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An outrageous parody of classic Hollywood westerns, this musical comedy from Czech director Oldrich Lipsky draws on his previous work in animation to spoof and exaggerate the genre. Set in Stetson City, the story opens with a brawl in the Trigger Whisky Saloon. Silver-clad Lemonade Joe rides into town, bringing law and order-and lemonade-to the frontier, while rescuing Winifred Goodman from the clutches of Hogo Fogo. Throughout the film, characters burst into song at the slightest provocation, regaling audiences with such memorable tunes as "Do You See My Moist Lips?" and "When The Smoke Thickens in the Bar." One of the most novel films from the Czech New Wave, LEMONADE JOE is a comic gem and a clever homage to early Hollywood westerns.
- Collectible booklet with film notes
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In a lawless town, filled with scum and villainy, the most successful business is Trigger Whiskey Saloon, owned by a certain Doug Badman (Rudolf Deyl), an ignoble scoundrel who happens to be also the producer and distributor of Trigger Whiskey, a horribly potent (and certainly toxic) but cheap liquor, more or less an imitation of real whiskey... He is seconded by an obscenely ugly, repugnant and not very bright desperado, Gunslinger Grimpo, a.k.a. Old Pistol (Josef Hlinomaz). Another attraction of the Trigger Whiskey Saloon is a gorgeously voluptuous raven haired singer, Tornado Lou (Kveta Fialova), who probably committed every sin in the book - but still refuses to sleep with her boss...
The population of the town spends all the money in Trigger Whiskey Saloon and refuses to even hear the calls for temperance and other virtues preached by the hapless Reverend Ezra Goodman (Bohus Zahorsky) and his immaculately virginal blond daughter Winnifred (Olga Schoberova). But all this changes when a stranger clad in shining white clothes arrives to town - his name is Lemonade Joe (Karel Fiala), he is an invincible gunfighter and the secret of his invincibility resides in his total abstinence. He drinks only a healthy lemonade known as Kolaloka and with the support of Goodman family he opens in the town a new, totally alcohol free joint.
Doug Badman's business quickly declines - however, when he is already preparing to leave town, a new stranger arrives, a well (and darkly) dressed, perfectly groomed and gentlemanly mannered prestidigitator/gunman/poker player known as Hogofogo (Milos Kopecky), a villain infinitely more villainous than anything previously known in the Wild West... For reasons of his own he is willing to help Doug Badman in his confrontation with Lemonade Joe. And then the film really begins...
Czech cinema is known in the West mostly for the serious dramas, like "Loves of a blonde" and "Closely watched trains". Czech comedies on another hand are virtually terra incognita for the Western public and it is a pity, because many of them are absolute treasures: "Four Murders Are Enough, Darling" (1970), "I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen" (1970), "How to Drown Dr. Mracek, the Lawyer" (1975), "Marecek, Pass Me the Pen!" (1976), "Dinner for Adele" (1977) and "Waiter, scarper!" (1980). To that list must be added also the absolutely classical adaptations of Jaroslav Hasek novels, "The Good Soldier Schweik" (1956) and "I dutifully report" (1957). "Lemonade Joe or the Horse Opera" is therefore in good company, as one of the best comedies in a cinema which really, REALLY knew how to make them!
This is a comedy and even if some critics tried to find in it some hidden depths and messages, in fact there is hardly any - this is almost pure entertainment, of the most irreverent and anarchic kind, with burlesque and grotesque struggling for dominancy in every single scene. Already the very idea of trying to sell abstinence to Czech viewers, whose birthplace build its identity mostly on those twin pillars that are Pilsner and Budweiser, is a highly hilarious endeavour. ALMOST nothing is serious in this film and the one and only serious thing is itself a joke - I will come to it in a moment...
Technically the film looks quite a lot like the earliest westerns - it is a black and white thing, with accelerated fights and horse riding and the frequently exaggerated acting, seeming to come from mute films. Also as in many mute comedies the main character accomplishes some obviously impossible stunts and like in musicals, when he sings occasionally all his enemies wait patiently for him to finish...
The irreverent and anarchic character of this film comes mostly from the fact that if the villains are quite naturally ridiculed, the "good guys" are not spared either, maybe with the exception of Reverend Goodman, whose screen time is however quite limited. Lemonade Joe himself hides a secret and even if he is 97,5% of disinterested goodness, he still wants his reasonable and probably well deserved cut of benefits. As for the angelic Winnifred, her eagerness to be freed from the burden of her virginity is absolutely hilarious...))) The villains themselves are full of surprises, not the least of which are the spiritual (and also a little bit carnal) torments of Tornado Lou, the "fallen woman" who falls for the pure hero... The final revelations and the final fate of almost everybody in this film achieves to put to grave any pretention to seriousness - even more easily so, as that part of the film happens in a cemetery...)))
The accumulation of revelations and twists in the great finale, with every next one being more outrageous than the precedent, is completely over the top and hilarious but paradoxically this is also the one (short) moment in which this film becomes a little more serious. It must be kept in mind, that even if communist Czechoslovakia was economically rather more successful than most of Eastern Bloc, it was nevertheless an oppressive dictatorship, in which every single film, book, song etc. had to be approved by official censorship office. Also, in order to get funds to make films, directors and screenwriters had frequently to include official propaganda, part of which was the condemnation of capitalism and criticism of American life style and values. Seemingly, the makers of this film obliged the communist authorities, even obliged them very much - but in reality the sheer accumulation of such a number of "anti-capitalist" elements, showed in such a cheesy way and in such a rapid succession completely reversed the effect...)))
The final result is that the makers of this film pulled a fast one on communist censorship, turning in ridicule the "official line" of propaganda, with the authorities being the only ones to not notice that - unlike everybody else...))) I do not blame the communist authorities too much however for missing that point, because, to my enormous surprise, after reading some reviews and articles concerning "Lemonade Joe", some left-oriented Western viewers also took all this to the face value and actually sincerely believe that this merry anarchic comedy is a "denunciation of capitalism, consumerism and American way of life, religion included" ...))) ...))) ...)))
Bottom line, this is a very amusing, very unusual, hilarious, surrealistic, over the top and (almost) completely not serious and extremely well made horse opera..., err, I mean western comedy...))) I recommend it with all my heart and I am totally keeping my DVD for another viewing. ENJOY!
American directors who attempt this sort of social and political satire tend to sacrifice lightness-of-touch for over-earnest political point-making; in American hands a satire like Lemonade Joe would have eventually descended into un-funny grinding blackness or overreachings at profundity. Americans (like Moore) think that killing the fun is making the "point." I'm thinking of awful films like "C.S.A." and even Moore's "Canadian Bacon." Lemonade Joe is an excellent example of how to do engaging social criticism.
While watching it I also felt myself dearly missing the Commies. They were superb opponents for the West, consistently and accurately pointing out the flaws and hypocrisies of Western political and economic systems. Unlike the modern Left and the Politically Correct they believed in the idea of progress and made no apologies for cultures they saw as "backward"--Commies couldn't be cultural relativists. They also maintained Western intellectual traditions, finding their roots in their own cultural history. Again, they were incapable of throwing the cultural baby out with the bath-water, as many modern West-hating Leftists now do. Only a good Commie could have made a flick this good.
[Oddly, mainstream Hollywood often did a much better job at fun social criticism. Wilder's "One,Two,Three" immediately comes to mind and that film would be an appropriate companion to Lemonade Joe]
Most recent customer reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable and engaging, Lemonade Joe is, to this fan of Westerns of all eras, one of the finest genre satires I've ever seen.Read more