The Cremator 1969
A journey through the mind of a macabre and twisted individual. This is a film that is studying the horrors of a human mind gone astray, and how even the simplest of thoughts can take on new meaning inside such a mind.

"The Cremator" is set during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in the early days of World War II. Karl Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrusinski) is a cremator working at the time, who believes he is cleansing souls through his job, ridding them of the fear of death in a humane way. He also has high ambitions for himself and longs for success, feeling inadequate for his wage not bringing in as much money as his wife’s dowry. When an old friend approaches him who sides with the Nazis and describes them as ambitious pure citizens in line with Kopfrkingl’s views of the world, the cremator decides to assist. This causes his already rather delusional mind to reach breaking point, leading to a shocking series of events in the final act.

Horror films aren’t only about vampires and goblins — Czech director Juraj Herz’s mind-chilling study of a Fascist opportunist communicates truths about aberrant psychology and Fascists, that audiences would never read in print. A bourgeois burner of cadavers leverages his Reich-useful trade into his own little warped empire of evil. Karl Kopfringl’s modus operandi hardly needs to change, to conform to Nazi standards — the elitist hypocrite already has both his family and employees passively accepting his sick ideas about cremation as the solution to all human ills. Cinematically brilliant, this late picture from the Czech New Wave is one of the best movies ever about conformists, collaborators, and assorted other ghouls.

Director: Juraj Herz
Cast: Rudolf Hrusinski, Vlasta Chramostova, Jana Stehnova, Milos Vognic
Country: Czechoslovakia
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

BD50 | 1080p AVC | 01:40:46 | 44.7 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Czech
Subtitles: English


This Way to the Cooling Chambers - this archival program revisits some of the shooting locations of The Cremator and focuses the film's production history. The program was produced in 2011 by Bildstorung and reedited for Criterion by Daniel Bird. In Czech and German, with optional English subtitles. (24 min, 1080p).

Madness and the Macabre - in this new interview, film programmer Irena Kovarova discusses the The Cremator, its unique style and tone, and the career of its creator. The interview was conducted for Criterion in 2019. In English, not subtitled. (18 min, 1080p).

Music by Zdenek Liska - this archival documentary examines the life and legacy of composer Zdenek, who scored The Cremator. Included in it are interviews with the Quay Brothers, Juraj Herz, and Jan Svenkmajer, amongst others. In Czech and English, with optional English subtitles where necessary. (55 min, 1080p).

Rudolf Hrusinski - this archival program offers an intimate portrait of actor Rudolf Hrusinski, who plays the main character in The Cremator. The program was filmed in 1993 and broadcast on the Czech television program Inventura Febia in 2011. In Czech, with optional English subtitles. (16 min, 1080i).

The Junk Shop - this short film marked the beginning of Juraj Herz's directorial career. It was completed in 1965. Remastered. In Czech, with optional English subtitles. (32 min, 1080p).

Trailer - new trailer for the recent 4K restoration of The Cremator. In Czech, with optional English subtitles. (2 min, 1080p).