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The Cremator (Czech: Spalovač mrtvol) is a 1969 Czechoslovak horror/drama film directed by Juraj Herz, based on a novel by Ladislav Fuks. The screenplay was written by Herz and Fuks. The film was selected as the Czechoslovakian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 42nd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[1] In 1972, it won the Festival de Cine de Sitges Best Film award, where it also received awards for its star Rudolf Hrušínský and cinematographer Stanislav Milota.

The Cremator
Spalovač mrtvol
Czech release poster
Directed byJuraj Herz
Written byLadislav Fuks
Juraj Herz
StarringRudolf Hrušínský
Vlasta Chramostová
Music byZdeněk Liška
CinematographyStanislav Milota
Edited byJaromír Janáček
Distributed byCentral Office of Film Distribution
Release date
  • March 14, 1969 (1969-03-14)
Running time
95 minutes

The story is set in 1930s Prague, where the cremator Karel Kopfrkingl lives and works. It is often recognized as a follower of German Expressionist film[2] and also as an example of the Czechoslovak New Wave. The film was banned after its premiere in 1969, and remained in the vault until the collapse of the communist system in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

With a 90.2% score on the Czech and Slovak Movie Database[3] as well as praise from movie critics, The Cremator is often considered to be one of the best movies ever made in Czechoslovakia. It has also gathered a prominent cult following.[4]


The movie takes place against the backdrop of the political radicalization of Europe during the 1930s, more specifically the demise of the golden era of the First Czechoslovak Republic and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi Germany. Spiritually, the movie takes place in the aftermath of the death of Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama in 1933.

Karl Kopfrkingl works at a crematorium in Prague. Obsessed with his duties, he believes he is not just cremating the dead, but liberating the souls of the departed. With Nazi forces gathering at the Czech border, he descends into a mania that allows him to enact his disturbed beliefs.



The Cremator was director Juraj Herz's second feature film.[5] The film is based on a novel by Ladislav Fuks Spalovač mrtvol (lit. The Corpse Incinerator).[6] The main character is played by Rudolf Hrušínský, an actor previously known for his comedic main role as the soldier Josef Švejk in Dobrý voják Švejk and Poslušně hlásím.[6]


Home mediaEdit

The film was released on DVD by Second Run on April 10, 2006. It was later released Dark Sky Films on March 31, 2009.[7]


Jason Pirodsky of The Prague Reporter praised the film, writing, "Spalovač mrtvol is a masterpiece of atmosphere, conveying the horror of the Holocaust through style rather than story; stark black & white cinematography by Stanislav Milota is a real standout, while unusual rapid-fire editing by Jaromír Janáček helps to keeps the viewer off balance."[8] Adam Schofield, writing in A Black Pearl of the Deep: Juraj Herz's The Cremator stated that audiences unfamiliar with Eastern Europe's political past could "surely enjoy it as a work of black comedy or psychological horror" as it was an "ingeniously orchestrated film, full of complexities, and capable of giving the horror genre a better name."[6] Herz commented that the films reaction were different in every country, noting that "In Prague, people were depressed; in Slovakia, they laughed; in the Netherlands, it was a comedy from the beginning to the end"[9]TV Guide awarded the film 3/5 stars, stating that "Hrusinsky's scary performance highlights this morbid, darkly funny work."[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  2. ^ "Kinoeye - Czech Horror: Juraj Herz interviewed". Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Žebříčky". Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  4. ^ Reimer, Robert Charles; Reimer, Carol J. (1 January 2012). "Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema". Scarecrow Press – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Paszylk 2009, p. 109.
  6. ^ a b c Paszylk 2009, p. 110.
  7. ^ "Spalovac Mrtvol (1968) - Juraj Herz". AllMovie. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  8. ^ Pirodsky, Jason. "Review: 'Spalovač mrtvol' (The Cremator) — The Prague Reporter". The Prague Jason Pirodsky. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  9. ^ Paszylk 2009, p. 111.
  10. ^ "The Cremator - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV TV Guide. Retrieved 5 September 2018.


  • Paszylk, Bartłomiej (2009). The Pleasure and Pain of Cult Horror Films: An Historical Survey. McFarland. ISBN 0786453273.

External linksEdit