An excerpt from the booklet essay by Jonathan Owen

Happy End begins, literally, with the end – with the legend ‘Konec’. The film’s credits follow, some of them appearing back-to-front before reversing themselves, and then a garbled version of a famous saying: ‘You lie down in the bed you make’. All is thus alarmingly amiss even before we find out that the head slowly revealed to us in close-up has been detached from its body. Oldřich Lipský’s comedy will not only spin out a story of a man’s life in reverse, beginning with his death on the guillotine and ending in infancy; it will also have its hero narrate this backwards-running version of his life as though it were running in normal sequence, which allows him to recast his execution as his birth, a violent murder as a means of bestowing life, and an act of rescue as a way of killing off an unwanted mate. This bizarre premise, applied with faultless internal logic, is the wildest framing concept ever devised by the distinctively Czechoslovak sub-genre known as ‘crazy comedy’, one that charts this already wayward style of comedy into the realm of the experimental. But Happy End is an extreme proposition that also typifies the crazy comedy’s peculiar richness and appeal, as well as the ingenious talents of two of its greatest practitioners – director Lipský and screenwriter Miloš Macourek.

Maker of some of the most successful, beloved and oft-quoted Czechoslovak comedies, Oldřich Lipský (1924-1986) emerged from a background in satirical theatre and began directing films at the start of the 1950s. His 1961 film The Man from the First Century (Muž z prvního století), a sci-fi satire about a materialistic, modern-day dolt confronted with a utopian future in the year ‘508 After Sputnik’, was a worthy first effort at the integration of comedy, popular genre material, striking visual design and trick effects. But Lipský would take this formula to yet greater heights in his next film, the uproarious Lemonade Joe, or the Horse Opera (Limonadový Joe aneb Koňská opera, 1964), a parody-cum-panegyric to vintage Hollywood Westerns that abounds in smart visual and verbal gags, thrilling songs, and an arsenal of stylistic and technical tricks. Lemonade Joe was a box-office smash in Czechoslovakia, ultimately proving the most popular domestic title of the 1960s, and was widely successful internationally too. Propelled to the front ranks of Czechoslovak directors, Lipský continued to score popular and artistic triumphs over the next two decades of his life. There were further joyfully unhinged genre comedies: I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen (Zabil jsem Einsteina, pánové…, 1969) and Four Murders Are Enough, Darling (“Čtyři vraždy stačí, drahoušku”, 1970) with writer Miloš Macourek, and Adela Has Not Had Her Supper Yet (Adéla ještě nevečeřela, 1978) and The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (Tajemství hradu v Karpatech, 1981) with Lemonade Joe’s writer Jiří Brdečka. Lipský made a lasting mark too with forays into children’s fantasy (Long Live Ghosts! / Ať žijí duchové!, 1977) and fairy-tale (Three Veterans / Tři veteráni, 1983), and with two much-loved cult comedies set more recognisably in the real world, Jachym, Throw It into the Machine! (Jáchyme, hoď ho do stroje!, 1974) and Marecek, Pass Me the Pen! (Marečku, podejte mi pero!, 1976).

Miloš Macourek (1926-2002) was working as a dramaturg – a post roughly akin to script editor – at Barrandov Studios when Oldřich Lipský invited him to help out on the script for The Man from the First Century. This was the beginning of a long and extraordinarily fertile career as a scriptwriter for both live-action and animated films. Macourek would write six more films for Lipský, starting with Happy End, and enjoyed an even more prolific partnership with Václav Vorlíček – Lipský’s only challenger for the crown of greatest crazy comedy director – for whom he wrote such enduring comic fantasies as Who Wants to Kill Jessie? (Kdo chce zabít Jessii?, 1966), Girl on a Broomstick (Dívka na koštěti, 1971) and the brilliant sci-fi-fairy-tale TV series Arabela (1980). Macourek holds, if anything, a still more treasured place in Czechoslovak or Czech culture for his cartoons with Adolf Born, most notably the very popular children’s series Mach a Šebestová (1976-2005). Macourek’s copious oeuvre, which included prose, poetry and drama as well as scripts, is marked by its conceptual flair, its blend of wild imagination and the everyday, and ironic humour, a sensibility he could accommodate equally to children’s fantasies and to darker, more outrageous material.

Jonathan Owen's complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Czechoslovakia / 1967
Main feature: 73 minutes
Special feature: 33 mins
Sound: 2.0 Dual Mono
Black and white
Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Language: Czech
Subtitles: English

Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps
Region ABC (Region Free)

Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 25 March 2024


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