International Cinema: The Man to Destroy (1979 ) - Reviewed

Despite receiveing two European film awards after the mixed international reception of The Day That Shook The World, his follow-up to the partisan epic The Battle of Neretva, Yugoslav director Veljko Bulajić reset his sights on creating a wonderfully designed fantasy film of which holds a very subtle criticism of the Cold War despite being steeped in folklore.  The story itself is a fantasy rendition of an old story about the mysterious self proclaimed emperor of Montenegro Šćepan Mali, who succeeded in modernizing Montenegro in the second half of the 18th century.  

Unlike the 1955 version which remains historically accurate, The Man to Destroy surmises the main character Farfa is an agent of Hell sent to Montenegro for one year to convince the population he is the Russian emperor Peter III with the aim of restoring the balance between good and evil upon his return to the Russian throne.  Zvonimir Črnko shines as Farfa, portraying the struggle between following orders and independence amid schooling little demon children about moral equilibrium. Through Farfa, the film provides a profound criticism of the relations between East and West, a daring move for a film during Tito's reign.

Born in Montenegro, it becoms clear this was Bulajić's dream project thanks to the elaborate production design.  Every set and location screams authenticity including Hell, among the most detailed facets of the film with snake pits, punishment rooms with Genghis-Khan on a wooden horse whipping four women to pull while bedding a nun, and special attention given to the makeup and costume design of the demons including Beelzebub himself.  

Aiding the proceedings is Jože Privšek's superb original score, prodiving the story with the feeling of an epic scope.  Branko Ivatovic's cinematography creates the grandiose atmosphere in Hell and on Earth. The supporting cast itself is solid including but not limited to the actors playing the demons and sinners in Hell, giving viewers an ensemble glance at the warring lives between the forces of light and darkness.

All in all, this is a must see for every cult horror fan or a connoisseur of Ex-Yu films.  The atmosphere and production design clearly showcase the inspiration for the low budget sword and sandal films of the early 80s. Moreover, Bulajić's dark fable suggests we as human beings must break away our ideological shackles and think independently if we're ever to we can help ourselves and the people around us.

- Hrvoje Grahovac
- edited by Andrew Kotwicki