I’ve previously reviewed several films from Czechoslovakian director Oldritch Lipský but had never watched any cinema from his fellow Czech directors, but that’s now been remedied with Who Would Kill Jessie?, a 1966 superhero film from Václav Vorlícek which is just as bizarre as many of Lipsky’s films, and surprisingly relevant to this day given the current trend for superhero films and those that mock them too.
The fairly convoluted plot sees a scientist called Ruzenka (Dana Medrická) devise a formula where troublesome dreams can be relieved, all with a quick injection. But unfortunately for her while it removes unpleasant elements from a person’s nightmares it does so by making them materialise in real life, which no one’s initially aware of until Ruzenka tests it on her husband Jindrich (Jirí Sovák) and because he’d been reading comic books that day a heroine (Lemonade Joe star Olga Schoberová) and a couple of villains are soon causing chaos across the city, and it’s a little difficult for them to hide as whenever they speak their words appear in speech bubbles. At first Ruzenka tries locking them away in her apartment but of course that doesn’t work, and not only is her career at risk but Jindrich may be considered responsible for the destruction caused too.
Rather than just being a satire of superhero tropes (though there is an element of that), it’s partially an examination of relationships, and long term marriages at that, and the nature of lusting over a fantasy rather than the reality you have to live with. It also uses it’s concept to ask questions about the nature of dreams and whether we should be responsible for the content of them, which of course we shouldn’t be (though I would say that given the horrendous nightmares I occasionally have) but it has fun with the idea, while also having plenty of amusing action scenes, and even when it takes a darker turn with Ruzenka attempting to murder the dream creatures it continues to be pretty funny.
Unfortunately it’s a product of it’s time and Ruzenka is portrayed in a slightly misogynistic way, and it does have a fairly dodgy ending where Ruzenka falls for their version of Superman (who for some reason is evil here) and it’s implied that she rapes him, because back then the idea of a man being raped was considered funny apparently. Even bleaker is the fact that the morning after when she turns her attentions back on him he essentially kills himself by returning to being a dream, and then Ruzenka does the same thing. Except that this time they’re both trapped inside a dog (it’s a long story, but it does make some sense in the scheme of things) and can still communicate with the outside world.
It’s a bizarre, preposterous ending, made all the odder by the fact that Jindrich becomes attracted to one of the dream manifestations but when he teaches her to speak he instantly regrets it, because apparently he’s a sexist pig by the finale, but then I guess it’s a deliberate commentary on what men want from women out of life. Despite the way it ends it’s actually quite a gentle comedy and while there aren’t an enormous amount of funny moments it’s the kind of film which will make you smile a lot at the ludicrous scenarios, and is worth watching for that reason alone.