagues like Dennis Hopper, Moebius, Marcel Marceau, Adan Jodorowsky and even Omar Sharif as well as footage on the set of the ill-fated Rainbow Thief and of Jodo’s tarot readings in Paris, this episode was arguably the best of the lot.

Sadly the series has never appeared officially on home video anywhere in the world due to clips licensing issues so it has become the stuff of nth generation bootleg which is perhaps the way it should be, seeing as that’s the way we had to view the work of the profiled filmmakers in the UK at the time. So it is with great pleasure that we can announce that we have come to an arrangement with Channel X television to include the Jodorowsky episode (minus a handful of film clips from El Topo & Holy Mountain) on the Santa Sangre disc.

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