Krakatit

∗∗∗NO RATING: CAN’T FIND COMPLETE FILM∗∗∗

In a nutshell: The first full length feature film in the world depicting a nuclear holocaust, this 1949 Czech movie directed by ”the father of Czech cinema” Otakar Vávra is based on the novel Krakatit by the influential sci-fi writer Karel Capek. This dark fever dream of a movie follows protagonist Prokop who invents a new explosive, as he torments himself by imagining the evil it could be used for. Reviewers have given moderately good reviews, but feel it stumbles on melodrama and simplifies Capek’s complex book into an anti-war punchline.

Krakatit (1949). Directed by Otakar Vávra. Written by Otakar and Jaroslav Vávra. Based on the novel Krakatit by Karel Capek. Starring: Karel Höger, Florence Marly, Eduard Linkers, Jiri Plachý, Natasa Tanská, Frantisek Smolik. Produced for Ceskoslovenska Filmova Spolecnost. IMDb score: 7.2

A striking image of Prokok (Karel Höger) in the 1949 film Krakatit.

A striking image of Prokok (Karel Höger) in the 1949 film Krakatit.

DVD cover.

DVD cover.

I keep getting surprised by the fact that the science fictions films in the United States were always desperately late to pick up at science fiction themes in feature films in which I previously thought they were pioneers. By 1949 Hollywood hadn’t yet made a serious film about space travel. Germany, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and even Denmark had beaten them to the mark. Aliens hadn’t landed on American soil, either – for some reason they seemed to be very fond of Germany, though. American mad scientists were also very slow to get into the robot business, whereas USSR, Great Britain, Germany and Italy already had top notch robot scientists. Both the Hungarians and the Brits had invented time machines, but the Americans were stuck in 1949. Sure, these themes were abundant in American serials and had even enterered American TV, but still not the full lentgh feature films. The world hadn’t even ended on the American big screen, whereas both Denmark and France had been wiped off the map. Great Britain had experienced WWIII, a zombie apocalypse and a moon flight all in one film. And now the Czechs even beat the United States to the nuclear holocaust with Otakar Vávra’s Krakatit. Continue reading

Loss of Sensation

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(5/10) In a nutshell: A 1935 communist propaganda film with quite a few enjoyable quirks. Capitalists and communists fight over an army of robots that is controlled by saxophone. Based on a story by “The Jules Verne of Ukraine” and directed with a certain expressionist and avantgarde flair, the film is not without its merits, although the acting is stiff and amateurish and the script and dialogue leave room for improvement.

Loss of Sensation / Jim Ripple’s Robot (Gibel Sensatsii / Robot Dzhima Ripl). 1935, Soviet Union. Directed by Alexandr Andriyevskiy. Written by Georgiy Grebner. Based on the novella Idut Roborati! by Vladimir Vladko (uncredited). Starring: Sergei Vecheslov, Vladimir Gardin, M. Volgina, Anna Chekulayeva. Nikolai Rybnikov, Vasili Orlov. Produced for Mezhrabpomfilm. IMDb score: 6.5

Capitalist robots dancing to modern jazz on a drunken sax in the 1934 Soviet sci-fi propaganda Gibel Sensatsii.

Capitalist robots dancing to modern jazz on a drunken sax in the 1935 Soviet sci-fi propaganda Gibel Sensatsii.

Loss of Sensation apparently made a tour of the modern art circuit in 2012 as a part of a collection of Soviet films, which has led to some commentators euphorically labelling it as a forgotten Soviet alternative to Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis (1927, review). Well, let’s start off by putting that one to rest: it is not. Not because Loss of Sensation would necessarily be a bad film, but because Metropolis was made by one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, on a budget that was the biggest the world had ever seen at that point, and the film subsequently laid the groundwork for futurism, mad scientist films, dystopian films, created the android as we know it and even inspired architecture and interior design, and has frequently been placed among the three best sci-fi films in history. Loss of Sensation has not.

Good.

I’m glad we got that out of the way.

Now to the film. Continue reading