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1 review, 2 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"One bizarre film."
2 stars

Morgiana reminded me of a Hammer film in style, though with less in the way of the supernatural. It features a slow-acting poison that is impossibly perfect for the film's needs, though that is likely a holdover from the source material. It's a bizarre film, featuring a cat's-eye-view camera for no particular reason, a sort of arty credit sequence, and probably the least subtle soundtrack this side of Signs.

Costume design and make-up are interesting, as they run the gamut between incredibly elaborate and almost slipshod. This might be intended, however - the elaborate costumes belong to women of means, whereas the servents and soldiers in this period piece are dressed in what look almost like hand-me-downs.

The story itself is a contrived Victorian-era melodrama. Sisters Viktorie and Klara (both played by Iva Janzurová) each inherit a house and staff when their father passes on. Viktorie, the older sister, is jealous of Klara's popularity (and house in town as opposed to country), and to make it worse, Klara is nothing but kind, even trying to have some of her suitors pay attention to her sister. Soon, Vikkie has obtained a supposedly untraceable poison that will work over time, giving her the opportunity to appear the concerned sister and divert suspicion. But, as the poison is working, her supplier blackmails her...

Quite frankly, the story is absurd. Vikkie is such a thoroughgoing villainess I'm surprised that she doesn't grow her fingernails a foot long and cackle more than she does. The sisters are pretty clearly labeled, with Vikkie always dressing entirely in black and her black hair in a severe bun, and her makeup in harsh shapes. Klara, on the other hand, is dressed in white with flowing red hair in lovely ringlets. This is not to say the movie is valueless; there's fun in melodrama, and director Juraj Herz uses his leading lady well - despite being a 1972 film from an Eastern Bloc nation, and thus having an effects budget of roughly nothing, it's never terribly obvious that the same actress is playing two roles. Herz chooses a narrow aspect ratio - 1.37:1 or 1.66:1 - and uses close-ups to make sure only one sister is on-screen most of the time, and makes good use of doubles and the very occasional split-screen shot. He may have been trying to use some of the artsier, showier techniques to camoflage the double role. If that was his intent, good job.

The production values are the best thing about this movie, though, and it's no wonder more Hollywood movies are shooting in Prague - the Czechs have been making spiffy-looking movies (and not just art films) for years, and have the infrastructure.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10035&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/19/04 21:52:01
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User Comments

1/11/09 Shaun Wallner Poorly Made! 2 stars
9/12/04 piotrweryk ilovethismovie 5 stars
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Directed by
  Juraj Herz

Written by
  Vladimir Bor
  Juraj Herz

  Iva Janzurova
  Josef Abrham
  Nina Diviskova
  Petr Cepek
  Josef Somr
  Jiri Kodet

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