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Skeleton on Horseback Reviews

This allegory on fascism features Haas as a doctor who finds a cure for a leprous disease that represents this political theory. Both young and old are subject to the new fascist government, and Haas will provide his cure only if the ruling dictator will promise peace. However, the country goes off to war and is ultimately defeated. Haas is killed by a mob of angry citizens, and the dictator succumbs to the disease. The doctor's assistant then saves humankind from the ravages of the ailment. The story packs a good deal of dramatic power. The more intimate moments are well handled with skill and care. The crowd sequences suffer from some poor photography. SKELETON ON HORSEBACK was reportedly the last Czechoslovakian film made before the Nazi invasion. Its anti-fascist stance caused the banning of the film in much of Europe; it reached American screens only after being smuggled out of Czechoslovakia by producer-director-screenwriter Haas and being seen by American cinema mogul Carl Laemmle in Paris. Laemmle founder of Universal Studios--which he lost in 1935 due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression--initially distributed the film through an independent company he set up himself. He died in 1939, before the film's U.S. release. Haas came to the U.S. where he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a succession of brooding, musty melodramas dealing with a crude old man's--Haas'--relationship with a buxom young blonde woman, played by Cleo Moore. Photographer Heller also fled his native land just after the Nazi invasion; he went to England, where he worked on such successes as THE LADYKILLERS (1955) and THE IPCRESS FILE (1965). Prolific Czech writer Capek--best known for his futuristic play "R.U.R." in which the word "robot" was first coined--strongly objected to the film's ending, which deviated from that of his play. Capek died in 1938; this was a film adaptation of his last play. Famed author Fannie Hurst was sufficiently impressed by the picture to volunteer to edit it and write the subtitles. (In Czechoslavakian; English subtitles.)