Czech movies: Sci-fi


The majority of movies on this page has only one common denominator: Karel Zeman. Zeman was undoubtedly one of the biggest geniuses in the history of the world cinema and his fame deservedly crossed even the border of his country. His first and until today very remarkable work Cesta do pravěku (The Journey Into Prehistory, 1955), as well as Ukradená vzducholoď (The Stolen Airship, 1966) are listed on the page of children's movies. A historical adventure Bláznova kronika (The Jester's Chronicle, 1964) was placed among historical movies. Except Zeman's work there exist only few other movies worth mentioning. Certainly there were more film attempts in this genre, but due to limited financial possibilities it is understandable that the area of expensive sci-fi movies couldn't become an important part of the Czech film production. The only exception are Macourek's fantastic comedies or serials for children that were made in collaboration with Western Germany (but it is really a little bit different genre cathegory) or Polák's sci-fi serial Návštěvníci (The Visitors).



Vynález zkázy (1958)

(The Invention Of Destruction)

Direction: Karel Zeman. Screenplay: Karel Zeman, František Hrubín. Based on a novel of Jules Verne. Dialogues: Milan Vácha. Narration: Jiří Brdečka. Design: Karel Zeman. Music: Zdeněk Liška. Starring: Arnošt Navrátil (professor Roch), Lubor Tokoš (Simon Hart), František Šlégr (the captain of pirates), Miroslav Holub (Artigas), Václav Kyzlink (ingeneer Serke), Jana Zatloukalová (Jana).


Ambitious adventurer Artigas kidnapped professor Roch and his assistant, Simon Hart, and prisoned them on his island. Artigas wants to compel Roch to revealing the mystery of his new explosive, with which he wants to seize the power over the whole world. Trustful professor lets himself be deceived and decides to collaborate with Artigas on the further development of the destructive weapon. Simon Hart realizes that Artigas wants to abuse it and tries to warn the world. However, an escape from the island won't be easy. Moreover, there appears young castaway Jana and Simon falls in love with her.


Vynález zkázy is regarded as the best work of Karel Zeman, although I think that it is largely subjective, because his further movies are not too worse. However, here he for the first time used a special, willfully naive stylization that combines live actors and real landscape with animated models and painted background. This style was inspired by pictures of Rion and Bennet, two painters, who made illustrations for the first editions of Verne's books, and by mute movies of French director Georges Mélies from the beginning of the 20th century.


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Baron Prášil (1961)

(Baron Munchausen)

Direction: Karel Zeman. Screenplay and design: Karel Zeman. After a novel of G. A. Bürger and illustrations of Gustav Doré. Dialogues: Josef Kainar. Commentary: Jiří Brdečka. Music: Zdeněk Liška. Starring: Miloš Kopecký (baron Prášil/Munchausen), Jana Brejchová (Bianca), Rudolf Jelínek (Toník), Karel Höger (Cyrano of Bergerac), Jan Werich (the captain), Rudolf Hrušínský II (the sultan), Eduard Kohout (the commander of the fortress), Bohuš Záhorský (the captain of pirates), Karel Effa (the officer).


A free adaptation of the world famous Bürger's novel, again with typical Zeman's stylization. Personally, I think that this title is the most entertaining of all Zeman's works. In the beginning we find ourselves on the Moon, where young cosmonaut Toník lands with his rocket. Here he encounters several well-known figures of the literary history including Cyrano of Bergerac and baron Munchausen. Munchausen offers Toník a journey into the world of his former adventures. At first they visit the Turkish sultan. Subsequently they are prisoned and meet young prisoner Bianca, with which they escape from the prison. Then they get on a ship that is soon eaten by a huge whale. I confess, I don't know from memory, how the story actually ends. I only remember that Toník and Bianca fall in love with each other and baron Munchausen returns on the Moon. By the way, it was the first title role of Miloš Kopecký. He is excellent!


Miloš Kopecký as baron Munchausen and Jan Werich as the captain of a ship, with which they escape from the reach of the Turkish fleet.



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Ikarie XB 1 (1963)

Direction: Jindřich Polák. Screenplay: Pavel Juráček. Music: Zdeněk Liška. Starring: Zdeněk Štěpánek (Vladimir Abajev), Radovan Lukavský (MacDonald), Dana Medřická (Nina Kirova), Miroslav Macháček (Marcel Bernard), František Smolík (Anthony Hopkins), Jiří Vršťala (Erik Svensson), Svatava Hubeňáková (MacDonald's wife), Otto Lackovič (Michal), Jaroslav Mareš (Milek Wertbowski), Marcela Martínková (Štefa), Martin Ťapák (Petr Kubeš), Rudolf Deyl jr. (Ervin Herold), Irena Kačírková (Brigita), Jaroslav Rozsíval (the doctor), Jozef Adamovič (Zdeněk Lorenc).


June 2163: A space rocket Ikarie XB 1 flies to the star Alfa Centauri. During the flight they encounter a wreck of a rocket from the 20th century bearing nuclear weapons and dangerous diseases. Simultaneously, some members of the crew are not able to sustain the situation and become a danger for the rest of their colleagues.


Ikarie XB 1 is actually the first Czech movie with such a sci-fi motive. But don't expect action scenes in the style of the Star Wars. It is rather a psychological drama that was allegedly inspired by novels of famous Polish writer Stanislaw Lem. When we take into consideration that it was made in 1963, it is really not bad. However, I saw it many years ago and I don't remember the story line more concretely. Director Jindřich Polák obviously found pleasure in making fantastic movies and later continued with internationally successful serials Pan Tau (Mr. Tau), Lucie and Návštěvníci (The Visitors). See also Zítra vstanu a opařím se čajem (Tomorrow I Will Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea).




Na kometě (1970)

(On The Comet)

Direction: Karel Zeman. Screenplay: Jan Procházka, Karel Zeman. After a novel of Jules Verne. Music: Luboš Fišer. Starring: Emil Horváth jr. (Servadac), Magda Vašáryová (Angelique), František Filipovský (Picard), Josef Větrovec (the frug), Čestmír Řanda (the consul), Vladimír Menšík (Silbermann), Jiřina Jirásková (Ester), Josef Hlinomaz (Lacoste), Jaroslav Mareš (Lafitte), Karel Effa (Ben), Stevo Maršálek (Muhdí), Miroslav Holub (Hikmet), Miloš Nesvadba (Husejn), Jaroslav Štercl (the sailor).


A French military station in north Africa, 1888: A clash of the Earth with a comet causes that a part of the French colonial territory breaks away and becomes a part of the comet. Since it happened just at the moment, when local Arabs wanted to revolt against French colonizers, the situation gets a little bit grotesque dimensions as the Arabian frug continues in his effort to conquer the fortress and the nearby town resists an attack of dinosaurs. Simultaneously we watch a thorny fate of a love between young officer Sarvadac and beautiful Angelique.


The last Zeman's movie made in his typical style. I have heard that it was to be a part of a film series inspired by Jules Verne's novels (The Fabulous World Of Jules Verne). However, it hasn't been finished. So far it is not clear to me, why, but financial aspects seem to me as the most probable. During the 70's he made only animated movies. The title roles in this movie were casted by two young Slovak actors, Emil Horváth jr. and Magda Vašáryová. Besides Markéta Lazarová (1967) and Postřižiny (The Short Cut, 1980) it is the most remarkable movie of Vašáryová's film career.





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