Spalovač mrtvol | The Cremator [1969]

6/10 | 27.Mar.12
Spalovač mrtvol | The Cremator

(Ladislav Fuks: 1969)

THE CREMATOR (“Spalovač mrtvol”, 1969) is a Czech Gothichorrorblackcomedypoliticalallegory that probably isn’t in a subgenre of one, but then again I’m not particularly inclined to seek others out. Set in Prague in the 1930s (both the Dalai Lama’s death in 1933 and Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland in March 1939 are mentioned as just having happened during the course of the movie) and made in Czechoslovakia in 1968 just before Soviet tanks appeared on Prague streets, the movie is concerned with invasions from without and within, in the latter case in terms of purity of blood. The main character is an increasingly deranged crematorium worker with delusions of grandeur and a fixation on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and reincarnation.

THE CREMATOR wasn’t creepy enough to work for me as a Gothic horror flick, and I found the black comedy elements and the political allegory to be much, much too broad and obvious to be effective (I groaned and rolled my eyes intermittently), but some of it did work. The director (Ladislav Fuks) certainly has style and flash to burn and although I sometimes wanted him to stop with the rapid cuts and extreme closeups and especially the fisheye lens, he does it so well that it was fun to watch. Add a point for the visit to a Grand Guignol theater and adjoining museum of untreated infectious diseases. 6/10. [3/27/12]



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