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Tales of the Sin District: Close Encounters

Guest Review by Isambard

With this film, Lupus begin another "historical" series, set in the inter-war period.

The story revolves around a police station. A rookie policeman, Horacek, in plain clothes and therefore presumably a detective, is out on patrol with a more experienced uniformed officer, Vondruska. Horacek insists on "playing by the book" and fills the police station with four women arrested as prostitutes, to the horror of Vondruska and the officer sitting back at the station, Dousa. The most experienced prostitute, Emilie Fadrna (played by Alexandra Wolf), is obviously on extremely good terms with the senior officer, Kvapil, who contrives to let her go. Of the other three women, two have defective papers (evidently documents which, if in order, would have allowed them to practise legally as prostitutes) and the third has no papers at all. Inevitably, to avoid the hassle of charging the girls, they are offered the option of a caning. The canings are duly delivered (not the heaviest in a Lupus), two of the girls leave, while the third stands around. It then transpires that she isn't a tart but a maid.... A sub-plot involves constant references to an earlier over-enthusiastic copper, Kovar, and his awful fate. Not altogether surprisingly, it turns out that Kovar is the alcoholic street musician to whom the film keeps cutting away.

On the plus side, the film maintains the usual high production standards of Lupus: costumes seem accurate for the period, and the actors can actually act, but the poor standard of subtitling is seriously problematic in this film. The "Czeglish" at the bottom of the screen is at times incomprehensible, with a non-existent word "wales" (lower case, not the Principality!) occurring at one point. Neither the subtitles nor the "blurb" accurately map the police ranks to British or American equivalents. So, while Vondruska is engaged in what British police call "puppy walking" an inexperienced recruit, he describes Horacek as his "superior officer" when asked why he hadn't stopped him from arresting the women.. Horacek's title "improver" means nothing in British practice. I suspect that he is probably something like a trainee detective inspector/lieutenant. Likewise, it is obvious that Kvapil, described as "chief constable", is a relatively junior officer (maybe station sergeant) and not what a British viewer understands by that term (equivalent to US "police chief"). This makes it quite difficult to understand the relationship between the policemen.

It's perhaps disappointing that Fadrna gets away unscathed. Those who enjoyed Alexandra Wolf's appearance in a sub role in "Stalin 2" might have liked to see her on the receiving end again.

So, we have three canings. The lengthy scene-setting has taken a quarter of an hour out of a video that lasts a little under half an hour, and by 26 minutes into the film, the caning has ended. Here lies the problem with this film, I think. Lupus see themselves as selling a premium product and justified in charging a premium price - EUR 40 for a download or EUR 50 for a DVD. In the latter case, postage must be added, and the company rather naughtily quotes its prices before adding VAT, which is charged on sales within the European Union, currently charged at 19% in the Czech Republic. So, a European purchaser would pay about EUR 48 for download or more than EUR 60, including postage, for what amount to three short caning clips. An entertaining little film but a bit pricy!

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