Sunday, October 06, 2013

Chytte ho! / [Catch Him!] (1925)

CHYT’TE HO! with Anny Ondráková (Anny Ondra), Karel Lamač, photo: Národní filmový archiv, Praha

Anny Ondráková (Anny Ondra) - Národní filmový archiv, Praha

CHYT’TE HO! (Lupič nešika) [Prendetelo! / Catch Him!; Il ladro maldestro / The Clumsy Burglar] (AB, CZ 1925). D: Karel Lamač; SC: Karel Lamač, Václav Wasserman; DP: Otto Heller; AD: Vilém Rittershaun; C: Karel Lamač (Johnny Miller, lo scultore/sculptor), Anny Ondráková (Lilly Ward, una ricca orfana/a rich orphan), Theodor Pištěk (Frank Sellins, il tutore/Lilly’s guardian), Antonie Nedošinská (la bambinaia/Lilly’s nanny), Martin Frič (l’amico di Johnny/Johhny’s friend); rel: 1.1.1925; 35 mm, 1015 m, 37' (24 fps); print source: Národní filmový archiv, Praha. Czech intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, 6 Oct 2013

Get Shorty shares the same Czech title with this Anny Ondra movie.

Michal Večeřa: "On his way home from a party, painter Johnny Miller bets his friends he can find his house blindfolded. But he stumbles into a bandits’ camp, and being mistaken for one of them, is sent to rob the villa of Frank Sellins, a banker, and his niece Lilly. During the robbery he is caught by Lilly."

"Chyťte ho! (Catch Him!) was made in 1924, when the creative trio of Ondráková, Lamač, and Heller was already experienced in making films. Karel Lamač and Anny Ondráková had appeared in a number of German and Austrian films – for example, Lamač played Patrocles in Helena (1924) and Ondráková acted in Sodom und Gomorrha (1922) and Zigeunerliebe (1922). Like their previous films, Chyťte ho! was inspired by foreign models. While Otrávené světlo (The Poisoned Light, 1921) was a mystery detective story, Chyťte ho! (Catch Him!) tried to imitate American slapstick comedies, and is generically very similar to Únos bankéře Fuxe (The Kidnapping of Fux the Banker, 1923), screened in Pordenone in 2009. Lamač acknowledged his source of inspiration on the invitation to the film’s premiere: “As majority of nations require productions of the American kind, we have framed our comedy accordingly.” Alongside directly copied American gags, the film features other elements otherwise scarce in Czech cinema: Western costumes, a black villain, and policemen dressed like those in American slapstick comedies. The film’s cosmopolitan ambitions are openly affirmed by its unidentified location and the rather English- sounding names of the characters."

"Anny Ondráková impersonates the type of character for which would be famous. We can see it crystallize before us. Compared to her previous work, she is certainly no longer the passive young girl of Setřelé písmo (The Missing Letters), smiling and blinking directly at the camera. In contrast, here she is a naughty and stubborn imp, with blonde hair and big eyes, definitely at the centre of the story. Even so, her biggest roles were still to come."

"The version of the film now available is probably incomplete. The Národní Filmový Archiv holds a copy approximately one-third the length of that described in the censorship entry. But no records of missing scenes survive, unless we count a contemporary review which mentions a dream sequence. According to the reviewer, in this sequence Johnny dreamed he was “chased by a policeman, and was being tormented by a mocking dance of legal paragraph signs”. (Note: “Legal paragraph signs” refers to § signs, used in Czech law texts.)"

"We know that the film received mixed reviews. Negative feedback criticized the film’s genre and sources of inspiration. One reviewer even wrote: “We will never catch up with the American genre. That lays in the disposition of different men, artists, and countries. It is silly and foolish then, when yet another Czech film tries to make an American ‘hit’ with convulsive stubbornness.” But enthusiastic voices also appeared, one of them even heading his article “The most significant Czech premiere of this season”." – Michal Večeřa (The GCM Catalogue)

AA: A wild chase farce full of disguises and misunderstandings. A masked reveller returns home with his eyes tied. There is an adventure while blindfolded, a chain of sausages sets the dogs to chase Johnny, the chase leads to the cemetery where the villains are having a meeting, leading the protagonist to rob a house. The leading robber is courteous to Anny. The bungling policemen manage to handcuff each other. Loose fake hands help the robbers. There are some funny jokes of metamorphoses and disguises, a bit like in an animation. There are cliffhangers towards the end, falling down a cliff, being tied on railroad tracks, being almost hanged by the neck, Anny getting stuck into a moose's horns. Uncle finally sets her free. Lightweight stuff in an incomplete print with low definition and joins. Yet a sense of humour shines through. Anny Ondra has not yet found her true star persona in this movie.

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