Perdita Durango

Perdita Durango

Theatrical release poster by Oscar Mariné
Directed by Álex de la Iglesia
Produced by Andrés Vicente Gómez
Written by Barry Gifford
David Trueba
Jorge Guerricaechevarría
Álex de la Iglesia
Starring Javier Bardem
Rosie Perez
Harley Cross
Aimee Graham
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
James Gandolfini
Music by Simon Boswell
Cinematography Flavio Martínez Labiano
Edited by Teresa Font
Release dates
  • 31 October 1997 (1997-10-31) (Spain)
Running time
126 minutes
Country Spain
Language English

Perdita Durango, released as Dance with the Devil in the United States, is a 1997 Spanish action crime horror film directed by Álex de la Iglesia, based on Barry Gifford's novel 59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango. It features a psychotic criminal couple who kidnaps a random teenage couple, and plans to rape and offer them in sacrifice (similarly to the 1989 real life human-sacrifice of Mark J. Kilroy by Mexican drug traffickers). It stars Javier Bardem as Romeo Dolorosa, the main character, and Rosie Perez as Perdita Durango serves as the co-star. Inspired by Magdalena Solís and The Hernandez Brothers's sect.


Perdita (Rosie Perez) is a tough, no-nonsense lady clad in a Tura Satana-style black outfit. She meets Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem), a maniacal criminal who also happens to be an even more maniacal witch doctor. Romeo robs a bank but risks getting caught in order to force the Bank Teller to strip her shirt and reveal her large breasts. Once in the street, he hides his face from the cops by grabbing and french kissing a random woman on the street. Crossing the border into Mexico together, Perdita and Romeo become lovers and partners in crime as they kidnap a random Anglo-Saxon teenage couple in order to sacrifice them. Along the way they also hijack a truckload of human fetuses and try to evade a determined Drug Enforcement Administration officer (James Gandolfini).

Prior to the sacrifice, Perdita mounts tied up Duane on a chair and rapes him under gunpoint. She talks all the way through and makes him reveal through a flashback that his only previous experience was being mounted by a buxom overweight girl. After Perdita is done, she forces Duane to watch as Estelle is being raped on a bed by Romeo, who tries to force an orgasm on her via a cunnilingus.

Perdita later tells off Romeo for deflowering the victim and thus hurt the sacrifice. They include Duane and Estelle in the vote of who shall get sacrificed. Duane and Estelle blame each other for enjoying their intercourse with their respective captor. Duane and Perdita convince Romeo to choose Estelle. Eventually, a group of people crash in, save Estelle and free Duane. Alas, after a car chase, Duane and Estelle are re-kidnapped and subjected to intense torture. The film ends with a forlorn shot of Perdita screaming as her eyelids are peeled away, Duane groaning at their failure of their plan.


The character of Perdita Durango had appeared previously as a minor character in Wild at Heart, another of Gifford's novels. In David Lynch's film adaptation of that novel, she was played by Isabella Rossellini.

The film is at its most horrific in the scenes where Romeo engages in practices labelled santería, though in reality these have little or nothing to do with Santería as it is practised in Cuba. In one ritualistic scene, he drenches himself in blood and smothers his face in a bag of cocaine. He then hacks limbs off a corpse, tears out its heart and writhes around on the ground, channeling multitudes of demons. De La Iglesia contrasts these scenes with gallows humour. Romeo may be a vicious killer but he also loves the music of Herb Alpert. There is a scene where he and Perdita happily groove to "Spanish Flea". Gandolfini's character speaks with a weasely lisp and has the misfortune of being repeatedly hit by fast moving vehicles, not unlike a live-action Wile E. Coyote.

Perdita Durango is a curious oddity in De La Iglesia's oeuvre. It is his most overt attempt to crack the North American market (where he has only a small but dedicated following) with his first English-speaking film and a cast of recognizable actors like Rosie Pérez, James Gandolfini and Javier Bardem. This alienated his Hispanic fans who felt that he had sold out, while his penchant for graphic sex and violence scared off potential distributors and mainstream audiences in North America, sending the movie direct to video. This film is a blend of genres (crime, horror, comedy, road trip) with an eclectic cast that features his regular favourites (Santiago Segura) and colourful character actors (Screamin' Jay Hawkins).

Various versions

The original Spanish version runs 10 minutes longer and features more sex and violence and ends with some characters digitally morphing into the scene finale from Vera Cruz.

The film is available in the United States on VHS/DVD in two versions: the edited 115 min. R-rated version and a 121 min. unrated version. Both of these are shorter than the Spanish version.[1]



  1. "Perdita Durango: A Case Study". the cuts made from the Spanish version for the U.S. release.
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