"Alcohol - when served in small doses - does not do harm in any quantity." - Hogo Fogo
If you are a regular visitor of our Prague blog, you may have noticed that we sometimes suggest an unorthodox souvenir from Prague. Something you may not have through of buying but something that says more about the Czechs than the Russian dolls and other tchotchke sold on the streets in the tourist centre. Something fun, something memorable. Today's suggestion is a classic Czech movie that most Czechs can quote line by line. That's also why it is included in the Czech DVD collection in our rental apartment. The movie is called "Lemonade Joe", and it's a Czech country and western comedy.
Yes, a Czech country and western movie. You see, the Czechs (just like the Germans, to some extent) have a strange, romantic fascination with the Wild Wild West. Starting from the Winnetou series by Karl May to modern-day Czech country and western music, the idea of riding a horse through the open range seems to be very, very appealing to many Czechs. Country Radio is one of the most popular radio stations in Prague and the Central Bohemian Region (which is a telling sign of the "high standards" Czech radio stations aspire to in general). And this is a fact that has not changed under the Communist Era, either, although clearly it was a bit suppressed. Still, the "tramping" movement was very popular, giving rise, in many respects, to the environmentalist "Brontosaurus" movement of the 1980s.
Today's pick from our rental apartment's Czech DVD collection would be, in our opinion, the perfect "weird" gift that would lighten up any theme party at home wherever you may come from: the 1964 Comedy from the genius Czech comedy director, Ondrej Lipsky, "Lemonade Joe", is a true gem. You see, Mr Lipsky was spoofing western movies before it was cool and before anyone has ever heard of the Blazing Saddles.
Shot is very stark sepia colors to add the feeling of an old movie, Lemonade Joe is essentially the story of good and evil: the teatotalling Joe, as the sharpest shooter in Stetson City, persuades the regulars at the Trigger Whiskey Bar that alcohol is not the way. However, the owner of of the bar, and his evil brother, the villain Hogo Fogo, plot revenge. Add romance, heartbreak, never-ending gags and action... and have we mentioned this film is a musical? Yes, the movie has everything. Without trying to give away any spoilers, let's just say the movie ends with a Wayne's World-type of mega-super-happy-ending that even the most cynical of Hollywood producers would find tacky. Yes, this movie makes fun of everything and just does not care.
However, it does include an all-star cast from the 1960s, including sultry actresses Olinka Schroberova (former Miss Czechoslovakia who later escaped the country and married John Calley, the producer of the Superman movies) as the wife-to-be of Lemonade Joe, or Kveta Fialova, one of the most famous Czech actresses of the second half of the 20th Century, as Tornado Lou, the fallen woman and the star of the Trigger Whiskey Bar who is looking for a "champion of her heart" who would "make her better".
What makes this movie a classic and why is it so loved by the Czechs? The film makes fun of everything: drunkards, dogmatic prohibition types, salesmen, villains, blondes, sharpshooters and femme fatales. Every cliche from your standard country and western movie is exaggerated to the point of parody. Money rules Stetson City. When Mrs Goodman realizes that Lemonade Joe is nothing but a salesperson for Kola Loka soda, she first expresses her never-ending love for Joe but then swiftly demands a cut from his proceeds (in a really cute way, though).
Then there are the songs: "Jo whiskey, to je moje gusto" (which roughly translates as "Whiskey, that's my cup of tea") is a staple song of any party of youngsters, including the high school prom (the legal age is eighteen here, you seniors can and do drink at their prom). The main villain, Hogo Fogo (which is the Czech equivalent of "Fancy Schmancy") is a great source of very funny and smart one-liners, too. But what wins every viewer's heart is the absurd but smart humor and a sense of funny carelessness. The Czechs adore this movie, and so will you. Trust us!
You can but the DVD ("Limonádovy Joe" in Czech) with English subtitles in any bigger music store. We would try Bontonland Megastore at the bottom of the Wenceslas Square or Musicland in the Palladium mall. Have fun!