James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
The Spanish filmmaker Alex De La Iglesia (WITCHING AND BITCHING) paved the way for many well-known directors who have far exceeded the Madrid-based filmmaker’s fame and accolades.
It’s almost as if De La Iglesia crawled out of the Spanish language primordial ooze so Guillermo Del Toro could run. Although after watching the Severin 4K release of THE DAY OF THE BEAST and PERDITA DURANGO, they are giving Del Toro’s early works a run for their money. Maybe it could be the fact films are being reintroduced to North American audiences, but each of these films is a fresh, daring, and spontaneous piece of art. Also, the films of Alex De La Iglesia are not for the faint of heart.
THE DAY OF THE BEAST
A priest, a heavy metal fan, and a television psychic walk into a church… What sounds like a joke told by a drunk uncle is the plot of Iglesia’s second feature, the enigmatic and dark antichrist “comedy” THE DAY OF THE BEAST. The film’s tone is certainly no joke as De La Iglesia plays the potentially apocalyptic fantasy with a straight face. The blasphemous results are worth more than the 30 pieces of silver Judas was paid to betray Jesus.
Father Cura (Alex Angulo) is a dedicated priest whose last goal in life is to combat the titular “Day of The Beast” and kill the antichrist on its first day of life. The only problem is finding the antichrist and committing as much evil as possible to summon the devil so Cura can ask him the baby’s whereabouts. Along the way, Cura is pushing people down subway entrances, stealing luggage, and onto more severe infractions (like stealing the blood of a virgin woman) as the film develops. Go goes into a record shop where he meets a heavy metal fan (Santiago Segura, who Del Toro would use in his films), who assists Cura in committing evil and playing enough loud music to wake up Mr. Scratch from his slumber. Rounding out the crew is Cavan (Armando De Razza), the cheesy TV psychic kidnapped and forced to participate.
The sheer lengths Cura (and the film) is willing to achieve its goals are impressive. De La Iglesia created a film that paints a unique image of faith within the Christian faith. Now, the film’s endings don’t necessarily stay on moral high ground, but it’s as if De La Iglesia is commenting on the insanity one must be afflicted with to have such genuine passion. Maybe this sentiment is echoed in De La Iglesia’s own feelings about making films, and while the film is incredibly entertaining, let it be known we are not endorsing radicalization.
Rent or buy? Severin Films decked out this 4K disc with special features and a transfer that’s incredibly impressive for a film of its era. The film’s uncut version contains a transfer that highlights all the literally dark streets of Madrid with a beautiful cinematic glow. And while the special effects don’t hold up by today’s standards, looking at the Sega CD quality of graphics is kind of heartwarming. It’s worth the purchase.
- Heirs Of The Beast: Feature Length Making Of Documentary
- Antichrist Superstar: Interview with Director Alex De La Iglesia
- The Man Who Saved The World: Interview with Actor Armando De Razza
- Beauty and The Beast: Interview with Actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta
- Shooting The Beast: Interview with Director Of Photography Flavio Martinex Labiano
- Plus more
Alex De La Iglesia followed up THE DAY OF THE BEAST with his third film and English language debut PERDITA DURANGO. The Bonnie and Clyde story is a mix of feverish romance in the vein of David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART with the empathy for its immoral characters much like Oliver Stone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Peppered in-between the insanity is little action beats that mimic Tony Scott.
However, what De La Iglesia created is a unique film with the gonzo ideology of a director who has become unhinged and a populist filmmaker aiming for the highest common denominator. The result is something special Severin has released the previously unseen Spanish cut that clocks in at 129 minutes.
Perdita (Rosie Perez) has left the states and gone to Mexico to scatter her sister’s ashes. There she encounters Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem in an early role that hints at his fearlessness as a performer), a con man/ Santeria witch doctor who has just robbed a bank to pay off his debts to a Mexican loan shark (Demian Bichir). After a lot of cocaine and a little bit of cannibalism, the duo kidnaps a couple of gringos to use in a sacrificial ritual. From there, things get nasty as a DEA agent (played by James Gandolfini) tracks down the couple who wind up transporting a truck full of (redacted) materials to be used for facial lotion.
PERDITA DURANGO is an insanely disturbing film that somehow is palatable and doesn’t endorse Romeo and Perdita’s behavior. It’s the brilliance of De La Iglesia, who is steering the ship from start to finish—trusting his actors to deliver the performances that offer a nuanced look at this couple while not shying away makes the duo genuinely evil.
Rent or buy? Before Severin announced these films, I had no heard of either, and with some light research to provide cultural context for the work of the director, it was an easy sell for my sensibilities. PERDITA DURANGO is no different than THE DAY OF THE BEAST in being a meaty film that reveals more truths about what rouses its audience than it does to exalt its characters. Plus, there are loads of special features.
- On The Border: An Interview with Filmmaker Alex De La Iglesia
- Writing Perdita Durango: Interview with Writer Barry Gifford
- Dancing With The Devil: An Appraisal By Film Scholar Dr. Rebekah McKendry
- And Much More
THE DAY OF THE BEAST and PERDITA DURANGO are available on MVD SHOP and all other major online retaillers.