Cult Classics: I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen

I Killed Einstein Gentlemen indexThe Czech director Oldřich Lipský is responsible for some truly superb comedy including the unusual musical western Lemonade Joe, the told in reverse Happy End, and the Little Shop Of Horrors-esque Dinner For Adele, and I can now add “I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen” to the list as it’s an utterly mad but all rather funny time travel yarn which leaps about all over the place to amusing effect.

The bizarre set up is that in the future some terrorists have set off a G-bomb which has caused women to grow beards, and some of them are refusing to the decent thing and shave them off. Due to that the men in the government are throwing a sod load of money at a number of scientists, including one who spent six million dollars on a machine which removes hair in an instant, and also Professor Moore (Jirí Sovák) who has invented a time travel machine. Professor Moore’s plan is to travel back to 1911 when Einstein (Petr Cepek) almost died in a freak accident when a chandelier just missed hitting him, and arrange it so that he dies that day and thus the history of physics will be changed and the terrorists will never create the G-bomb. Travelling back with him are the historian Doctor Gwen Williams (Jana Brejchová) and fellow scientist Professor Frank Pech (Lubomír Lipský), as well as Moore’s cat Cleopatra, but it all goes wrong when Pech’s father is killed instead, mainly as Einstein was off snogging Williams instead of dying when he was supposed to.

A second trip back in time ignores the rules most time travel movies abide by and so we don’t get two versions of the characters having to narrowly avoid each other, but it does involve the head of the terrorist faction teaming up with Doctor Williams to once again save Einstein. Naturally everything’s far more complicated than that, and a ridiculous amount of farcical events see people dashing all over the place and nearly dying, and there’s a brief bit of stripping too because this is a silly movie and then some.

Its got a very odd but very funny sense of humour about itself and it might not be a movie everyone clicks with, but if you do then you’ll find an enormous amount to like about it, including the delight the time travellers initially have when back in 1911, while there’s a very amusing moment early on when they’re forced to steal a horse and carriage after casually discussing the possibility of killing Hitler. Also funny is a scene where Professor Pech’s father is almost persuaded to shoot Einstein as the others don’t know how to fire a gun, and there’s lots of idiocy with what’s all but a game of musical chairs as they try and position Einstein underneath the chandelier which is supposed to kill him.

When they fail the first time Professor Pech’s father is killed thus removing Pech from the present and the future, and Doctor Williams is kidnapped by the terrorists and things become even more absurd in the second journey back to the past. With two bunches of time travellers trying to alter history chaos ensues in what’s a selection of very funny scenes involving some silliness with glue and the chair Einstein’s supposed to meet his doom in, and there’s also a subplot with a missing diamond ring, though this does contain the one disappointing moment in the film when they make fun of an overweight maid. That’s the only bit which isn’t funny thankfully, and the rest of the movie is a right old lark, as they used to say.

The ending is a bizarre yet charming bit of madness, and something which surely no one watching could have predicted as it’s just as inspired as the rest of the film is. Lipský’s created another quite unique movie here, visually there’s a lot of amusing strangeness and the concept is an extremely daft one, but that just makes the movie all the funnier and this is right up there with the best time travel comedies around.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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