Zítra vstanu a oparímse cajem [Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea] (1977)

Twin Brothers.

You just can’t trust them, can you?  Look at Jan Bures: his charismatic twin Karel is constantly getting in trouble, chasing women and deep in debt.  And yet he’s engaged to the girl Jan loves and has the job that steady, reliable Jan longs to have — actually flying the time ship Jan designed and tested.

But one morning Karel chokes to death on roll and Jan decides that, if one of them is dead, it might as well be Jan.  So Jan trades places with his dead brother.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that Karel was conspiring with a group of aging Nazis who plan to go back and give Hitler the H-Bomb so he can win World War II.  On his first flight aboard the time ship as Karel, they decide he’s double crossing them and hijack the ship.  The next thing you know, he’s back in World War II, and it’s up to him to save the world — and the lovely stewardess he’s falling in love with.

But fortunately, he has a time ship to do it with…

I stumbled across this one almost accidentally.  At the time, the only plot description I found was wildly inaccurate, describing it as a family drama or some such.  But the title just didn’t seem to fit (particularly as it sounded a lot like the absurd titles given to so many other Czech comedies), and I kept digging.

Instead, it is a wild and silly a Science Fiction comedy from the time when the Czech film industry was making a lot of wonderfully goofy comedies, often with science fiction or fantasy elements.

And one of the better ones.

I’ll confess that this is one of my favorite eras of film: I suppose you might compare these films to the screwball comedies of the Thirties, as both frequently indulge in the absurd and fantastic.  However, these Czech comedies are far more deadpan in their absurdities — and, frankly, far more absurd.  There’s an odd streak of darkness to many of these that is handled with a very light touch (see, for example, You Are a Widow, Sir [Pane, vy jste vdova!] which involves brain transplants and a significant number of murders) and most seem to feature a put-upon hero who somehow triumphs over it all by the end.

Part of the fun are the lovely little details, like the futuristic dishwashing detergent or the girl in the barbarian-style fur bikini, straight out of Frank Frazetta, escorting time tourists at the Universum time travel headquarters.  It amused me to discover that the fanatical leader of the Nazi scheme was played by Jirí Sovák, who also played the put-upon hero of what is perhaps the best and funniest of these Czech science fiction comedies, Who Wants To Kill Jesse?  It’s hard to imagine that they were played by the same man, but then these Czech films never had any shortage of great actors and inspired performances.

Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea has long been one of my favorite Czech comedies: it is inventive, absurd, and kills people off at a prodigious rate without ever losing its lightness of touch.  It lacks the political commentary that it might have had a decade earlier, during the Prague Spring, but it makes up for it with an absurdly complex time travel plot and a wicked sense of humor.

Not to mention some beautiful modelwork and some incredible locations.

Look, it’s harder to find Czech films than it used to be, but it is definitely worth the effort, particularly if you love dead pan comedies which revel in their absurdity.

After all, where else are you going to see a Nazi execute himself, or a happy ending where the hero gets both girls?…

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