SALEM HORROR FEST: The Ninth Heart (1979)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was watched as part of Salem Horror Fest. You can still get a weekend pass for weekend two. Single tickets are also available. Here’s the program of what’s playing.

Deváté srdce is about a student named Martin who has volunteered to seek out the cure for Princess Adriana, who has been knocked down and out by a mysterious illness. But the truth is that it’s no sickness. Instead, the magician Andlobrandini has enchanted her as part of his plan which involves creating a magic potion to return his youth from the blood of nine children’s hearts.

Directed by Juraj Herz, who wrote the story with Josef Hanzlík, everything in this feels handmade, down to the poster by surrealist painter, writer and ceramicist Eva Švankmajerová. This was shot at the same time as Herz’s Beauty and the Beast in an attempt to save on costs and is a fairy tale created in modern times that in no way feels unlike the tales we were told at bedtime.

By literally capturing the young hearts of the young men who have come to save Adrianna, Andlobrandini  seeks to take their vitality and become hale and hearty anew. Unlike them, Martin has no love for the princess. Instead, the Grand Duke (Premysi Koci) allows him to take on this mission instead of sending him and the street circus people he has fallen in with to jail, most especially Toncka (Anna Malova), the daughter of a puppeteer.

Joined by the Grand Duke’s jester (František Filipovský) and wearing a cloak of invisibility, the two men go across the River Styx to the Grand Duke’s former alchemist’s — yes, Andlobrandini — dark and foreboding castle, a place filled with corpses, innumerable candles, a swinging sun and danger around every turn. It’s gorgeous and perhaps the greatest love within this film is for the art of moviemaking itself.


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