In 1960's America, millions tuned in to the 'BIFF!' 'BAM!' 'POW!' action of the Batman television series. But this 'pop art' phenomenon was not limited to the North American shores. A continent away, another comic book hero, or in this case heroine, was quite literally springing to life in the Czech film 'Who Wants to Kill Jessie?'.'Who Wants to Kill Jessie?' is a nonsensical film, which begins with a fantastical premise and then madly and unapologetically dashes from one ridiculous situation to another. Which, in the case of a film of this type, is not necessarily a bad thing.Dana Medrická as Dr. Rose Beránková is the catalyst for all events in the film. Dr. Beránková has just invented a serum that allows dreams to be altered so that undesirable elements can be removed. The effectiveness of this invention can be tested via a dream scanner which allows observers to monitor a person's drams on a TV screen. This remarkable device is seemingly so commonplace that the good doctor keeps one next to her own bed.The trouble begins when the jealous Rose catches her husband, Henry (Jirí Sovák) dreaming about the gorgeous blonde comic book heroine, Jessie, though in fact he is dreaming about her anti-gravity gloves, and decides to eliminate her dream girl rival by injecting Henry with the new serum.The next morning however, Rose discovers that subjects removed from dreams, rather simply disappearing, are brought into the real world, and now not only Jessie (the beautiful Olga Schoberová) but her two adversaries, an evil cowboy and a villainous superman, have come to life. Jessie quickly escapes her two foes and begins to track Henry to the University where he is lecturing, pursued by the destructive superman and cowboy, who are in turn being pursued by the police.When the police finally catch up with the dream trio, Henry is arrested as well. Rose is perfectly willing to let her husband take the blame for the whole mess, testifying at his trial that if he had dreamed about his wife instead of Jessie, none of this would have happened. In the end, while Rose plots a way to dispose of the dream characters, it is up to an imprisoned Henry to save the day, by actually creating the anti-gravity gloves from the comic book.Interestingly, the film's two comic book villains are not really very evil. They are greedy and destructive, but not cruel or vicious. While the Cowboy is constantly threatening people with his six shooter, he never actually shoots anyone. No one is hurt and no one is killed. Likely this is because these manifestations are not the villains from the Jessie comic, but Henry's interpretation of them from his dreams. Since Henry's dreams are not violent, neither are the realized dream villains. In the same way, while the comic book Jessie has never heard of Henry, the dream Jessie is attracted to him and so the manifested Jessie professes her love for him which does nothing to improve Henry's standing with Rose.The closest thing to a true villain the film has is Rose. It is her petty jealously that leads her to first create the problem, then allow her befuddled husband to be jailed for it, and finally to attempt, futilely, to destroy the dream people in quite horrible and savage ways. The viciousness of Rose's actions is muted only by the film's consistently light tone, and the fact that her attempts are completely ineffectual against the seemingly indestructible manifestations.Undoubtedly the most remarkable thing about this film is that it exists at all. While comic book style films were all the rage in Italy, France and America, in the 1960's Czechoslovakia was still an Iron Curtain country, albeit one experiencing a period of cultural freedom. A film as utterly and delightfully frivolous as 'Who Wants to Kill Jessie?' is as a bold departure from the popular stereotype of the bleak, somber, pathos drenched film of the Soviet Bloc era as one could imagine. This is a film that has no political agenda, aside from a very few light jabs at rigid bureaucracy, tosses away logic and simply delights in being silly.Long a difficult film to see, usually available for viewing only at film festivals, 'Who Wants to Kill Jessie?' has at last been released on DVD in a very nice 2.35:1 widescreen edition by Centrum Video in Europe, complete with English subtitles. The bonus features, including an interview with writer/director Václav Vorlícek, are unfortunately in Czech only with no English subtitling.
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