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Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea
A bonkers Czech comedy about Nazis time traveling to deliver an H-bomb to Hitler and the man pretending to be his own twin in order to inadvertently save the world comes to Blu-ray via Second Run. TOMORROW I'LL WAKE UP AND SCALD MYSELF WITH TEA [ZITRA VSTANU A OPARÍM SE CAJEM] is reviewed by clydefro.
 

Most days I find cynicism unavoidable. If I'm not the one supplying it then I'm bludgeoned nearly to existential death with the abrasive lack of anything resembling optimism or sincerity across the virtual whole of the internet. Art is frequently an escape, and I feel confident in celebrating Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea [Zítra vstanu a opařím se čajem] as an absolute respite from any and all things cynical. It's a romp and a farce and it somehow involves both time traveling Nazis and a man impersonating his suddenly dead twin brother. There is no time for cynicism and little for logic. Hardly anyone is going to enter or exit this movie with distracting thoughts beyond the absurdities of its set-up. The sheer escapism – done smartly – left me grateful.

The film opens with a group of men and a parrot proclaiming their love for Adolf Hitler. That leads to an opening title sequence where disco funk plays against black and white footage of Hitler edited so that the Führer looks to be getting down with the beat. It's beautiful and perfect. These contemporary Nazis have a plan to bring a stolen hydrogen bomb – taken from an American military museum, of all places – back in time to Hitler so that history can be altered and the semi-mustachioed dictator can achieve world domination. The film portrays time travel like it's a normal occurrence akin to traveling by airplane, complete with a Prague airport where we hear humorous public address announcements about trips to ancient Egypt and witnessing the fall of the Bastille. It's done with such a matter-of-fact confidence that the viewer is conditioned to accept whatever myriad absurdities that might go along with time travel via rocket.

Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea

Not content to simply present such a high concept comedic idea and twist us all up in knots with it, the film also introduces a parallel strand of screwy hijinks – mistaken identity via impersonation (and untimely death!). Star Petr Kostka does double duty as twin brothers and roommates Jan and Karel Bureš, respectively a meek victim of the titular tea scalding who was instrumental in the design and testing of the time travel rockets and a philandering pilot who also has fascist sympathies. I don't think it's giving away too much to report one accidentally chokes to death while trying to eat a bread roll and the other decides to assume his (seemingly much more exciting) identity. This switch in and of itself would be enough – and has been on many, many occasions – to build a film around minus the equally significant time traveling Nazi aspect. Yet, director Jindřich Polák and his co-writer Miloš Macourek, adapting a story by Josef Nesvadba, go for broke. No challenge is too daunting for this crew.

Many might recognize Polák from his previous Second Run release Ikarie XB 1, a more dramatic science fiction entry though one also clearly with its comedic touches. (And, for the record, Ikarie XB 1 is legitimately among the greatest of all sci-fi films and seems to have laid significant groundwork for Kubrick's 2001, Ridley Scott's Alien and Tarkovsky's Solaris.) What we have here is a weird hybrid of many different things that probably only works in its given time allotment as a comedy, though a bit of melodrama via Jan's general malaise and the sinister nature of the central intention of the antagonists is undoubtedly still present. In particular, I quite like the dry everyman determination we get from Jan. No attempt is made to liberate him from a regular decency that might inhibit complication or concern. He's boring, so what. He tries to make things right, or at least as right as possible given the circumstances of his newly deceased twin brother. If the film requires humanity it certainly gets it here.

Concepts aside, where the film goes beyond its bonkers central ideas is also worth noting. There's an injection of care and warmth we shouldn't overlook. Polák and his writers make sure to leave room for strands of love so that Jan can, in his multiple incarnations, find companionship. Wacky, grandfather-defying time line excursions also come into play but the stakes nonetheless seem muted by a tone which offers little in the way of threat or menace. Even the presence of Adolf Hitler, the 20th century's foremost figure of evil, comes across as somewhat unconcerning. I don't know if anyone watching will truly believe these bumbling, time traveling Nazis will actually succeed in their plot to alter history.

Hitler conducts a briefing in Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea

The journey itself is rather entertaining in its uniqueness. I can't say I've ever seen a movie quite like this before, and that standard reviewer's trick of finding other films to compare and contrast the one at hand to really doesn't work in this case. Released in 1977, the picture is almost nonchalant in telling the viewer it's taking place in around 1996 – even asking for some quick math to get there instead of a simple piece of onscreen text or casual announcement. But aside from time travel and the presence of a phone in an automobile, there's no attempt at all to predict how things would be twenty years from the movie's production. Everyone dresses like they're in the seventies just as everyone speaks Czech, even the tourist couple supposedly from Chicago who, when face to face with Hitler, first think of securing a photograph with him to show friends back home instead of displaying any sort of fear or intimidation. Americans fail to stop a criminal act of espionage and are represented by these basically uncultured morons. Hrmph, where do they come up with these things.

sound and vision

Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea is a noteworthy release, to be sure, from Second Run and something I was entirely unfamiliar with prior to this issue. It checks in as Blu-ray spine number 37 and is triumphantly region-free on a single-layer disc. (There's also a separate DVD release available.) The back of the case indicates it's sourced from a new HD transfer taken from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive. Certainly there's damage and debris remaining in the image. An early transition at the reel change point is especially messy. Still, I find this somewhat charming and reminiscent of watching a 35mm print in a repertory cinema but some may be put off from a lack of the digital perfection we often get spoiled with in this day and age. Detail and texture are nonetheless acceptable. Colors look true and natural for a film of this ilk. It's presented in 1.37:1, which is indicated as being the original aspect ratio.

Audio is a Czech 1.0 LPCM mono track. It sounds fine, if modest. Music emerges cleanly. Optional English subtitles are included. 

extra features

An audio commentary with the gang at the Projection Booth was recorded for this release. It features Kat Ellinger, Jonathan Owen and Mike White. The trio seem to enjoy chatting over the film, raising some good points along the way but running out of steam a bit near the end. One thing that's brought up here (and in the booklet essay) is the single BBC showing of the film in 1982. As an aside, I'm fascinated at the near-obsessive cataloging and subsequent referencing of films being shown on British television that I frequently read about on the internet. This is utterly foreign to me and I'm always amazed when I read about the exact time and date an obscure movie aired. The ability to pinpoint precisely when a good portion of a country first discovered this or that film that's been rarely seen since is delightful to me.

The original theatrical trailer (2:55), unsubtitled, is included here for posterity. A 16-page booklet includes an essay by Graham Williamson which does a nice job of contextualizing the film in its era and in the career of Jindřich Polák, who surprisingly made a lot of television and films aimed at children (though neither of his Second Run titles would fall into such a category). Disc and film credits, along with a few choice stills, round out the insert. 

summary

A perfect palate cleanser, Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea is a decisively unique viewing experience that's also a great deal of fun. Buoyed by a fine central performance from Petr Kostka, the film manages to make its absurdities feel somehow grounded and unassuming. Watching both this and Ikarie XB 1 really makes one wonder if there are other treasures we've been missing that Jindřich Polák directed. This Second Run release is probably more about making the movie available than boasting a sparkling transfer, but I never found myself minding the specks of dirt and other rough edges.

Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea Blu-ray cover art
Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea
Zítra vstanu a opařím se čajem

Czechoslovakia 1977
93 mins
directed by
Jindrich Polák
produced by
Jan Suster
written by
Milos Macourek
Jindrich Polák
story by
Josef Nesvadba
cinematography
Jan Kalis
editing
Zdenek Stehlík
music
Karel Svoboda
art direction
Milan Nejedlý
starring
Petr Kostka
Jirí Sovák
Vladimír Mensík
Vlastimil Brodský
Marie Rosulková
Otto Simánek
Valerie Chmelová
Slávka Budínová
Josef Vetrovec
Zuzana Ondrouchová

disc details
region ABC
video
1.37:1
sound
LPCM 2.0 mono
languages
Czech
subtitles
English
extras
Audio commentary by The Projection Booth
Trailer
Booklet

distributor
Second Run
release date
25 January 2021
review posted
31 January 2021

related review
Ikarie XB 1

See all of clydefro's reviews