Cisaruv pekar a pekaruv cisar (1951)

aka The Emperor and the Golem, The Emperor’s Baker and The Baker’s Emperor
Article 2357 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-8-2007
Posting Date: 1-24-2008
Directed by Martin Fric
Featuring Jan Werich, Marie Vasova, Natasa Gollova

An emperor surrounded by corrupt courtiers ignores his starving people and invests his money in artworks, alchemy and a search for a golem. When his baker passes out bread meant for the king to the starving populace, he is thrown into a dungeon. Through a series of complications, the baker’s resemblance to the king causes him to take his place.

The above plot description is an approximation cobbled together from other plot summaries of the movie and what I was able to figure out from my viewing; my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Czech. Nonetheless, it remains enjoyable throughout; the movie is largely a comedy, and much of the comic is visual, so even if you don’t know what the characters are talking about, you can still figure out the comic bits and piece out goodly portions of the plot. It’s an enjoyable (if lengthy) lark, with some definite fantastic content (various magicians appear, and there’s the golem, of course). The golem here is truly impressive; he’s massive, and when he comes to life, his head glows red and fire and yellow smoke issue forth from his eyes; he is such a powerful presence that it compensates somewhat for the fact that his movement is unconvincing. There are a number of great comic bits that don’t rely on the dialogue at all; my favorites include the classic mirror gag where one person apes the other’s actions, and an attempted poisoning involving a ring with a secret compartment, several glasses of wine and an astronomer. I’d love to see a subtitled version of this some time to enjoy the true experience, but it’s still very enjoyable, even in this form. Recommended.



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