Perdita Durango (1997)

We talked about Álex de la Iglesia and his film Day of the Beast here before. Now, we have another of us films, based on the 1992 Barry Gifford novel 59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango. It also takes inspiration from Magdalena Solís, the so-called “High Priestess of Blood,” who was hired by Santos and Cayetano Hernandez to be an Incan princess as part of their cult that was fooling villagers into becoming slaves for them. The power went to her head and she took over, starting a series of drug-fueled blood drinking and murder rituals.

Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez) is trying to scatter the ashes of her sister when she meets Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem), whose police blotter includes crimes like bank robbery, drug dealing and pretending to be a Santeria priest, which mainly involves doing coke and hacking up corpses. Now, he’s refrigerating human fetuses and taking them to Vegas for Mr. Santos (Don Stroud, The Amityville Horror).

Perdita decides that they should capture and eat someone, so they kidnap two geeky college kids, assault both of them and then just before the ceremony to sacrifice the girl, another gang attacks. They go on the run, kids in tow, all the way to their destiny in Vegas.

James Gandolfini shows up as agent Woody Dumas, who continually gets hit by cars and survives.

Perdita also appears in another Gifford novel — and the movie it inspired — Wild at Heart, where she was essayed by Isabella Rossellini.

During the Santeria scenes — which are much closer to Santa Muerte — look for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, one of the most important figures in the history of rock ‘n roll.

This movie was a dividing line in De La Iglesia’s career. Spanish-speaking fans felt that he sold out by having the movie in English and featuring big stars, while American audiences were frightened off by all the sex, drugs and violence.

As for me. I was stunned by how the end of the film transforms into the 1954 Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper film Vera Cruz.

You can watch this on Tubi. Supposedly, Severin is releasing a new version of this on blu ray this year.

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