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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Horí, má panenko" or "The Firemen's Ball" or "The Firemen's Ball and Lottery")

 

directed by Milos Forman
Czechoslovakia/Italy 1967

 

A milestone of the Czech New Wave, Milos Forman’s first color film The Firemen’s Ball (Horí, má panenko) is both a dazzling comedy and a provocative political satire. A hilarious saga of good intentions confounded, the story chronicles a firemen’s ball where nothing goes right—from a beauty pageant whose reluctant participants embarrass the organizers to a lottery from which nearly all the prizes are pilfered. Presumed to be a commentary on the floundering Czech leadership, the film was “banned forever” in Czechoslovakia following the Russian invasion and prompted Forman’s move to America.

***

It's the annual firemen s ball in a small Czech town, and the organisers decide to liven up the usually dull event with a raffle and a beauty contest. But with the former plagued by thievery and the latter by bribery, the event rapidly descends into farce and that s before a fire breaks out...

The last film that Milo Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest, Amadeus) made in his native country and language, The Firemen's Ball is a sparkling comedy that s also one of the best showcases of the director s uncanny ability to extract flawless performances out of an entirely non-professional cast largely made up of actual firemen.

It was nominated for an Oscar, but the Czech Communist authorities were so convinced that it was a satirical allegory about official incompetence that the film was officially banned forever , or at least until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. It s now regarded as one of the greatest of all Czech films.

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 15th, 1967 (Czechoslovakia)

Reviews                                                              More Reviews                                                       DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

The Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Arrow Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

    

 

Distribution

The Criterion Collection - Spine # 145

Region 0 - NTSC

Arrow Video
Region FREE -
Blu-ray
Runtime 1:13:45 1:13:10.386
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.20 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,389,633,765 bytes

Feature: 21,438,892,992 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio Czech (Dolby Digital 1.0) LPCM Audio Czech 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bi
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: The Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Video interview with director Milos Forman (14:03)
• A behind-the-scenes look at the transfer process (4:36)

DVD Release Date: February 12th, 2002
Keep Case

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow

1.33:1 1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,389,633,765 bytes

Feature: 21,438,892,992 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

Appreciation by Czech film expert David Sorfa (32:37)
Archival interviews with director Milo Forman (11:24), cinematographer Miroslav Ond í ek (9:31) and co-writer Ivan Passer (5:41)
New Wave Faces: Michael Brooke salutes the non-professional actors who made an indelible impression on 1960s Czech cinema (31:27)

The Restoration (2:21)
Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of artwork from the original release

DVD included!

Blu-ray Release Date: October 12th, 2015
Transparent
Blu-ray case

Chapters: 13

 

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Comments

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray October 15': The new 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive via Arrow's new Blu-ray transfer looks marvelous. It notably trounces the pink-leaning and dull Criterion SD treatment from all the way back in 2002. the new 1080P shows more information in the frame, has more exuberant colors, better and layered contrast, is sharper and is, generally, superior in very visual sense over the DVD. It is on a dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. Perfect.

 

Arrow go with a linear PCM Audio 1.0 channel mono, original Czech, track at 1152 kbps (24-bit). Likewise, it seems very pleasing to me exporting the 'ball band' sounds with light-hearted pleasure. The score by Karel Mares takes a backseat (but listen closely to hear Lennon and McCartney's From Me to You) and everything sounds quite crisp via the uncompressed transfer. There are optional English subtitles on the region FREE Blu-ray disc.

 

Arrow include some wonderful new (and vintage) extras. They produce a new 32-minute appreciation by Czech film expert David Sorfa who is the Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He explores the early career of Milos Forman and looks at the role of performance in The Firemen's Ball. Also from Arrow is the 1/2 hour New Wave Faces where Michael Brooke who salutes the non-professional actors who made an indelible impression on 1960s Czech cinema. Michael rifles off information at an rapid pace - so much so that I had to watch it twice to absorb it all! Great work here deeply investigating the many fresh faces, often in leading roles, their careers (or non-acting careers) as he pays tribute to these unexpected stars. There are also about 1/2 hours worth of archival interviews with director Milo Forman, cinematographer Miroslav Ond í ek and co-writer Ivan Passer. Lastly, we get a short piece on the restoration. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of artwork from the original release and a second disc DVD.

 

Immaculate Blu-ray release - our highest recommendation!

 

***

ON THE DVD: Milos Foreman's comedy of errors, "The Firemen's Ball", is of course a well known allegory for the communist regime that he lived under. As a political farce it's first rate, telling the story of a bumbling and hidebound group of firemen whose good intentions give rise to a series of improbable and comically catastrophic events. I don't really have much to say about the film that hasn't already been said elsewhere and better. I suppose that all that there's left to say is that this is one damn fine film, and one that you'd be doing a great disservice to yourself if you pass up.

For the release, the film underwent a full restoration, with fairly impressive results. For a film that was made over forty years ago, it looks quite good. The image isn't as sharp as one would hope, but there isn't a tremendous loss of clarity. The grain is rich, but not to the point of constituting noise. Colors are perhaps slightly washed out, but are almost certainly true to the film's original look. There's very little in the way of damage that it's hardly worth mentioning. Overall, it's a fairly good looking release.

As per Criterion policy of the day, the disc comes with a competent, but uninspiring
Czech language Dolby Digital 1.0 track. There really are no problems to speak of (dialogue is clear, no background noises), but just don't expect to be wowed by it. Optional English subtitles are also included.

Aside from a foldout essay, the disc comes with two supplements. First we get a short look at the restoration process with the film's original cinematographer, Miroslav Ondrícek. Second, there's a longer interview with Forman about the film, where he discusses his career and the trouble that "The Firemen's Ball" got him into with the authorities.

This is another fantastic release from Criterion. Highly recommended.

  - Brian Montgomery

 

 

 


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Distribution

The Criterion Collection - Spine # 145

Region 0 - NTSC

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Region FREE -
Blu-ray

 

 




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