Archive for April 19th, 2009


by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1969 103m) DVD1/2 (Czech only)

Aka. Kladivo no carodejnice

A woman’s womb is the gate to hell

d  Okatar Vávra  w  Okatar Vávra, Ester Krumbachová  play  Vacláv Kaplicky  ph  Josef Illik  ed  Antonin Zelenka  m  Jiri Srnka (including Antonio Vivaldi)  art  Karel Skva

Vladimir Smeral (Boblig), Josef Bláha (Count Stermberk), Eduard Cupak (Fárar Schmidt), Blazena Holisová (Sattlerová), Josef Kemr (Ignác), Miriam Kantorková (Tobiásová), Jiri Holy (Farár), Rudolk Kratky (Hutter), Blanka Waleská (Countess de Galle), Jaroslava Obermaierová (Liza), Jirina Stepnicková (Dorota Groerová),

What is it about witchcraft and possession that so intoxicates film-makers?  It’s a subject that has been at the centre of so many memorable films, including at least three others in this list (Haxan, Day of Wrath and Witchfinder General), as well as many more (including those vastly different studies of the infamous events at Loudon, Mother Joan of the Angels and The Devils, and various versions of Arthur Miller’s play that needn’t be named).  It’s perhaps to the Kawalerowicz and Russell films that this eclectic masterpiece is most closely related, though in truth it bears traces of all the above. 

            Vavrá’s film sets its scene in its opening caption; “texts of court hearings are taken from authentic court records of Inquisition trials which took place at Velké Losiny and Sumberk from 1678-1695.”    When an old woman steals a holy host to take to a medicine woman to cure a cow, accusations of witchcraft are made by the local priest to the local nobility.  It is decided that a specialist inquisitor (a sort of legitimised Czech version of Matthew Hopkins) be sent for to root out all traces of witchcraft in the area.  On arrival, he spreads terror round the town, accusing scores of men and women of witchcraft, often targeting the noble and wealthy, with the intention of confiscating their goods. (more…)

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