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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(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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Comparison:

Second Run - Region 0 - PAL vs. Second Run - Region FREE Blu-ray

1) Second Run - Region 0 - PAL  LEFT

2) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL

Second Run

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:36:03 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:39:50.333 
Video 1.68:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.93 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.66:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 33,224,458,628 bytes

Feature: 23,636,539,392 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 24.83 Mbps

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 2.0) 

LPCM Audio Czech 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary:

 LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Podcast:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles English, None 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

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run
Blu-ray

 

1.66:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 33,224,458,628 bytes

Feature: 23,636,539,392 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 24.83 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Introduction by the Quay Brothers (12:21)
• Audio Commentary by writer and film historian Kat Ellinger
• Juraj Herz s short film The Junk Shop (Sb rné surovosti, 1965 - 31:37)
• The Projection Booth podcast with Mike White and Samm Deighan
• Booklet with an essay on Herz and the film by writer/producer Daniel Bird 

 

Blu-ray Release Date: December 11th, 2017
Transparent Blu-ray case

Chapters 36

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Second Run - Region FREE  Blu-ray - December 2017: This is a very impressive release. The image, while still having speckle, is a giant leap over the SD transfer of over 11 year ago. It is significantly sharper, has beautifully layered contrast, exports depth and looks great in-motion. Wow.

Second Run use a linear PCM 2.0 channel track (16-bit) which adeptly supports the, often, playful score of Zdenek Liska (The Shop on High Street, The White Dove, Fruit of Paradise, The Fabulous Baron Munchausen). It sounds very clean (also restored) with some depth and there are optional English subtitles (in a superior font to the DVD - see samples) on the Region FREE Blu-ray.

Second Run include the 12-minute introduction by the Quay Brothers as found on their 2006 DVD, as well as the liner notes essay on Herz and the film by writer/producer Daniel Bird. But we get some new supplements - a wonderful audio commentary by writer and film historian Kat Ellinger who proclaims The Cremator as one of her all-time favorite films and goes on to give a wonderful analysis with discussion of Juraj Herz, politics and so much more. I thought it had immense value and you can appreciate her enthusiasm for the film. Another option playing as the film runs is 'The Projection Booth' podcast with Mike White and Samm Deighan - taking a different look than Kat - and just as interesting - frankly talking of sex and many fascinating facets of The Cremator. We also get Juraj Herz's 1/2 hour, 1965, short film The Junk Shop (Sb rné surovosti) from Bohumil Hrabal's story about a man who works in a junk shop.

With the commentary and Podcast The Cremator gains a whole new appreciation and the 1080P visuals dynamically augment the viewing experience. What a deeply layered, entertaining and visually appealing film. Bravo to Second Run - one of the most impressive releases of the entire year... and it's Region FREE! Our highest recommendation!

***

ON THE DVD: 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 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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Box Cover

 

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL

Second Run

Region  FREE - Blu-ray




 

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