Almost A Classic: Long Live Ghosts!

long live ghosts!A second musical from the director of the sublime “Lemonade Joe“, this sees Oldrich Lipský making a children’s film which is a simplistic if extremely charming affair where a bunch of kids want to renovate the local castle, but the town’s supermarket manager has his eye on it and wants to turn it in to a mushroom farm. The kids are given a chance to build a roof for the building to prove they’re not just going to mess around, but everything is complicated by the fact that it’s haunted by two ghosts.

Said ghosts are the Knight Brtník of Brtník (Jiří Sovák) and his young daughter Leontýnka (Dana Vávrová), and at first they attempt to scare off the children, smacking their behinds with a sword and leaving a threatening message burning on the wall. The children aren’t put off however and soon become friends with the Knight and Leontýnka, and work together rebuilding the castle, while every so often supermarket manager Jouzna (Lubomír Lipský) gets in to scrapes and is mocked by the kids.

If this had a slightly stronger narrative and a few more complex songs and it would be an absolute classic of its time, a very unusual but endearing film. As it is it’s still a work which I found myself captivated by, but then I’m a sucker for musicals and the supernatural and films which are deliberately daft and unusual. It certainly delivers on the latter front as the Knight and his daughter are capable of magic (to a certain extent at least, apparently it’s rationed) and able to summon dwarves and sprites to help repair the castle, with some impressive camera trickery involving false perspectives leading to some effects which are still impressive to this day.

The songs are often short and only involve a couple of verses but lyrically they’re still fun, there’s a great number at the beginning about how various supernatural creatures don’t exist, towards the middle of the movie there is to my knowledge the only song ever written about the joys of cottage cheese, and one about “The King Of The Forest” is impressively choreographed. Meanwhile Leontýnka has a couple of songs about her maudlin life as a ghost which are surprisingly bleak, while Jouzna singing about mushrooms is oddly funny, and the final song is something quite mature and not something I saw coming.

It’s a quite inventive movie when it comes to offbeat moments too, one adult is obsessed by all of the disasters the children of the country are involved in, the headmaster of the school supports the kids and seems unsurprised by the existence of supernatural creatures, and the knight comes out with some choice lines when chatting to the children, including the fact that he knew knew the great-great-great grandfather of one of the children as he had saved his life at “The Battle Of The Sausage”. Meanwhile one child builds his own car out of spare parts due to all the accidents near to his house with parts flying in through his bedroom window, while Leontýnka has some fun with magic and turns one kid in to a stag, and pulls out all the stops to provide an entertaining ending.

The plot is largely the children befriending the ghosts and then rebuilding the castle, and while Jouzna is vaguely villainous he rarely actually interferes with events, and that’s the only reason why I have any issues about the movie. With a stronger, slightly more exciting storyline this would be something I absolutely adored, but it’s still an unforgettable movie, extremely unusual but often very, very funny, filled with imagery which I’ve not witnessed anywhere else, and it’s yet more proof that Oldrich Lipský is one of the best comedy directors of the twentieth century.

★★★3/4

Alex Finch.
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