Castle of Otranto (1977) - full transcript

A mockumentary-style adaptation of the gothic 1764 novel of the same name, which includes Terry Gilliam-like animations throughout. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
Jiri Trnka's Studio

Central Film Distribution






Artistic Studio Director


Scriptwriter, designer, director

According to an old prophecy,

the Otranto estate and castle
will cease to belong

to the present noble family

as soon as the original owner

becomes too big to inhabit it.

Doctor, could you explain to us

the connection between this quote
from an old novel set in Italy

and the ruins of
this typically Czech castle?

As a young child I came across

the first Czech edition

of a gothic novel called
The Castle of Otranto

written by Horace Walpole.

The book's knowledgeable introduction says,

'I cannot but believe that
this story is founded on truth.

The scene is undoubtedly set
in a real castle.'

The author later expresses his belief
that certain curious people may attempt,

and I quote, 'to uncover the foundation
on which our author has built.'

That sentence took my breath away.

I set out to uncover exactly that.

After all today we know
that Don Juan really existed.

So did the Montagues
and the Capulets

but I would be interested to hear
about your sources and your progress.

I took the most tangible part of the text,

the description of the castle.

I noted everything about the edifice.

For example, the large hall
at the end of the corridor on the right,

or Matilda's chamber up in the tower, etc.

Then came the second phase
of my research.

Its aim was to locate a castle
that corresponded to the castle's image.

But Otranto, unless I am mistaken,
is a small town in southern Italy.

Yes, it is a small town
in the south of Italy but firstly,

Otranto Castle does not match
the description in the novel.

It is a somewhat improved garrison.

Secondly, the real Otranto estate
was always owned by the King.

That rules out inheritance feuds
between aristocratic families.

Subsequently, I examined
all the ruined castles

and manor houses in southern Italy,
including Sicily, but to no avail.

When my hopes ran aground,
as it happens, luck came to my rescue.

A friend sent a postcard from his holiday.

It showed typical Czech countryside
with a romantic and beautiful ruin.

But what a ruin!
It matched the description in the novel.

It was incredible.
The postcard was sent from N?chod.

I went to N?chod to see my friend
and to inquire further.

Do you know what he told me?

It is Otrhany Castle near N?chod.
The village is called Otrhany.

I was struck by the resemblance
of the descriptive forms.

Otrhansky - Otrantsky,

the letter 'h' is muted
in all Romance languages.

So many linguistic congruencies
can't be accidental, I thought.

There had to be a link.

I opened a surgery in N?chod and started
archaeological digs here at the castle.

The wedding date was set for the birthday
of young prince Conrad, son of Manfred.

Oh, the helmet!

Conrad! My only son, my only heir.

Dry your tears.
Conrad is not worthy of your love.

Oh, my lord?

Instead of a feeble boy, you will get
a mature man who will appreciate your charms.

Woe is me! I am too unhappy
to think of wedlock again.

Isabella, unable to give you my son,
I offer you myself.

You? My father-in-law? Conrad's father?

Yes! I need a new heir, come what may.

No! Never! I would sooner die

After her! She must not escape.

Magnanimous young man,
how can I ever repay you?

Where is Isabella? Speak, stranger.
I will force the truth out of you.

The most astonishing moment
in my research.

Was the discovery of
this underground passage.

By then I was fully convinced
the plot had taken place right here.

But a handful of
unresolved problems remained,

such as how the Otrhany Castle
was transferred to Italy.

When I looked into this issue,
I soon realised it posed no real problem.

There have been close ties
between our country and Italy since 868

when Cyril and Methodius received
a ceremonious welcome in Rome.

Then there was
Petrarch's visit to Prague,

the Czech army's campaign
alongside Heinrich IV

in 1194 to Apulia and directly to Otranto, etc.

Yet the most persuasive
is the following possibility.

During the reign of Premysl II

a certain Henricus Apolus,
a royal notary, was living in Prague.

He came to Bohemia and
started teaching humanities.

Later he moved back to Italy
and then Bohemia again.

And here I see a concrete possibility
as to how the story

found its way as a literary topic

into the novel
the author incorrectly placed it in.

And thus, in the tender heart of Matilda, love
for the miserable Theodore started to blossom.

Open the gates for the Knight of the Big Sword!

Give Isabella to me!

I must find her and protect her.

He is in love with her.

This here was quite likely the cavern

where Isabella
sought refuge from Manfred.



Isabella, Isabella...


Give Isabella to me!


Isabella, my child.

Dear me! My father. Save him! He is dying.

Our viewers, as well as myself,
would like to know

your opinion on the numerous
supernatural occurrences in the novel.

You will surely agree they are
a product of the human imagination

that has left its trace
on the true story over the years?

I was of the same opinion
at the outset of my research.

But evidence from the excavation...


...and the findings I made

posed a question to which
I have to date no satisfactory answer.

Reason suggests one answer,
the digs another.

Come and have a look.

Excavated t his one n 1938

The chemical analysis
irrefutably confirmed it was horn tissue.

Its chemical composition was very similar
to that of an ostrich feather

which is, as you know, a typical adornment
of the medieval armoury helmet.

And I found this in 1934.

Look, this is a rivet from real armour

and this is my own finding.

Can you imagine how large
the armour would actually have had to be?

I owe my life to you only.

Theodore hides in the woods, living off animals.

I am indebted only to Matilda's devoted care.

I know, you fancy my daughter.

She is a true ?ngel.

Take the hand of Matilda in return for Isabella.
Thus they linked the blood of two old families.

When Isabella's father asked Matilda
for her hand, then suddenly...

My careful scrutiny of the door aperture,
the side walls and the stones around

produced a microscopic metal fragment,

as if some huge body
was trying to push its way out.

After this warning Isabella's father
cancels his engagement to Matilda

and, equally, refuses
to give Isabella to Manfred.

When Manfred sees his plans fail,
he decides in a fit of rage to kill Isabella

but by mistake kills his daughter Matilda.

This, however, is not elementary
to our investigation.

We are more concerned
with the prophecy being thus fulfilled.

Note, please, the disgorged stones.

As if some gigantic force
lifted the castle walls

and threw them
down into the valley.

Manfred! Your deed is done.

Oh, that ancient prophecy.

Your hypothesis about
Otranto Castle being identical

to Otrhany Castle near N?chod
sounds very convincing.

But allow me to undermine
the validity of your evidence

regarding paranormal activities.

As a born realist,
I find them difficult to accept.

Could it be that the horn tissue
you have dug out

actually came from a cow's horn?

Or, could the large rivet be
a badly cast part of a water hydrant?

And as for the microscopic
metal fragments on the walls

and the bursting castle ruins,
could they be explained by the fact

that the castle was bought
by an enterprising local yeoman?

This film is dedicated to researchers
whose activities are founded on bafflement.