El Topo decides to confront warrior Masters on a trans-formative desert journey he begins with his 6 year old son, who must bury his childhood totems to become a man. El Topo (the mole) claims to be God, while dressed as a gunfighter in black, riding a horse through a spiritual, mystical landscape strewn with old Western movie, and ancient Eastern religious symbols. Bandits slaughtered a village on his path, so El Topo avenges the massacred, then forcibly takes their leader’s woman Mara as his. El Topo’s surreal way is bloody, sexual and self-reflective, musing of his own demons, as he tries to vanquish those he encounters.
Director/star Alejandro Jodorowsky’s self-conscious, surrealistic, often incoherent and incomprehensible, unique and avant-garde El Topo (translated “the Mole”), a gory (and spiritual) “spaghetti” western and first ‘midnight movie’ cult film, told the story of the existential quest of a black-clad, violent gunfighting title character (the director himself).
The film opened with El Topo riding in the Mexican desert with his naked son (Brontis Jodorowsky) on the saddle in front of him. He had his son bury artifacts – his mother’s picture and his favorite childhood stuffed animal, in order to become a man and take his father’s place.
In the startling opening sequence, they found the bloody remains of a town massacre where animals were gutted and people were decimated, leaving a river of blood. When threatened by three crazed evil-doer bandits, El Topo quickly dispatched with them, and then sought further vengeance in a mission town against the fat, balding (with a toupee), pasty-faced but vicious and sadistic Colonel (David Silva) and his outlaw gang. After castrating the Colonel (who then committed suicide) and executing his men, El Topo rescued the man’s terrorized concubine-slave Mara (Mara Lorenzio) and rode off with her, while leaving his naked son in the care of monks.
The freed Mara (meaning “bitter water”) accompanied him on his journey into the desert. Their trip included a notable rape scene between El Topo and Mara in which he tore off her clothes and forced himself upon her. He sexually imparted to her the ability to find eggs in the sand and bring water from a rock. In a symbolic scene, she touched a phallic-shaped rock that ejaculated forth life-giving water – and then hugged it.
She convinced him that for her to best love him, he had to prove himself by journeying onward to defeat and kill the “four great gun masters” who lived in the desert. After killing the first master (a holy man) through a bit of cheating, El Topo and Mara were joined by another ‘Woman in Black’ (Paula Romo), a whip-cracking bi-sexual gunslinger (speaking in a man’s voice) at an oasis, possibly signifying El Topo’s feminine side.
The two women bathed naked together, and El Topo made love to Mara while buried in the sand, and afterwards shot the mirror that she was often viewing herself in. [The self-important director later dubiously claimed – for publicity’s sake – that the sex scenes were deliberately real.]
In the other three duels with masters, El Topo defeated each of them with more mystical trickery – and luck. After killing the third master (a rabbit man), he rubbed blood onto Mara’s breasts to signify his victory. But with the demise of all four adversaries and after acquiring their wisdom, he believed he was contaminated: “I am laid low in the dust of death. My God, why hast thou forsaken me. Why are You so far from saving me, from heeding my groans?” He was betrayed by the ‘Woman in Black’ when she wounded him – shooting him four times through both his hands and feet (a crucifixion-passion-stigmata symbol). Mara also chose to shoot El Topo in the side to finish him off, and he was left for dead, while the two women became lovers and rode off together.
In this second part of the film, El Topo’s comatose body was found by a group of small-statured deformed cripples, and taken into their subterranean home inside a mountain, where they slept in stacked barrels and were led by an old woman. After he awoke from a long sleep, he realized they were a strange and “repulsive” outcast colony of mis-shapen underground people (due to “continuous incest”), who were worshipping him as a god and savior, believing he would free them from their imprisoned state. He took one of the “small” women (Jacqueline Luis) as his lover, and as an act of atonement, promised to free the exiled cave-dwellers by helping them dig an escape tunnel out of the cave. Depraved and weird religious cultists from the neighboring western town were led by outlaws and sex-starved and degenerate matriarchal women. The female leaders were hypocritical members of the Decent Women League who demanded sex from slaves and then had them executed for rape. They brutalized and enslaved white-clad townsfolk. They branded them like cattle with a symbol – an eye within a triangle.
El Topo appeared to have found enlightenment and holy “sainthood” and was born again – he shaved his head and dressed in peasant or Buddhist monk garb, and became a pacifist servant-beggar. He provided street entertainment and performed menial tasks to earn money from the villagers. He discovered that his son was now grown-up (Robert John) and had become a religious figure in the village, but was disillusioned by the cultists and began to dress in his father’s black-clad gunfighter outfit.
In the frontier town, worshippers played Russian roulette with a gun as a means to produce “miracles” until a young boy was killed. When the underground people exited the tunnel into sunlight and entered the town, they were slaughtered by the cultists. Invincible to their gunblasts, El Topo approached the killers to retaliate, grabbed a rifle, and in a flurry of gunfire shot all of the clan members, and then immolated himself in the dusty street. Survivors of the bloodbath massacre included El Topo’s grown son and his dwarf girlfriend (and a child born to her at the same time as El Topo’s death). They constructed a swarming beehive grave for El Topo’s remains. The film ended as El Topo’s son, the child, and the dwarf female rode off on the horse into the desert, mirroring the scenes in the film’s opening.
In other sex-related scenes, a fringe-jacketed bandit laid on top of a rock sculpture of a naked woman that he had just drawn, the ‘Woman in Black’ suggestively stroked and then licked a piece of sliced-open green cactus fruit before grabbing Mara for an unwanted lesbian kiss, and after seriously wounding El Topo the two traitorous women again kissed and made love. In the film’s most bizarre and decadent scene, El Topo and his dwarf lover were taken to the village’s saloon where in a trap-doored underground sex cantina, they were forced to strip and re-enact their wedding night in front of a group of voyeuristic degenerates.
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Tags: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alfonso Aráu, Brontis Jodorowsky, David Silva, El Topo, El Topo Online, Free movies 1970, Ignacio Martínez España, José Legarreta, José Luis Fernández, Mara Lorenzio, Paula Romo, Robert John