Noir City International (Virtual) Film Festival: THE FIFTH HORSEMAN IS FEAR

For this round we’re in Prague for THE FIFTH HORSEMAN IS FEAR.

During WWII (sort of – more on that later) a Jewish doctor forbidden from practicing medicine has been relegated to a job cataloging confiscated property.

When a wounded resistance fighter shows up on the stoop of the doctor’s apartment building, he reluctantly agrees to operate to remove a bullet. Realizing that the patient will start screaming in pain and attract the police, he goes out looking for morphine, sending him on a surreal, nightmarish quest through the haunted midnight city.

Meanwhile, the building’s quirky and occasionally combative tenants start to break down and turn on one another in classic noir fashion. We know this isn’t going to go well for anyone involved.

In his intro, Eddie Muller said there was a certain David Lynch flavor to this film, and he’s not wrong on that. You can’t take your eyes off the screen. It’s weird and dark and mesmerizing and full of strange, unforgettable characters. Including a kid (ugh) and an endlessly crying toddler (double ugh) but trust me, it was worth getting past that because I’m still thinking about it today.

Eddie also mention the “modern” (60s) clothes in this one, just like in ASHES AND DIAMONDS. Which seems so peculiar but is clearly a thing. Can it be that WWII era clothes were considered so fatally uncool in the 60s that no one would be caught dead in them, even for make believe? Whatever the reason, in the end it just adds another layer of strangeness and contributes to the feeling of being unmoored in time.

Anyway, Mistress Christa says check it out.

One important note, with this flick and tonight’s film THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT, the subtitles are NOT available if you are watching on your TV through a device like Roku. I was only able to activate the subtitles by watching on my tiny computer screen, which frankly sucks. Especially for a gorgeous film like this one. So I watched it once without the subtitles, just for the pure visual enjoyment of seeing it on a big screen and then again on the small screen so I could get a little better handle on what exactly was going on. The basic plot (such as it is) is pretty obvious even when you can’t understand all the specifics of the bickering.

Tonight’s film, on the other hand, I’ve already watched with no subtitles so it’s tiny screen theater for me again. But I do hope that the festival organizers and tech people will take note of this glitch and try to fix it so that all films are watchable on the big screen next time.

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