Friday, May 14, 2004

Saints and Ghouls: Dance with the Devil a.k.a. Perdita Durango (1997)

Barry Gifford writes like a possessed priest. He writes about the hard way and the nightside roads most of us are afraid to travel down. He writes with an insight into human nature that is disturbing yet always entrancing. And like Elmore Leonard, the modern crime fiction master of the American Burn Out, Gifford does it all in a stripped down humorous style. Dance with the Devil, directed by Alex de la Iglesia (the man responsible for the satanically enjoyable Day of the Beast from 1995) and adapted from Gifford’s novel Perdita Durango, is sort of a follow-up to David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990) but with more teeth. Starring Rosie Perez as Perdita (she’s really good, honest!) and the great Javier Bardem as Romeo Dolorosa, the drug dealing Santeria priest who wins Perdita’s black little heart all for himself, Iglesia’s amoral killers-on-the-run film is flawed, but it’s also staggeringly good more so than not. Human sacrifices, kidnapped teens, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, James Gandolfini as a boneheaded yet dedicated federal agent bent on capturing Perdita, dead fetuses, and director Alex Cox (one of my faves) as a MIB who is very, very interested in them dead babies, are just some of the treats in store for those who like their comedy pitch black. This film’s tongue is so sharp it slices clear through its own cancerous cheek with a dexterity that would have made Ed Gein crack a smile. Think Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers lacked attitude and was a little corny? Well, give this one a shot.

Although it states on the DVD keep-case that the film is “unrated,” unfortunately that’s not the case. The original Spanish version of the film runs 126 minutes and contains a few more scenes of violence and mayhem. But most importantly, the American “unrated” cut of the film is missing scenes from the 1954 Robert Aldrich western, Vera Cruz, which starred Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper. Cruz is a favorite film of Dolorosa’s and the ending of Dance with the Devil (at least in the Spanish version) contains a scene wherein the faces of Lancaster and Cooper morph over Dolorosa’s and another character’s during the climatic shoot-out. Presumably the scene was altered because of copyright issues. Regardless, the “unrated” American version is still worth checking out.

Dance with the Devil is available on DVD from A-Pix Entertainment.

No comments: