Perdita Durango (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Apr 20, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
  • Bookmark and Share
Perdita Durango (4K UHD Review)

Director

Alex de la Iglesia

Release Date(s)

1997 (March 30, 2021)

Studio(s)

Canal+ Espana/Trimark Pictures (Severin Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B+

Perdita Durango (Blu-ray Disc)

amazonbuttonsm

Review

After the success of The Day of the Beast, director Alex de la Iglesia returned with another all-out assault on the senses: Perdita Durango (aka Dance with the Devil). Released in several versions the world over, the story is derived from the novel 59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango by Barry Gifford (of Wild at Heart and Lost Highway fame). Excessive violence, an overabundance of sex, and breathtakingly lurid sexual assault pervade this comedic and horrific thrill ride of drugs, bank robbery, kidnapping, deception, and revenge. It’s also a career highlight for both Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem, who turn in fearless performances as two star-crossed criminals, each as wild and unpredictable as the other. Though the film made it to the US in a heavily-edited, R-rated form, it continues to draw cult audiences to this day.

Perdita (Rosie Perez) is a hard-edged, free-wheeling woman, haunted by the recent and devastating death of her sister. Hanging out on the border of Mexico with no destination in mind, she meets the mysterious Romeo (Javier Bardem), who reveals himself to be a wild cultist and criminal, cut from the same cloth as her. Though she initially recoils, she decides to head across the border with him, carrying stolen money and drugs. They become completely entwined with each other, abusively but lovingly locked at the hip with a penchant for mayhem. They kidnap a couple of suburban teenagers, Duane (Harley Cross) and Estelle (Aimee Graham), with a plan to rape and sacrifice them before pulling a job for the one-eyed gangster Santos (Don Stroud). Meanwhile, obsessive federal agent Woody Dumas (James Gandolfini) is hot on their trail. Following them into Mexico, he fully intends to catch them, if they don’t self-destruct first.

Perdita Durango was shot using Arriflex cameras and was finished photochemically on 35 mm film. Severin Films brings the original uncut Spanish version to Ultra HD for the first time with a 4K restoration (presumably from the original camera negative) in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. An HDR color grade has been applied and is presented in HDR10. Simply put, this is easily the best the film has ever looked in its aftermarket life. The higher color gamut really enhances its lush appearance with inky-deep blacks and high levels of shadow detail. The color palette doesn’t just pop, it leaps off the screen with candy-soaked swatches of red, yellow, and green, while also providing added depth and clarity to the brown desert landscapes and multi-colored, town-based environments. Film grain is light and an abundance of fine detail augments the immersion. It’s a gorgeous presentation.

The audio is included in English or Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both tracks excel with impressive surround activity, whether it be a random jet flying by the camera with sound panning from front to back, or ambient effects in the rear speakers during crowd scenes and shootouts. Dialogue is a mix of English and Spanish and both come through with excellent clarity. The music selection and score have an enormous amount of life to them. Low end moments springing from gunfire, as well as the staging of other types of sound effects, give each track depth. There are also no instances of leftover damage.

In addition to the Ultra HD, this release also includes a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p, utilizing the same master with the same audio and subtitle options. Each disc contains the following extras:

(DISC 1 – UHD)

  • Spanish Trailer (Upsampled SD – 1:37)
  • English Trailer (Upsampled SD – 1:50)

(DISC 2 – BD)

  • On the Border (HD – 28:12)
  • Writing Perdita Durango (HD – 16:43)
  • Dancing with the Devil (HD – 12:57)
  • Narcosatanicos: Perdita Durango and the Matamoros Cult (HD – 18:14)
  • Canciones de Amor Maldito: The Music of Perdita Durango (HD – 21:13)
  • Shooting Perdita Durango (HD – 4:54)
  • Spanish Trailer (Upsampled SD – 1:37)
  • English Trailer (Upsampled SD – 1:50)

In On the Border, director Alex de la Iglesia discusses the film’s original director, developing the script, confusing fiction with reality, working with the cast, the intensity of the production, shooting the rituals, finding a real witch on the set one day, invoking Peckinpah, the aggressiveness of the sex scenes, trimming the film to avoid an X-rating, the Vera Cruz ending, the dangerous shooting locations, the look of the film, and the reaction to it. In Writing Perdita Durango, author Barry Gifford talks about the creation of the character of Perdita Durango, being approached to write the screenplay, his hesitance over the hiring of Iglesia, staying true to the characters, his interest in religions, seeing the film with a Spanish audience and his thoughts on it, and his disdain for the alternate title. In Dancing with the Devil, podcaster Rebekah McKendry discusses her history with Iglesia’s work, Perdita and Romero’s relationship and their basis in reality, the layers to Romero’s character, and why the film wouldn’t get made today. Narcosatanicos is a documentary that highlights the real-life counterparts to the characters in the film with festival programmer Abraham Castillo Flores and author Jim Schutze. In Canciones de Amor Maldito, composer Simon Boswell talks about how he got the job, his approach to composing music based upon seeing a cut of the film first instead of reading the script, problems recording the score due to how long the final edit took to complete, not relying on temp tracks, a funny story about the Herb Alpert song, working with Iglesia, creating subversive music, and his reaction to the final film. In Shooting Perdita Durango, director of photography Flavio Labiano briefly discusses shooting the film in the US and Mexico, working with the great crews in Mexico, and how tough the shoot was. Rounding out the extras are the Spanish and English trailers for the film.

Rarely will you find a film as simultaneously repellent and magnetic as Perdita Durango. It’s a fascinating piece of work, and though it wasn’t welcomed with open arms initially, it has since been recognized as one of Alex de la Iglesia’s best works. Severin’s UHD release of the film, along with The Day of the Beast, re-establish him as a filmmaking force to be reckoned with when left to his own devices. This is a terrific release and deserves its reappraisal.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

Bits Latest Tweets

The Digital Bits
Bits #4K Review – @BillHuntBits takes a deep dive into Kinji Fukasaku’s BATTLE ROYALE via @ArrowFilmsVideo’s magnificent new #UltraHD & #Bluray boxset, featuring both versions of the original film & its sequel, plus a massive archive of extras old & new thedigitalbits.com/item/battle-ro…
The Digital Bits
Today on The Bits – @MichaelCoate and @ScottMendelson celebrate SHREK on its 20th anniversary in History Legacy & Showmanship! thedigitalbits.com/columns/histor…