Following the successful launch of the year-long festival “Czech Movie Gems” last month, the black and white propaganda piece, Smugglers of Death also known as King of Šumava now takes center stage.
Despite having the typical look of a propaganda piece in a similar vein as dozens of other films in the then-Socialist bloc; Smugglers of Death was considered a distinctive art piece for its cinematic point of view that garnered it an audience of over four million viewers after its release in 1959.
The plot of the film revolves around the heroic border guards defending communist Czechoslovakia from mysterious smugglers who are supported by imperialist enemy forces. What sets Smugglers of Death apart from other films produced during the time was the impressive and thrilling filmmaking done in atmospheric locations deep in forests. Major climactic parts were shot at nighttime for which the cinematography brilliantly played with the natural light, mist and darkness of the set—the same characteristic found in the famous British gothic horror mystery film released the same year, The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
Smugglers of Death is the first feature film by then young director Karel Kachyňa (1924-2004) who was later one of the protagonists of the so-called New Wave of Czech cinema. The 1960s movement included household names such as Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel. Kachyňa’s career spanned over five decades directing many classics.
Another Kachyňa masterpiece was Love Between the Raindrops (1979), a comedic coming-of-age story of love and betrayal set in the 1930s that became an official Czechoslovakian entry for the 53rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film. Kachyňa achieved numerous accolades until the end of his career.
Smugglers of Death was screened at Cinematheque Centre Manila last February 14 at 6:30 pm.
For more information on Czech Movie Gems future screening schedules, visit Facebook page @CzechEmbassyManila.
Admissision is free on a first come, first served basis and subject to capacity.