Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
Kopfrkingl works at a crematorium in Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s. He reads from the Tibetan book of the dead, believes that cremation relieves earthly suffering. As the film moves on he meets Reineke, a fellow he fought with during the first World War. Reineke begins to "Germanize" his life and really begins pushing buttons that may have been better left alone.
Is it good movie?
This film was not exactly what I'd expected. Featuring a Sam Raimi lookalike on the cover, I almost thought it was modern horror flick made to look like an old black and white. Either way, I was wrong. Instead we get a foreign film from 1968 which mixes dark humor, strange and surreal imagery and some solid acting to conjure up a bizarre little political horror film that delves into Nazi Germany.
It's really the study of a man who slowly transforms into a monster. Kopfrkingl lives for his work and really believes that cremating someone will free them from all suffering. Unfortunately for him, when the Nazis show up, Kopfrkingl goes from slightly eccentric to batshit insane as he blindly follows them without much thought. The man begins to develop a sort of god-like complex and things get bad for everyone.
The best part about this film is the award-winning performance of Rudolf Hrusinsky. His slow transformation on film from harmless to monstrous is gradual and effective. The man is a true picture of madness and his character is completely believable and thus terrifying. Everything in this picture is done in a most foreboding way- even the little things seems dark, depressing and evil. There's also a lot of strange imagery, camera shots, angles and transitions which add to the surrealistic tone of this film.
Ultimately, this movie was really quite good. It isn't exactly scary, but it will make you think and laugh a few times too. It implies some truly horrible things, but gorehounds need not apply. This is a true journey into the darkness of the human heart and a totally different vision of horror.
Video / Audio
Video is presented in 16:9 widescreen format. and looks as good as a 30 year old film can. It's shot in black and white and looks pretty sharp until you see more panoramic shots. Still, quite good though.
The Audio track is unfortunately presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and sounds about as good as two speakers can sound. It's pretty cleaned up, given the age of the print.
No extras for La Bamba.
This is a different sort of horror flick. The Cremator explores gothic ideals and sports a strange visual style and still manages to get its poit across. It is a political horror film and although it isn't as relevant today, it is still different and interesting enough to merit at least one viewing.