Based on the novel Sirená by Marie Majerová, a communist and feminist Czech author prolific before World War II (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Majerová), Karel Steklý’s The Strike follows the Hudcový family during a mine workers’ strike outside Prague in the late 19th Century. Hudec (Ladislav Boháč) is a sort of foreman at a mine. His job makes him miserable, which is apparent from his drinking. He finds himself caught between the mine’s owner and the discontented, sorely underpaid workers that include his son Rudolf (Oleg Reif). Hudec tries to straddle the line between the two but ultimately joins the workers when pushed by his determined wife, Hudcová (Marie Vásová), who seems like she’s always hungry. The cost is devastating, especially for their preteen daughter Emča (Pavla Sucha).
Though not as elegant, The Strike recalls Metropolis (https://moviebloke.com/2015/09/12/metropolis/) both thematically and visually. Jaroslav Tuzar’s stark and grimy cinematography nicely highlights the plight of the workers, and it looks great in black and white. Nothing here is nuanced, though: the narrative is coarse and blunt, the acting is total amateur hour, and the moral is in-your-face. Still, The Strike is remarkable for its earnestness; the workers plotting a revolt, their riot, and the town police and corrupt mayor (Josef Benátský) standing behind the mine over the workers certainly all ring true and timely. It kept my interest all the way through.
I never heard of Steklý or The Strike or anyone involved with this picture until I saw it 70 years after its release. I’m not sure it ever enjoyed international distribution—I can’t find a trailer for it—and I can guess why: a dour postwar propaganda film, it likely would have turned off audiences with its Reefer Madness-like approach to capitalism and communism that seems to argue for the latter. Viewing it today, I saw it as an eerily accidental warning of what happens when the middle class disappears.
With Josef Bek, Josef Dekoj, Nadezda Gajerová, Vera Kalendová Bedrich Karen, Lída Matousková
Production: Ceskoslovenský Státní Film
(Dryden Theatre) C
Nitrate Picture Show