Morgiana (1972)

The Czech New Wave ended here, according to some, though apparently Juraj Herz never considered himself part of it anyway. I’ve filed it under horror, which designation is a bit less problematic for this film than it is for The Cremator, although apparently Herz doesn’t like that designation either and the DVD booklet argues for it being called Gothic instead, which is fair enough too; the story’s original author, one Alexander Grin, is described as the Russian Poe and the whole thing has a very sort of 19th century Gothic flavour (though the actual period setting, judging by certain references, would appear to be the early 20th century). Two sisters are left orphans by their father’s death; Klara get’s the lion’s share of his estate while Viktoria is left with a smaller, crappier residence. Then a soldier Viki fancies has the temerity to fall in love with Klara instead. There’s only one solution to these insults: Klara has to die slowly by poison. Viktoria is, needless to say, a fairly horrible individual (Klara isn’t the only victim of her maliciousness), and this is a fairly horrible plan, but, true to form, it doesn’t go quite as expected. Neither did the film, for Herz at least; apparently the original story reveals Klara and Viktoria as two halves of one split personality, which idea Czech authorities frowned on, though it kind of survives in the film by having one actress play both roles (though it must be said this isn’t something that’s readily apparent at first). There’s a good helping of the grotesque here, in terms of the narrative, the visuals (Jaroslav Kucera whipping out plentiful wide-angle lens abuse and colour registration trickery) and, frankly, the hairstyles; I think I like The Cremator better on the whole, but this is still a neat bit of 70s Euro-Gothic.

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