That’s all I can say about this one. Wow.
The Czech film industry made some of the best science fiction comedies ever made, and this is one of the best of those wonderful films.
I can’t say it’s entirely a surprise, as Václav Vorlícek — the same man who gave us two incredible comedies, You Are a Widow, Sir [Pane, vy jste vdova!], and my all time favorite Czech film, Who Wants To Kill Jesse? — also directed How About a Plate of Spinach?
But if you’ve seen either of these films, then you can understand that it is no easy task to describe one of his Science Fiction comedies. It’s difficult just to offer a reasonably coherent summary of the basic plot.
Two dimwitted workers at a small factory, who are part of a ring of petty thieves stealing odds and ends from the company, mess up even worse than usual and end up in jail.
When they get out again, their old friends have a new scheme, to steal the plans for this new machine this research facility has developed. It can take an aging cow, which no longer produces much milk, and make it young again.
Mind you, if the cow has eaten spinach, then the process can go very wrong.
So, naturally, the gang plans to sell it to a beauty parlor. The beauty parlor’s first customer for the machine is a wealthy Latin American widow trying to marry her new boyfriend before her brother can catch up with her. Although she wouldn’t mind being just a bit younger to keep her boyfriend interested.
However, you have to add to all this a restaurant with a special on Spenat (creamed Spinach Sauce), a murderous cook, a defective automatic door, a boy with a gun, switched babies, a greedy dog, and a larcenous hotel doorman who likes to bring his girl the creme horns he steals from work.
And, as you’d expect from a Vorlícek comedy, the situation keeps getting more and more absurd as it goes along, more than I can even begin to describe.
Not that I’d want to spoil any of it.
Jirí Sovák, who played Henry in Who Wants to Kill Jesse?, and Vladimír Mensík who was the thuggish Krause in Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea (you have to love the eccentric little phrases used as the titles of these Czech comedies), play the larcenous pair of factory workers, although, despite their top billing, we don’t actually see them for most of the film. However, they aren’t entirely absent as their voices are dubbed in.
Vorlícek uses Iva Janzurová — One of the greatest Czech actresses of the era — in a wacky double role. He’d written the insane multiple roles of You Are a Widow, Sir specifically for her, so this time he gave her an even crazier pair of roles which ends with both versions of her being chased through a hotel. It isn’t quite as impressive a performance as her tour de force in the earlier film, but that would be asking a lot — and you have to give a lot of credit to any actress willing to go to such lengths for her art.
And, believe it or not, she’s still hard at work in the Czech film industry today.
The ending is also rather unexpected, as things don’t really work out well for most of the people involved, and our two bumbling heroes find a singularly black and ironic resolution to their story.
But then, that’s what we expect from a Czech comedy: a film which is blackly comic and yet light-hearted, absurd and very funny.
Or as I said before, wow!
It’s not like there’s much more that you can say about this film.
Other than, watch this one, if you ever get the chance!
(Subtitles currently unavailable)
(If you are brave enough to try Czech Spenat — Spinach Sauce — then check out this link for a recipe and instructions.)
(My thanks to Jon Whitehead, who runs the incredible movie site, Rarefilmm, for providing me with a subtitled copy of this film! By all means check out his site, which offers an incredible number of rare and nearly unavailable films)