The premiere title of my personally-curated Obscure Movie Sundays monthly film screening programme was well-attended (five persons), the viewers anxious to view what my own invitation tantalizingly called “a 1977 surreal sci-fi comedy from Czechoslovakia. Set in the futuristic 1990’s, the plot involves identical twins and nazis with time machines. An obscure cult classic!” The movie lives up to the letter of that description, but wasn’t as wacky-enjoyable as it would sound. Still an affable, somewhat cheap-looking light comedy with a really good ending.
Rocket scientist Jan has an evil rocket scientist twin brother, who chokes to death on a roll at the start of the film. Jan is hot for his brother’s fiancee (an attractive girl from a family of circus performers), so Jan pretends to be his brother (barely mourned at all, so you’d think he’s a pretty crappy brother even though the two lived together) and goes to work – not knowing that this was the day the deceased brother was to participate in an evil plot to travel back in time to 1944, the turning point of WWII, and deliver a briefcase-sized atomic bomb to Adolf Hitler so the nazis would win the war. Things get fouled up royally, both in the 1990’s “present” and in 1941 (where they accidentally end up, right after Pearl Harbor, instead of ’44 like they’d planned) but finally Jan straightens everything out (easy to do when you’ve got a time machine at your disposal) and has the baddies imprisoned before they can meddle in the past. How to solve the problem of his dead brother? Jan travels back to moments after the brother’s choking accident, incinerates the body and inserts himself in its place. Result: two happy Jans are living together, one of them engaged to the evil twin’s attractive fiancee.
The bunch of baddies (right) in ’41:
I thought it was a funny movie, but I was the only one laughing – the others found it a little tedious. Too bad. Delightful inventions of the “future”: time travel exists but is only used for tourism, dishwashing detergent dissolves the dishes instead of bothering to clean them, and a stun-ray gun turns people to green statues (they’ll recover just fine in a few minutes, unless someone tries to move them and accidentally breaks off a limb or two). Also, the A-bomb has been miniaturized to fit in a light briefcase and the military has stopped using such weaponry, so it can only be found in museums. That’s a pretty short time window (from 1977 to 1990) from weapon advancement and miniaturization to obsolescence and declassification. Or you’d think they’d disarm the bomb they put in the museum.
My Two Jans:
The movie’s writer (I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen and What Would You Say To Some Spinach?), the composer (Three Nuts For Cinderella) and the director (no other movies with funny titles) all died in the last decade. Three of this film’s lead actors also appeared in What Would You Say To Some Spinach?, which came out two weeks before I was born – will have to seek that one out. The actor who played Hitler died in ’84.