2 user 5 critic

Skeleton on Horseback (1937)

Bílá nemoc (original title)
"The White Sickness", a leprosy-like disease, ravages the world during a war.


Hugo Haas


Karel Capek (play), Hugo Haas




Complete credited cast:
Hugo Haas ... Dr. Galen
Bedrich Karen ... Prof. Sigelius
Zdenek Stepánek ... The Marshal
Václav Vydra ... Baron Krog
Frantisek Smolík ... The Citizen
Helena Friedlová Helena Friedlová ... The Citizen's Wife
Ladislav Bohác ... Krog's Nephew
Karla Olicová Karla Olicová ... The Marshal's Daughter
Jaroslav Prucha Jaroslav Prucha ... Dr. Martin
Vladimír Smeral ... First Assistant
Vítezslav Bocek Vítezslav Bocek ... The Citizen's Son
Eva Svobodová ... The Citizen's Daughter (as Eva Svobová)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Rudolf Deyl Rudolf Deyl ... 1st Kommissar
Karel Dostal ... Propaganda Minister
Karel Jicínský Karel Jicínský ... 2nd Kommissar


The "White Plague", a deadly leprosy-like disease that mainly infects people older than 50 years, is ravaging the world. Doctor Galen, a reclusive physician who has devoted his life to the poor, finds a cure. But he refuses to share his cure with the rich and powerful, unless his one condition is met -- eternal peace among nations. Meanwhile, the nation's militaristic leader is preparing to invade a neighboring country. Then the dictator's only close friend, an aristocratic arms manufacturer who is an essential part of his war plans, catches the disease. . . Written by yortsnave

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Drama | Fantasy | Sci-Fi | War


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Referenced in Bohéma: Snad to nebude tak hrozné (2017) See more »

User Reviews

A cure for war?

Czech Hugo Haas made a lot of overblown, trashy dramas in America in the 1950s (see 'Edge of Hell', 'Bait' and 'Hold Back Tomorrow') but back in the 1930s, he was a very well-respected actor/director/writer in Europe. 'Bílá nemoc' is a classic example of the work that led to Haas' high reputation, a thought-provoking, political/science fiction drama.

In an unnamed country (which is led by a warmongering Marshal) a disease, which only affects the over 50s, begins to spread. While the government-financed clinics fail to find an answer, backstreet GP Dr. Galen (played by Haas) discovers a cure.

After proving the cure's authenticity, Dr. Galen informs the press that he will treat the poor immediately but will only treat the rich if the Marshall, who is about to declare war on a neighbouring country, signs a peace treaty. Naturally, the Marshal refuses to accept the conditions and sends his men to bring the good doctor to him…

Although obviously an anti-war film (released just a couple of years before WWII), the characters are not simply black and white. Dr. Galen, who is a pacifist, actually stands by and lets people die to stand by his threat. The Marshal on the other hand, doesn't act as ruthless as you may expect - for instance he never threatens to torture Galen to obtain the cure and actually does eventually release him. Both characters are given interesting, believable background stories and justifications for their very different outlooks on life.

An intelligent film which is charmingly naive in many respects, simply for asking for normality in a mad world.

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Czechoslovakia | Germany



Release Date:

4 February 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Skeleton on Horseback See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Moldavia Film See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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