The Executioner (1963)

The Executioner (El verdugo)
Directed by Luis Garcia Berlanga
Written by Luis Garcia Berlanga, Rafael Ascona, and Ennio Flaiano
Naga Films/Zebra Films
First viewing/FilmStruck


Amadeo, el verdugo: [subtitled version] You think that’s bad? That’s only 125 volts! The Americans are worse, with their electric chairs…

Berlanga makes a black comedy about an unwilling executioner while at the same time skewering modern materialism.

José Luís Rodríguez (Nino Manfredi) is an undertaker.  One day he is called to collect a corpse from a prison.  He finds the whole idea of executions repugnant even after meeting the kindly executioner.  The executioner leaves his tool box behind and Rodriguez must visit his home to return it.  There he meets and immediately falls for the executioner’s daughter.  They have had similar problems with their love lives do to their morbid associations.

Eventually Rodriguez and the daughter marry.  The father is eligible for a state-funded apartment but he will retire soon and lose the privilege.  One thing and another lead the very reluctant Rodriguez to take over.

I suspect that something is lost in the translation with Berlanga’s comedy.  They are pleasant enough to watch but I am never tempted to laugh out loud.

Trailer – no English subtitles