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Who Wants to Kill Jessie?
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by Jay Seaver

"None of the 80-minute running time is wasted."
4 stars

Who Wants To Kill Jessie? is something different but enjoyable, a thoroughly deadpan comedy-fantasy. I'd happily buy it on video if it were available, but, alas, special screenings in series like "Czech Horror & Fantasy On Film" seem to be the only way to see it

The story is a simple high-concept: Ruzenka Beránková (Dana Medrická) has created a formula that can remove elements from dreams (you can tell they've been removed, because there's a nifty television screen capable of showing a subject's dreams). What she doesn't realize is that these elements manifest themselves in the real world. Bad enough when it's the gadflys of a cow's nightmare, but when she uses it on her husband (Jirí Sovák), whose dreams include the characters from the comic strip "Who Wants To Kill Jessie?"... Well, it's bad enough that Jessie is a beautiful, blond, voluptuous girl (who is also a scientific genius), but the two men chasing her, a musclebound superhero and a gun-toting cowboy, cause serious damage to the apartment building and later city of Prague. And when the courts decide the husband should be liable - they are, after all, his dreams - more chaos ensues.

Jessie is quite short - IMDB lists it at 80 minutes - but doesn't waste any of its running time. Nearly every minute has something funny happening, whether it be a cow's dreams or the comic strip characters' penchant for speaking with word balloons. The film is shot in anamorphic black-and-white, and I'm not sure color would have helped it; it could have easily come out looking like the Batman live-action TV series or Austin Powers. The look of this 1966 movie suggests bright colors, but keeps it from looking garish or dated. It's also played perfectly straight - that Mrs. Beránková has a dream monitor in her bedroom isn't remarked upon, and the reactions to these comic-book characters running around Prague is stoic as can be.

"Jessie" is a nifty little fantasy which deserves a little more exposure in the west. If you get a chance, see it.

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originally posted: 06/20/04 11:55:57
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