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(aka 'The Cremator')

Directed by Juraj Herz
Czechoslovakia 1968

 

Juraj Herz’s film The Cremator has been described in many ways - as surrealist-inspired horror, as expressionist fantasy, as a dark and disturbing tale of terror.

This brilliantly chilling film, a mix of Dr Strangelove and Repulsion, is set in Prague during the Nazi occupation. It tells the story of Karl Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrusínský), a professional cremator, for whom the political climate allows free rein to his increasingly deranged impulses for the ’salvation of the world’.

****

An enjoyably strange, undoubtedly original and occasionally terrifying film (9 1/2 out of 10)

On one level The Cremator can be enjoyed simply as something truly strange and different. Although it is live action, the film has much of the oddness and Gothic trappings of Czech animation. Director Juraj Herz actually studied puppetry rather than film, and is a friend of the Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. This is a film full of strange angles and odd ways of looking at the world. At its heart is Karl Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrusínský) the cremator of the title. Though he loves his job dearly, his strangeness is emphasized in one of the film's key early passages, a trip to a fair during which he s perked up by a visit to an exhibition of gruesome waxworks.

But while you might expect a film this eccentric to be otherworldly, The Cremator is actually grounded in politics. In what isn't a terribly surprising twist given the late 30s setting, Kopfrkingl's interest in the purifying power of the oven chimes in with the rise of Nazism. But the clunky premise - that there is a fine line between rigid middle class conservatism and being a fascist - is less important than the extraordinary atmosphere the film creates, and Hrusínský's portrayal of the increasingly deranged Kopfrkingl.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Alt-DVD Cover, Book

Theatrical Release: Czech Republic 16 January 2004 (re-release) 

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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

DVD Box Cover

   

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Also available in the The Czechoslovak New Wave - A Collection (3 Film Box Set) Below:

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:36:03 
Video 1.68:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.93 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.68:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by the Quay Brothers (12:21)
• Booklet featuring a new essay on the film and Juraj Herz by writer/producer Daniel Bird 

DVD Release Date: April 10th, 2006

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

I suspect that this Second Run, dual-layered, anamorphic DVD duplicates pretty much exactly what this film looked  like theatrically. It was shot with occasional close-ups followed by frenetic movement giving a hazy appearance to some of the scenes. The DVD exposes them accurately. It has a certain thickness that we notice with other PAL DVDS and the 2.0 track audio and optional subtitles are at Second Run's usual consistent standard. Having the Quays do the intro and the included Bird essay liner notes are perfect accompaniments to this package.

I'm usually not particularly keen on horror films (not that you would technically refer to this as a 'horror') but I was really enjoying the chilling motifs and black comedy that this appeared to subtly export. This film had my complete attention wondering what was on the horizon. Second Run should again be commended for surfacing another eastern-block masterpiece. We recommend! Fascinating cinema!  

Gary W. Tooze

 





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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Also available in the The Czechoslovak New Wave - A Collection (3 Film Box Set) Below:




 

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