• Perdita Durango (Severin Films) UHD Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 30th 2021.
    Director: Álex de la Iglesia
    Cast: Rosie Perez, Javier Bardem, Harley Cross, Aimee Graham, James Gandolfini, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Santiago Segura, Alex Cox
    Year: 1997
    Purchase From Severin Films

    Perdita Durango – Movie Review:

    Álex de la Iglesia’s 1997 picture, Perdita Durango, opens with a scene where the titular character, played by Rosie Perez, lies naked in bed and wakes up to find herself face to face with a leopard. It’s a great bit of foreshadowing and a pretty impressive bit of visual filmmaking to start off what is ultimately a pretty wild ride.

    A short time later, she is approached by a man named Romeo (Javier Bardem) who is insistent that she come with him. She obliges, and soon comes to learn that he’s not only a drug smuggler but also a practitioner of Santeria. He, along with his assistant Adolfo (Screamin' Jay Hawkins), performs rituals involving cocaine and human sacrifices for devout crowd. As Perdita becomes drawn into his world, she goes along with his idea to kidnap a few new victims for his next ceremony. Before you know it, naïve teens Estelle (Aimee Graham) and Duane (Harley Cross) have been abducted and it only goes downhill for them from there.

    When Romeo accepts a job from a gangster that involves protecting a shipment of fetuses in jars, a cop named Dumas (James Gandolfini), later with some help from Doyle (Alex Cox), starts to move in on him, but Romeo won’t be easy to take down and Perdita is, for now at least, completely on his side.

    Released in the US as Dance With The Devil, Perdita Durango may, at times, feel like it’s borrowing from Natural Born Killer or Wild At Heart, two movies that it bears some thematic similarities to, but Álex de la Iglesia and company put enough of their own spin on this that it turns out to be a pretty unique watch. At just a hair under two-hours-and-ten-minutes in length, this ‘director’s cut’ version of the movie is quick in its pacing and proves to be a pretty unpredictable and wild ride. Based on the novel by Barry Gifford (his follow up to Wild At Heart, which was adapted for the screen by David Lynch), the film does a good job of giving us enough character development and background info on the main characters to keep them interesting while still retaining an element of mystery to them that keeps us wanting to know more.

    A stylish and colorful film set to a rousing score by composer Simon Boswell (with a contribution by Hawkins, of course – you wouldn’t put him in a movie and not let him contribute something to the soundtrack!), what really makes this movie work as well as it does are the performances. Graham and Cross are pretty amusing as the naïve kids who get messed up in this and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins steals a few scenes in the movie. Gandolfini plays a character here not too removed from the one he played in True Romance but he does it well and he and Alex Cox are quite funny together. Not surprisingly, however, it’s Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem that get the most screen time here and that do most of the heavy lifting. Perez is great here, seductive and appealing but dangerous and unpredictable. She’s a great choice for the part and she makes it her own. Bardem, however, is the real star of this show. The man commits like few before him, really throwing himself into the part and as charming as he is frequently terrifying.

    Perdita Durango – UHD Review:

    Perdita Durango arrives on UHD from Severin Films on a 66GB disc with a new 4k restoration framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR enhancement. Severin has done a really nice job here. The colors on the UHD look gorgeous and are quite a bit stronger than the included Blu-ray disc. The black levels are also spot on, as are flesh tones. Detail is generally really strong and, again, improved over the Blu-ray disc, not just in close ups (though that tends to be where it is the most obvious) but also in the wide and long shots as well. There’s impressive depth throughout and the image is free of any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression problems. There is minor print damage noticeable throughout but it’s only small white specks, never anything more than that and never particularly distracting at all. All in all, this is an impressive transfer.

    Audio options are available in 16-bit DTS-HD 5.1 in Spanish and English with optional subtitles provided in English only for both tracks. The English track, which still contains portions of the film spoken in Spanish, is the original language option and the better of the two but they both sound quite good. The score and effects are spread around quite nicely, the first Santeria scene being a good example of how enveloping the mix can be, while the dialogue stays clean and clear throughout. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the levels are nicely balanced from start to finish.

    Extras on the UHD are limited to two trailers for the film but the included Blu-ray disc has quite a bit of extra content on it starting with On the Border, a twenty-eight-minute interview with director Alex de la Iglesias. He speaks here about how Bigas Luna was originally slated to direct, how he came onboard to helm the feature, the politics of the film, his thoughts on the script, the significance of the opening scene with the leopard, changes he made to the script, his thoughts on the lead characters, an accident that happened with some of the pyrotechnics on set, working with the leads, how they got Hawkins for the film, using a real Santero to 'cleanse' the set, how Alex Cox wound up in the picture, locations that they used and lots more.

    Writing Perdita Durango spends seventeen-minutes with Barry Gifford, who wrote the original novel that the film was based on as well as the screenplay. He talks about writing Wild At Heart first, coming up with the character of Perdita Durango and her connections to the Wild At Heart novels, the significance of her name, how he was brought on board to write the screenplay, how there were different directors involved before de Iglesia was finally brought on board, his thoughts on how writing novels and screenplays differs, the influence of different road novels on the story, writing strong female characters, his appreciation of the casting, his experiences when he was on the set for a few days and his thoughts on the finished film overall.

    Dancing with the Devil is a thirteen-minute interview with Rebekah Mckendry where she speaks about her thoughts on de Iglesia's filmography, how she came to know his work and her appreciation of his style. She also covers how Perdita Durango was supposed to bring him into Hollywood, his use of violence, the release history of the film and how it did not do well upon its initial release, the film's connection to Wild At Heart, the use of Santeria in the picture, her thoughts on the performances and the romantic aspects of the movie.

    Narcosatanicos: Perdita Durango And The Matamoros Cult an eighteen-minute featurette that covers some of the events that the story is based on. The events took place in 1989 when a gay male model named Adolfo Costanza, who was working as a medium and a priest, got mixed up with some drug dealers. They cover his use of Santeria and Palo Mayombe, how he got into the drug trade himself, hooking up with a woman named Sarah Aldrete and how they basically ran a drug gang/cult together. They also cover the influence of the film The Believers, the gang's kidnapping of a white American victim named Mark Kilroy to be used as a human sacrifice, and how law enforcement eventually caught up with them. It's fascinating stuff.

    The twenty-one-minute Canciones de Amor Maldito: The Music Of Perdita is an interview with composer Simon Boswell. He talks about coming onto the project without knowing a whole lot about it, de la Iglesias' appreciation of the Italian films that Boswell had been involved with in the eighties, the visceral aspects of composing a film score, how the Spanish were more organized than the Italians tended to be on their projects, how he wrote 'strange generic pieces of music' to record in sections and use as building blocks to create weirder cues off of, the effect that the editing had on the use of music in the film, how de la Iglesia basically gave him complete freedom to do what he wanted with the score and quite a bit more.

    Shooting Perdita Durango is a quick five-minute interview with cinematographer Flavio Labiano. He speaks about coming on board the project, shooting in the US and in Mexico, working with a bigger budget than he was used to, how the movie took a long time to shoot, how it was easier to shoot in Mexico than the US not just because of the language but also because of the rules and unions, problems and accidents that arose on set, trying to capture the heat of the locations and how much fun it was to work on the project despite being a lot of work. There's some good behind the scenes footage in here as well.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are two trailers, menus and chapter selection options. Severin has packaged this release with some nice reversible cover as well as a slipcover.

    Perdita Durango - The Final Word:

    Perdita Durango is way over the top, there’s nothing subtle about it, but it works. Álex de la Iglesia keeps the audience entertained throughout and the performances are really strong across the board. If at times it feels like style over substance, there’s still more than enough story here to ensure we’re engaged and never bored. Severin has done an excellent job bringing the film to UHD, with a strong presentation and a nice selection of extra features. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Perdita Durango Blu-ray screen caps!