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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
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Location: Prague, Bohemia
Member Since: Tue Apr 06, 2010
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Subj: Re: The White Disease (1937) Karel Capek
Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 at 05:07:44 pm EDT (Viewed 94 times)
Reply Subj: The White Disease (1937) Karel Capek
Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 at 08:54:07 am EDT (Viewed 115 times)

    If you are in a mood for some phrophetic, apocalyptic sci-fi, this is for you.

    Czech sci-fi writer, Karel Capek, (whose brother Josef invented the word "robot" into the world's vocabulary in the seminal sci-fi classic RUR), made a play later turned into a film, a prophetic play, called "the White Disease" (Bila Nemoc) in which he described our current state of the world — a pandemic.

    Staring and directed by Czech actor Hugo Haas, it was shot in black and white with a very artistic feel. It is about a nationalist leader with the name Marshal, who wants to invade a smaller neighboring country when a strange, highly infectous disease, originating from China, begins spreading through his country. It turns a person's skin white, kills within a few weeks and only seems to affect people over 50. It is so infectuous that people are discouraged from shaking hands.
    Sound familiar?

    In one scene a father complains to his daughter "Is a man meant to die at 50?" and she replies, "Well, you need to make room for the younger generation."

    Written with the impending invasion of Czechoslovakia, Marshal is a clear metaphor for Hitler.

    A kindly doctor, Dr Galen, finds a cure, but refuses to give it to Marshal unless he calls off the war. Instead he uses it to cure the impoverished, following a pacifistic ideal.

    In a way, it was an attempt to beg a peaceful solution to the horrors of Nazi Germany.


    A scarily prophetic film and well worth a watch, even if its a little too close to home at the moment. I've only found the Czech language version on youtube so far, but I know an English-subtitled version is out there.

    And Hugo Haas, the director and lead actor, unfortunately, like so many members of the thriving Czech film industry of the 1930s, met his end in 1944 in Aushwitz.

Actually, it was Hugo's brother Pavel (born 1899) who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944; he was a composer who had studied under Leos Janacek. Their father Lipmann (Zikmund) also died in the Holocaust.
Hugo Haas (1901-1968) managed to escape in 1939 and reached the United States via France, Spain and Portugal. He resumed his acting and directing profession in Hollywood. He returned to Europe in the late 1950s, living in Italy and then in Austria, and dying in Vienna. He is buried in Brno. The films he directed in America were mostly B-movies, but "The Girl on the Bridge" (1951) could be of interest. He also co-wrote it and played the male lead as a watchmaker who lost his family in the Holocaust and then meets a woman whom he saves from committing suicide.


    Heres a youtube link (also known as Skeleton on horseback):


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