Václav Vorlíček - The Master of Film Magic (1913-2019)
The Magical World of Czech Fairy tale, Fantasy and Sci-fi director Vaclav Vorlicek.
In the times of communism everything was grey in Czechoslovakia. Buildings, the sky, faces of people that hardly ever smiled on the streets. And so was the entertainment. You could watch heroic Soviet WWII movies or boring TV series about building prosperous socialist society. Not much of a choice.
But there was also a parallel world. I am not talking about some underground production of persecuted dissidents. I mean something, that anyone could see on their TV or in a local cinema. It was the world of fantasy of Václav Vorlíček, the director of dozens of incredible films, fairy tales an TV series. His Three Wishes for Cinderella is being watched by over 300 million of people around the world every Christmas!
After he finished high school, he wasn't accepted for studies at FAMU (Prague film academy) and this was when he remembered that he had some friends in Barrandov film studios. He went there to ask for a job. "I jumped on the tram number 5 and got off at the final station. There were many cars rushing up and down the Barrandov hill where the studios are, so I stopped one of them and it took me up. I found the personal department. - What do you want? - the man asked me and I said I was looking for a job. He stared at me with a surprise. - What job? - he barked. And I replied I could be the first, second, or third assistant, whatever he might have. - Too bad, sonny, we ain't hiring anyone. - He cut me off. Then the telephone on his desk rang, he was talking to someone and suddenly exclaimed with excitement: - Oh, wait, yes, I got one right here! I'm sending him right away. The next day I had a job as an assistant for the director Martin Fric”. He was accepted at FAMU a year later.
1966: Who Wants To Kill Jessie?
After meeting the writer and screenwriter Milos Macourek, Vorlicek discovered they had shared love for comic books. As kids, they both were digging them out of rubbish bins - they were leftover treasures after American soldiers who liberated a part of Bohemia in 1945 and who were more interested in Czech girls than comic books. They made their first movie "Who Wants to Kill Jessie?" using typical comics' bubbles.
1967: The End of Agent W4C
A complete agent movie spoof with the most unlikely spy hero and priceless gadgets including the one to undress a sexy blonde. Oh, also starring a dog! Still in black and white.
1970: You Are a Widow, Sir!
1971: The Girl on the Broomstick
1973: Three Wishes For Cinderella
1974: How to Drown Dr. Mracek, the Lawyer.
Watermen or waterspirits live among us. They prefer damp houses and they store human souls in little tea cups, under the water of course. But if the house is going to be demolished as not suitable for living in modern Prague, the only way how to not let it happen is to remove the head of the hygiene department, Dr. Mracek, the lawyer. Preferably by drowning him. His soul would be a bonus.
1977: Fancy a Plate of Spinach?
Definitely one of the most bizarre sci-fi comedies you have ever seen. No spoilers. Only....don't eat any spinach after you've had a beauty treatment. Just to be safe.
"Yeah, they were shooting the Alien movie in the U.S. while the most spectacular movie trick in Czech film history was the talking head imported from Bulgaria" my brother once said about Czech film industry.
I don't find it fair to compare a Hollywood production with one made behind the Iron Curtain. The lack of massive budget was often compensated by craftsmanship, originality, humour and imagination. That was definitely a case of Vorlicek's movies. I can watch them over and over again.
I especially love the combination of different worlds crossover. In "Arabela", human modern world gets connected with the World of magic and it all becomes a mess. The bad princess, for example, after seeing loads of trash, tall buildings and cars in human world, turns her fairy tale kingdom into a wasteland, calling it a progress (any connections with the world of today?). Meanwhile a hairy devil and an evil wizard Rumburak take over the national TV channel to gain power back home at Fairy tale land, drive American car around communist Prague and wear women's clothes from forbidden German fashion catalogue. What a ride!
Thank you for making grey days brighter, Mr. Vorlicek, rest in peace.
You can view some film posters for Mr. Vorlicek's films in our shop: