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265 Ratings

The Executioner

El verdugo

Directed by Luis García Berlanga
Spain, Italy, 1963
Comedy, Drama


This masterpiece of black humor—one of the great Spanish films—threads a scathing critique of Franco-era values through a macabre farce about an undertaker who marries an executioner’s daughter and reluctantly takes over her father’s job so the family can keep their government-allotted apartment.

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The Executioner Directed by Luis García Berlanga
The grimmest of Berlanga’s works I’ve watched so far is The Executioner (1963) a squirm-inducing death penalty comedy in which murder is just another way to get ahead. Displaying the full range of Berlanga’s gift for caricature, deep-focus joke-building and disgust with the Franco regime, it’s a comedy in which the laughs die in your throat.
January 17, 2017
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Berlanga never gets graphic but the stakes are full-frontal, and certain images… bind in the memory. Berlanga’s style – he loved detailed compositions bustling with four or more characters talking over each other, keying into modern Spain’s frustration and claustrophobia – sometimes requires attention and re-viewing, but the payoff is rich and resonant. Yet another fascinating New Wave-era resurrection that rewrites what we thought we knew about post-war European cinema.
December 02, 2016
It’s an indictment of capital punishment on par with Oshima’s Death by Hanging and Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing, but this pitch-black comedy, released at the peak of the Franco era, is less timely agitprop than timeless study in ordinary desperation.
November 03, 2016

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