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Punch and Judy (1966)

Rakvickarna (original title)
Two puppets, Punch and Joey, do battle to the death over the custody of a live guinea pig.


Jan Svankmajer


Jan Svankmajer
1 win. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Nad'a Munzarová Nad'a Munzarová ... (voice)
Jirí Procházka Jirí Procházka ... (voice)
Bohuslav Srámek Bohuslav Srámek ... (voice)


Two puppets, Punch and Joey, do battle to the death over the custody of a live guinea pig.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

18 July 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Kasperletheater See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Krátký Film Praha See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


Despite the film's English language title, the character of Judy does not appear. The two protagonists from the traditional Punch and Judy puppet show are Mr Punch and Joey the Clown. See more »


Featured in Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

A delightfully subversive satire of greed and war.
31 October 2004 | by DanSTCSee all my reviews

Punch & Judy is Svankmajer's third film effort, and a triumph of surrealist satire. Whereas his two previous films had been too strange for their own good, this third film stands as a strong testament to Svakmajer's blossoming ability as a filmmaker.

The opening sequence is an important element to the film, showing a clockwork band of creepy-looking toy monkeys who seem to set the tone for the goofy animalistic black comedy that is about to unfold. Contrasted by this clockwork band of misfits are metallic clockwork contraptions of working-class families (covered with rust and paint chips) in a psychotic drone of mechanical repetition. After this, a "swinging ship" carousal sways back and forth to swaying images of decadent childish cherubs. Finally, a series of frightening carousal horses drone by the camera and after a collision-edited sequence of wooden horses, we are presented with a puppet stage.

From there, the story unfolds; the film features two puppets, Punch and Jody (mistitled as "Judy" - Jody has always been a male counterpart to Punch in his puppet plays, even though Punch does has a wife named Judy) who become involved in an escalating war with large mallets over a botched attempt to barter over a fine guinea pig. The sequences that follow feature bizarre imagery and seemingly nonsequitor clips and closeups (some animated) of archival newsprint.

During the entire conflict in which either side attempts to see the other dead and buried (and fails) while the guinea pig remains oblivious and indifferent towards either side. Thus the animal represents the arbitrary notion of property with regards to man's environment.

Eventually Punch & Jody slay one another after wreaking miserable havoc on the landscape of the stage around them (even passing over the mechanical contraptions and carousel horses featured in the opening sequence) and collapsing together into the coffin they had intended to bury each other in.

The puppeteer's hands slide out of the puppets, the coffin lid closes, and the unaffected guinea pig crawls through the open mouth of one of the wall paintaing.

The film itself is, among other things, a subervise satire of humanity - particularly our attitudes with regards to conflict. This film was made during the cold war, and made comedy of the capitalist versus communist ideals. (This subtle is further reinforced by the fact that Punch is dressed in red and demands a fairer share of money than Jody offers, while Jody lives in a house lined with newspapers and attempts to set the price for the guinea pig himself.) The film in a way, mocks the mechanized hypocrisy of communism, and the greedy inclinations of capitalism. Even so, drawing up a cold war allegory would be a disservice to the film, which symbollically mocks the human condition, and our never-ending always-escalating desire for conflict which results in our own mutual self-destruction. Meanwhile, nature being indifferent to our struggles, goes on without us.

This film is without a doubt, a masterpiece of surrealist and czechoslovakian cinema - if you enjoy it, I would recommend any of Svankmajer's other works, particularly his full-length films "Conspirators of Pleasure" "Alice" "Faust" and "Little Otik." His successive work (including his countless other short films, many of which are genius, particularly "Jabberwocky" "Ossuary" "Food" "Darkness-Light-Darkness" and "Dimensions of Dialogue") has only built upon the foundation created by this classic gem of a short film.

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