Cinema/TV, Film Notes, News

Film review – Adéla jeste nevecerela (Dinner for Adele, Nick Carter in Prague) (1978)

My notes on Adéla jeste nevecerela (Dinner for Adele, Nick Carter in Prague)This romp from Oldrich Lipsky picks up a certain parodic steampuk tone from Karel Zeman’s Verne-derived An Invention of Destruction and The Stolen Airship, but uses more realistic (if stylised) settings. Nevertheless, animator Jan Svankmajer (at that time barred from making his own films) contributes distinctive special effects to realise Adele, an Audrey Jr-like man-eating plant with an unmistakably Svankmajeresque tongue (it looks like a slice of gammon) and tactfully vicious tendrils. Circa 1900, Nick Carter (Michel Docolomansky), the New York sleuth, sits complacently in his office, reading about his own adventures, surrounded by signed photographs of Sherlock Holmes and Edison. He is summoned to Prague and teams up with a Nigel Bruce-ish police inspector (Rudolf Hrusinsky) and finds Zahradnik (the Gardener), an old enemy he thought drowned in a swamp, has survived (breathing through a cigarette holder) and is swanning around the city in the guise of Baron von Kratzmar (Milos Kopecky), literally twirling his evil moustache and plotting to feed Nick to Audrey.

There’s a sweet ingenue (Nadia Konvalinkova) in the plot, and a femme fatale who sometimes wears a cat- mask (Olga Schoberova, aka Olinka Berova of The Vengeance of She). Carter is a comically unflappable stiff, with Inspector Gadget-style gimmicks like a boxing glove on a spring in his hat and a pair of revolvers in his sleeves which fire out of his elbows. He finally thwarts the Baron with a neat bit of deception whereby he disguises himself as an elderly professor while disguising the police inspector as him. After the hungry Adele is cheated of her dinner, there’s a climactic dirigible chase across Prague and no time for romance since Nick is immediately summoned aboard the Orient Express for another adventure – and the Baron survives to pursue him, as if another installment was expected. It’s a fond pastiche, good-humoured but enjoyably absurd in its depiction of an impossibly stalwart hero and equally fiendish baddie. In its comic approach, it has something of the feel of Doc Savage – The Man of Bronze or the BBC’s Sexton Blake and the Demon God. Purists might have preferred a straight-up Nick Carter adventure, but given that the once-popular character had faded in the memory by 1977 (there was a Robert Conrad TV movie in 1972), it’s unusual he should even score another screen credit, let alone in a fairly lavish Czech movie.


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