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Engels In the early days of Czech sound film, it seemed to forget the breadth of genres that could be further developed. As a result, Czech films of the 1930s might appear relatively homogeneous, showcasing various comedies, musical melodramas, and socially-oriented stories. However, if we examine each year individually, we would certainly find exceptions that counter this impression, particularly in the production year of 1937, when film production peaked with fifty new films being made. This peak resulted in an overwhelming variety that the contemporary cinema network could barely manage, and critics struggled to adequately review each title. A trio of films from this era of expansion marked the first solo ventures of Ladislav Brom. His debut, the social drama The Accordion, was influenced by his study stay in the USSR. This was followed by the charming adaptation of a magazine novel for women and girls, The Career of Mother Lízalka, and finally, Blackmailer, based on a story by Egon Hostovský. Hostovský was a prominent Czech Jewish writer who would later experience a life of double exile. It was fortunate that during the First Republic, he saw at least one of his works adapted into a film, as all subsequent adaptations were of his works written in exile. This film was created with an authentic atmosphere, reflecting the contemporary inclination towards expressionist and psychological novels. Specifically, the novella "Ztracený stín" (1931) deals with the classic theme of losing one's identity, a "shadow" of our self, when one finds oneself in an inescapable situation. The situation is excellently portrayed, and the characters are intriguing. The story includes everything from a financially struggling young love (Adina Mandlová/Ladislav Pešek), a bored factory owner's wife (Bedřich Vrbský/Helena Bušová), to a treacherous general director (Plachý) who is in cahoots with the company president (Deyl). The main character is a former accountant (Vítězslav Boček) who easily succumbs to the opportunity to escape poverty. Today's viewers, who are not accustomed to categorizing films as high or low art, can better appreciate Blackmailer as a key work that shaped the path of Czech cinema towards psychological expression. ()

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