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Colourful gothic horror,
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This review is from: Morgiana [DVD] (DVD)Made in 1972, while most of his fellow Czech New Wave film directors were subject to strict censorship and working under budget restrictions, Juraj Herz managed to come up with the lavishly produced gothic horror, Morgiana. With extravagant costumes, outrageous wigs and make-up and filmed in sumptuous locations, Morgiana has the look and feel of a wonderful fairy tale, but there are darker elements hinting at mental illness, schizophrenia and unwholesome subjects that meant it wasn't entirely immune to cuts by the authorities.
The film starts off on an appropriately gloomy note, with two sisters heading up a funeral cortege. The sister are Viki and Klára attending the funeral of their father, and at a subsequent reading of his will, it appears that they have been left an equal share of his estate. The worldly, dark-haired Viki however is jealous of her delicate red-headed sister's innocence and charm, characteristics that seem to effortlessly attract the attentions of a number of handsome suitors, while her efforts are rejected. Visiting the country estate bequeathed to Klára, Viki, who has a creepy cat familiar called Morgiana, wickedly plans to poison her sister.
Anyone familiar with Juraz Herz's The Cremator (also out on DVD from Second Run) will recognise the director's style and subject matter, the dark stories of madness given a delirious hallucinogenic twist through dramatic wide-angle cinematography, but in Morgiana, the effects are enhanced by the eye-popping colour photography. The comparisons on the DVD cover to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane crossed with Edgar Allen Poe are entirely accurate then, but the film also has a strong spiritual connection with Fellini's Juliet Of The Spirits and it looks just as sumptuous.
Finding any political commentary in the film would be stretching things (in an interview on the DVD, the director denies any such intent), but Morgiana nevertheless undoubtedly reflects something of the mindset of the times in Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia to some degree. Even just taken on face value, it's a wonderfully entertaining and colourful gothic horror that will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed such dazzlingly surreal Czech films as Daisies or Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.