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Restore This: Alex de la Iglesia’s ‘Mutant Action’

Written by on December 4, 2012 

Restore This is a new column in which we take a look at cult films begging for a special edition. These range from outrageous works of genre to the specialty arthouse. Either way, we hope to bring more attention in order to increase their availability and achieve the restoration they deserve.


Mutant Action is the directorial debut of cult Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. Often the labels “debut” and “cult director” seem to allude to another one: “breakthrough.” Unfortunately for him, he has remained largely a niche within a niche; meaning his work will play the genre festival circuit to decent fanfare but he has yet to be established as a household name in the world of geekdom, a la Takashi Miike.

Iglesia is perhaps seeing a change of tide though, being that he won the Best Director award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival (headed of course by foreign genre fanatic Quentin Tarantino) for his circus clown picture The Last Circus. And his high-profile fans don’t end there; Mutant Action was produced by Pedro Almodovar.

What’s It About?

Per IMDb, the film is described as, “In a future world ruled by good-looking people, a terrorist group of mutants led by Ramon Yarritu kidnap the daughter of Orujo, a rich businessman, to claim for the rights of the ugly people.”

Though there’s far more.

What I Thought

Mutant Action’s basic setup is obviously concerned with social satire. Being that the lead mutant Ramon even name checks mineral water as a symbol of what the group is averting, it’s safe to say that it’s addressing contemporary (at least for 1993) hallmarks. But the film ultimately reveals itself to not be concerned with satire of societal standards but rather that of human nature. Not to spoil anything, but eventually somebody sells out another for money, establishing that even fundamentalist beliefs that lead to terrorism can be dropped like a hat at any moment.

Its brisk mind is certainly complimented by its form. Our primary exposition throughout is the rapidity of television. The film alerts us more of the group’s perceived terrorist intentions than it does themselves. Here is the picture’s strongest grasp of actual satire: the natural sensationalization of media lending meaning to an empty cause. And of course it all plays alongside commercials for a fake acid cereal, cementing this as certainly Verhoeven-esque.

In regards to genre specific formal pleasures, it should be mentioned that the film’s effects were done by the same team behind Delicatessen. While the mutant designs bear the mark of low-budget (though the Siamese-twins are amusing) what is definitely strongest is the spaceship set, feeling like a combination of Terry Gilliam and Ridley Scott.


State of the DVD

While the DVD cover boasts “WIDESCREEN – SPECIAL EDITION,” it’s begging for an upgrade. Firstly, it’s non-anamorphic. Secondly, the transfer is simply not good, looking more like it’s ripped from a beaten-up VHS. It comes to a point where it’s hard to appreciate how good-looking the film actually is. One cannot appreciated the impressive effects, which still hold up.

Being that next year is the 20th anniversary, it seems like the perfect time for a Blu-Ray commissioned by either Blue Underground or Anchor Bay. Potential special features involving the effects and Iglesia’ career would be ideal. The aforementioned Tarantino and Almodovar could even appear as talking heads.

Are you a fan of the film? Would you like an upgrade?

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