Cremator (1969) – Crazy Cremating Czechoslovakian Cinema!

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia movie poster burning

There’s no way I can talk about the film Cremator without spoilers, so please make haste if you don’t wish to know. This is more of a, what the fuck was that all about post! First up, how this gets labeled as a comedy, along with crime and drama, I have no idea. There are definitely extreme dark comedy moments but the by and large of it is utmost bleak and depressing.

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia crematorium horror film close up

Set in Czechoslovakia sometime around 1939/40 during the Second World War when Nazi Germany have invaded the country and are setting up a protectorate. The deranged Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrusínský), a strange rotund smiling man, who on first impressions has an almost innocent look to him. Coming off like a loyal family man, he is the father to a son and daughter, with a dutiful wife. It doesn’t take long before you realise there’s something oddball and peculiar about this man.

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia crematorium wifeCremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia family

He’s extremely proud of his job as head of the city crematorium. Happy to tell anyone wishing to know, the process he uses to dispose of the bodies in his care.  Whenever he opens up a casket to reveal a body, out comes his trusty comb to give them a quick tidy up. Giving the dearly departed’s hair a loving swipe to the side before he then, with a freakish creepy routine, tidies up his own hair with the comb.

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia crematorium horror film loves his job

For Kopfrkingl, he sees his job as a blessing, to free the souls on their next journey path, to cleanse them by releasing their smoke into the ether. Maybe you might think he is doing his job well, a way to cope with the arduous task in hand? But no our Kopfrkingl is quite demented and unbalanced as he battles religious symbols, the influence of Nazi propaganda, the pull of prostitution and most bonkers, seeing himself as the reincarnation of the recently departed, 13th Dalai Lama.

As the Nazi influence and propaganda thoughts go through his head he starts to dismiss his own and his family’s, identity. Seeing himself as more German, even though he only has a “drop” of German blood flowing through his veins.

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia coffin body

This is truly a dark psychological horror story with a horrendous anti-semitic core throughout the whole film but the smiling freaky man in his twisted mind things and believes with his cremating, relieves all earthly suffering and he is divine in his ways.

He is watched by a dark haired woman throughout the film at different times, she looks so heartbreaking sombre, I wondered if she was a ghost, a spirit of some kind, maybe even the angel of death?

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia ghost girl

Did I read into it right? That his actions of wanting a bigger more productive crematorium whilst working for the Nazi’s imply that he was the catalyst for the monstrous atrocities that were to come at the hands of the Germans in World War Two? I certainly got that impression and it’s plagued my mind, so extremely disturbing.

A few things I learnt.

  • I’ve read it was not widely seen until the collapse of the communist system in Czechoslovakia in 1989, it had been banned shortly after it’s 1969 first showings. Not sure how true that is as writer, director Juraj Herz says in a personal quote…

“I went to various projections of the film in many different countries, from the Netherlands to Naples, and I was keen to see how the reactions of the audience were completely different in every country. In Prague, people were depressed; in Slovakia, they laughed; in the Netherlands, it was a comedy from the beginning to the end; in Italy, the spectators went from the cinema right to the bar because cremation is just impossible, awful and unacceptable in their country.”

  • It’s original title is “Spalovac mrtvol” which on Google translate comes out as “Corpse burner” or “Corpse Incinerator” and is based on a novel of that name by Ladislav Fuks.
  • Rudolf Hrusínský plays the part of the truly unhinged and psychotic lunatic extremely well, bringing a unique sinisterism to him.
  • The camerawork and editing is incredible, as scenes are merged into one another in magical surreal brilliance. Add to the close up, fisheye style lens shots of Rudolf along with the Czech language, makes everything come together to bring a magnificent surreal feel to it.

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia crematorium horror film

Yes of course it is such a deeply disturbing film but it is also so beautifully filmed, so intriguing and artful. The camera shots and black and white print are gorgeous. It’s nature through it’s avant garde style is so utterly surreal, with that sinister undercurrent running effectively rife from beginning to end, just gives the film a crazy perplexing macabre fascination. It will certainly not be for everyone but if you like art house cinema it’s very much worth searching out. Maybe you will get a very different feel and explanation to the story. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts if you so wish.

Something more lighthearted will be coming for the next post I hope, thanks for popping on by the wolf lair. All the best… Mikey Wolfman

Cremator (1969) Rudolf Hrusínský Juraj Herz Czechoslovakia movie poster

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The Trial (1962) Awesome Welles, Incredible Sets, Surreal Story, Perkins and Eyes!

The Trial (1962) - green poster movie film cover artwork print

It’s been a few weeks since I watched this one. My brain keeps constantly flicking back, trying to work out WTF it was all about. The undercurrent meaning, the symbolism, the poetic nuances and trying to decipher what the hell did he do? I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what could of lead him to The Trial! Definitely some clues in there, and some rather dark ones too I think? Continue reading “The Trial (1962) Awesome Welles, Incredible Sets, Surreal Story, Perkins and Eyes!”

Tokyo Drifter (1966) Is Phoenix Tetsu The Coolest Gangster?

Tokyo Drifter (1966) blu-ray release critrion edition movie cover poster

Revisited one of my favourite gangster movies of all time yesterday, the beautiful stylish, surreal and avant garde 60’s masterpiece from director Seijun Suzuki. A bewitching serene different approach to the tried and tested Yakuza formula. From the editing, to the skillfully thought out creative photography used on the set pieces, your eyes are always in for a dazzling treat. Everything is oozing ultra cool style but then you get the understated, too damn cool for school, Tetsuya ‘Phoenix Tetsu’ Hondo. Continue reading “Tokyo Drifter (1966) Is Phoenix Tetsu The Coolest Gangster?”

Games (1967) Where the Normal is Not and the Bizarre Is….

Games (1967) James Caan Katherine Ross movie poster film Simone Signoret

Imagine if Hammer House Of Horror Studio’s somehow managed to have a baby with Andy Warhol. Then throw in some surrealism, abstract art, spooky imagines and some horror. What might emerge on the other side is something resembling the wackiness of this film called Games.

Taglines – Passion wears a mask of terror in this strangest of all games!

Continue reading “Games (1967) Where the Normal is Not and the Bizarre Is….”

The Black Hole (1979) Mad Scientist, Robots & Heaven & Hell In Space

The Black Hole (1979) movie poster film image artwork 2

Revisited a childhood favourite of mine recently, a science fiction film that has embedded itself on me like some cosmic radiation. Whenever I see mention of it I feel a pull not unlike that of a black hole drawing me in for a viewing. This time it was courtesy of fellow film blogger Mr. Bobinsky who posted some beautiful inspired artwork. That was all I needed and off I went again on another journey.

Tagline – You can’t escape the most powerful force in the universe.

Continue reading “The Black Hole (1979) Mad Scientist, Robots & Heaven & Hell In Space”

Alphaville (1965) Silence Logic Security Prudence in French New Wave Sci-Fi

 


Alphaville (1965) movie poster dvd bluray cover artwork

Gruff and super moody journalist Ivan Johnson (Eddie Constantine) arrives at Alphaville following his journey through the Galaxies. He’s there with his camera to report back to the Figaro-Pravda, his newspaper, the strange goings on in this futuristic city. Ivan Johnson isn’t who he pretends to be, he is in fact an American private-eye come secret agent called Lemmy Caution.

Lemmy Caution –“Fuck yourself with your logic.”

Alphaville (1965) Lemmy Caution Eddie Constantine cigarette light smokeAlphaville (1965) lemmy caution camera flash man

Lemmy Caution is a nonsense kind of guy who has absolute complete contempt for bellboys asking for tips and no time to relax with the pleasures of the Seductress Third Class lady drones, however insanely beautiful they maybe! But he’s happy to pull his gun out at any other moment. Maybe a poster of naked girl that he feels might need some extra nipples or if you’re too lazy to flick your zippo, then Lemmy’s your guy, he maybe old but he’s still a quick firing crack shot and can light that with a single bullet shot.

Alphaville (1965) sexy girl jukebox bra

Tagline – Suddenly the word is Alphaville… and a secret agent is in a breathless race against the Masters of the Future.

He arrived at Alphaville on a mission from the Outlands of Nueva York to track down missing agent Henry Dickson (Akim Tamiroff) and to repatriate Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon). To do this means investigating the city, luckily he meets the Professor’s daughter Natacha von Braun (Anna Karina) who just happens to be one of the most breathtaking ladies in this dystopian future world and let it be known, every lady in this city is bonkers beautiful.

Natacha Von Braun – “Got a light?”
Lemmy Caution – “I’ve traveled 9,000 kilometers to give it to you.”

Alphaville (1965) Anna Karina in room bed beautifulAlphaville (1965) Lemmy Caution Eddie Constantine Natacha von Braun Anna Karina

The problem with getting around this city is that you are watched over 24/7 by an artificial intelligence tyrannical ruler going by the name of Alpha 60. Imagine a Siri or Alexa unit speaking to you after a non-stop week long bender of booze, cigars and cigarettes by the box load and you might get a picture of this booming gravelly hoarse throaty loud voice commanding everything from the airways.

Alpha 60 – “The acts of men carried over from past centuries will gradually destroy them logically. I, Alpha 60, am merely the logical means of this destruction.”

Alphaville (1965) Lemmy Caution Eddie Constantine intergatationAlphaville (1965) scientists computer alpha 60 2

Alpha 60 has made this world inhuman, removed emotional thoughts and feelings, words like love, conscience and poetry and other passionate human freewill affections from the human mind.  Anyone resisting these ways will be rounded up and executed.

Alpha 60 – Time is like a circle which is endlessly described. The declining arc is the past. The inclining arc is the future.

Alphaville (1965) Lemmy Caution Eddie Constantine lift

Can Lemmy complete his mission plans and get out of this future city devoid of emotion and travel back to The Outlands? Can he do better than his counterpart detective Dick Tracy? And more importantly can he get the girl?

Lemmy Caution –Dick Tracy, is he dead?”

Alphaville (1965) black white negative

From the opening arrival at the hotel you know you are in for a fantastical ride. Director and writer Jean-Luc Godard brings together a half serious, half satire, futurist trip through 60’s Paris. Godard’s film brings with it a fully functioning keyword generator of genre category labels like French New Wave, Avant Garde, Neo Noir, Social Satire and Surrealism, yep it really hits every single one. You either going to think this film is a work of total genius or pretentious load of gobbledygook. I thought it was ridiculously fantastic and loved every single second of it.

Alphaville (1965) paris lights street city

One surprising factoid

If you imagine Lemmy Caution is a Sam Spade, Mike Hammer private detective kind of noir guy you will know his character. What I didn’t know was Eddie Constantine is an American actor who moved to France and starred in a whole series of Lemmy Caution B-Movies way before Jean-Luc Godard gave us his crazy take on the character. He played Lemmy at least 10 times and even paired up with Godard one last time in 1991 for the film called Germany Year 90 Nine Zero. I had absolutely no idea of any of this until just now!

Alphaville (1965) Anna Karina black white

Anyhow I’m sure there’s some deep psychological studies and essays out there in blog land which will be worth reading to explain things but everybody will get different feelings and thoughts about the film and that’s what makes cinema such an important medium. Have fun on your journey through the galaxies.

Wolfie

Alphaville (1965) movie poster dvd bluray cover artwork 2

Vigil (1984) Bleak New Zealand Surreal Coming Of Age Drama

Vigil (1984) poster film movie vincent ward new zealand

From the poster image I went in thinking this was a post-apocalyptic film and even after watching I’m not a 100% sure if it was or wasn’t! It might of well have been, it certainly looked like they lived in some bleak desolate god forsaken place. Unbelievably this is set in New Zealand and not the beautiful settings we are used to from the likes of Peter Jackson’s band of bare footed Hobbits stomping around the Shire. This hamlet, where are story is set, is awash with piles of mud, slush, muck and dirty dank puddles and sad pained faces. Continue reading “Vigil (1984) Bleak New Zealand Surreal Coming Of Age Drama”

Castle Keep (1969) Surreal WW2 Fairy Tale With Burt Lancaster & A Bunch Of Sweet Ladies.

Castle Keep (1969) Burt Lancaster poster movie film peter falk

After watching director Sydney Pollack awesome film The Yakuza I searched for projects of his I may of missed and Castle Keep from 1969 is what I found. A World War Two movie with a big twist, that twist is, (no spoilers) it’s completely batty and totally off it’s shopping trolley. It also stars the legend Burt Lancaster playing the warmongering one eyed Major Abraham Falconer. Continue reading “Castle Keep (1969) Surreal WW2 Fairy Tale With Burt Lancaster & A Bunch Of Sweet Ladies.”

Johnny Got His Gun (1971) Jesus H Sutherland This Film Is FUBAR

Johnny Got His Gun (1971) movie poster film dalton trumbo

Jeepers creepers, what can you say! How deep can a film go? Seriously this is an emotional thought-provoking, haunting journey into the human soul. What happens to the human mind when that is all you are, just a mind?

Tagline – The most shattering experience you’ll ever live.

Continue reading “Johnny Got His Gun (1971) Jesus H Sutherland This Film Is FUBAR”

The Last Wave (1977) Mystical Magical Aboriginal Dreams & Ju-Ju Frogs

The Last Wave (1977) poster peter weir richard chamberlain movie film

You know what, I really should read the descriptions of the films I watch! I had imagined from the title and the cover image this movie was going to be a surfing drama, oh how wrong could I be. I guess it makes it so much more fun when the crazy starts to go down and that’s pretty much the first scene. Continue reading “The Last Wave (1977) Mystical Magical Aboriginal Dreams & Ju-Ju Frogs”