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C.K. Dezerterzy is a 1985 Polish comedy by Janusz Majewski, based on a comparably less well known 1937 book by Kazimierz Sejda. It tells a story of four soldiers of the K.u.K. Army: a Pole Jan Kaniowski (named Stefan Kania in the novel), an Austrian Jew Moritz Haber (named Isidore in the novel), a Hungarian Lajos Benedek (named Lajos Szokolon in the novel) and a Czech Hudej (or an Ukrainian named Ivan Hladun in the novel), who, along with an Italian POW Baldini, decide to go AWOL after a disastrous inspection of their unit by an Insane General that lands all of them in jail.


Tropes common for the film and the book:

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  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Sergeant Zajicek and his "mission" - he's travelling all around Austro-Hungarian Empire, visiting hospitals in search for a war hero, carrying a high decoration for him. Except - he's actually a deserter who bought the medal, invented the guy and forged the original orders to find him, but nobody can figure it out due to the sheer size of the imperial bureaucracy. More, each time he leaves a hospital, he earns a new, legal travel dispatch. He's been running this scam for two years.
  • Catchphrase: Hladun's/Hudej's "Ich weiss nicht." ("I don't know.")
  • Desk Jockey: Haber. In the film, he's responsible for preparing the team's escape.
  • A Father to His Men: The Captain. He explicitly forbids von Nogay any attempts at brutality and warns him that the soldiers, as undisciplined they may seem, are incredibly smart and that is what he respects them for.
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  • Gentlemen Rankers: Baldini. Despite his family owning an estate, he was apparently a common soldier.
  • Gratuitous German: The military commands are often given in German. The novel includes translation in parentheses, in the movie you can figure them out from the context.
  • The Inquisitor General: General von Grabenau. Kania and his friends do everything in their power to make the company leaders look bad when he arrives.
  • The Neidermeyer: Oberleutnant von Nogay.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hladun/Hudej. This is more important in the novel.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Von Nogay's parrot. Baldini and Kania train her to spout anti-Austrian slogans on command, and use that during the inspection.
  • Porn Stache: Szokolon/Benedek. He refuses to shave it after drunkenly destroying a lady's hat in the cinema while on the run.
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  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The entire Eleventh Guards Company, especially the four protagonists.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Upon learning of the upcoming inspection, the Captain takes a leave.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: The Eleventh Guards Company of Satoraljaujhely. The novel explicitly states that it's composed of "politically suspicious" soldiers reassigned there, mainly to stop them from stirring trouble on the frontlines.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The captain gives one to Von Nogay.
    Cpt. Wagner: There are no words in the vocabulary of a cultured man that could be used to describe your actions disgustingly enough. (...) You are not fit for even a court of cannibals, you bushman. You are nothing but a pitiful worm, called a human only by mistake, mister oberleutnant von Nogay. Get out of here, because I'm sick of looking at you, you bastard.
  • Toilet Humour: A poop joke is the reason why Kania wound up in Satoraljaujhely.
    Why do the officers drink black coffee? So their shit shines. And why does their shit have to shine? So our shit has to stand at attention before it!

Book-Only Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Captain Zivancić and von Nogay's predecessor, Oberleutnant Giser (who is Adapted Out from the movie).
  • All There in the Manual: Some things are better explained than shown in the movie.
  • Author Avatar: Kania, and the author states as much in the foreword.
  • Fauxreigner: In the novel, Benedek and Baldini pretend to be Bosnian Muslims at one point.
  • Insane Admiral: General von Grabenau, nicknamed "The Loony Grabenau". His adjutant needed a medical consultation to make sure he didn't go crazy as well after reading the general's ramblings he wrote down as ordered during one of the inspections.
  • La Résistance: Hladun is an Ukrainian independence activist. This is something of a Dark Secret for him - if anyone knew, he would be accused of treason.
  • The Scrounger: Kania.

Film-Only Tropes:

  • Accidental Hero: Kania & co. are regularly stopping random people during patrols, check their ID and then pretend they've just caught a spy with false documents, just to extort their victims for not sending them to nearest police station for further investigation. At one occassion they've stopped a counter-intelligence officer who was checking how efficient local garrison is with false documents. For his by-the-book procedure and "extreme efficiency" Kania is awarded a high decoration.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Most named characters, except Oberleutnant von Nogay and Baldini.
  • The Alcoholic: While on duty, he's sober (or appears to be), but as soon as he gets a free moment, Von Nogay will be piss-drunk instantly.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Von Nogay is hanged neck-deep in shit in public restroom for his bullying and how he keeps beating the helpless Baldini.
    • Ulmbach, the too-eager-for-his-own-good Corporal, ends up in an asylum after being tricked into "going mental" and apparently attacking Benedek with a knife.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Haber. Before springing the rest of the protagonists from jail, he takes a decent supply of blank paperwork and torches the company files.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Instead of arriving at an unnamed camp where the paperwork went up in flames and taking the advantage of Vast Bureaucracy to wait for the end of the war, Kania and co. are captured and hauled back to Satoraljaujhely... just in time for the war to end.
  • Evil Laugh: Von Nogay's parrot, when being hauled off to jail along with her master. Also, the gendarme who captures the protagonists.
  • Everybody Has Standards:
    • The soldiers passively sit during the lesson of national anthem. But when Corporal Ulmbach smacks apparently retarded Hudej in the face and throws him out of the room, the entire company stands against this harrassment, including fellow Corporal Bernstein. Keep in mind that technically they've started a mutiny and beat their NCO, with other NCO standing on their side.
    • Captain Wagner is the Only Sane Man among the entire ranked personnel shown in the film. He makes it very clear how Von Nogay will end up if he keeps bullying the soldiers.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The officer in charge of small German detachment sent to pacify the garrison is wearing one to further enhance his image of a battle-hardened veteran.
  • A Father to His Men: Captain Wagner, who only has one thing in mind - spend the entire war as far away from combat as possible, thus saving his company from meaningless death in some forgotten trench. Thus he treats his duty as garrison commander in the middle of nowhere as a priviledge and not as a punishment.
  • Film of the Book
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Baldini and Von Nogay's mistress in her Pet the Dog moment. Turns out one of many secret talents of the Italian is being really good in bed.
  • Greedy Jew: Zig-Zagged with Moryc. He has all the positive elements of the stereotypical Jewish merchant, but not a single bad one. It's even jokingly referred when he fills a form with "Creed: Merchant".
  • Humiliation Conga: Von Nogay suffers a continous one ever since that toilet incident. First he has to prove to Obstructive Bureaucrats he's not insane, then, right after leaving the mental hospital, he comes back in the middle of a surprise inspection. And Kania already set up everything to go wrong during this inspection, with the entire blame to be put on Von Nogay. The peak of his humiliation is when his own parrot starts to repeating anti-Germanic sentences in front of the general. He almost has a heart attack at this point.
  • Inkblot Test: When von Nogay is put under psychiatric observation after the protagonists kidnap him and lock him in a latrine, he is shown a picture of a hen while being interrogated by a trio of Obstructive Bureaucrats. After being repeatedly asked if he's sure that it's a hen, he angrily makes a hilarious Freudian Slip:
    Von Nogay: I am categorically claiming that it's a jackass!
  • The Immodest Orgasm: The film opens with one. Later, Von Nogay's mistress scream is cut in half after she gets busy with Baldini.
  • Mickey Mousing: Kania is having sex with Mitzi to the rhythm of music he plays on the piano, while banging her.
  • Nepotism: Zig-Zagged. Apparently Captain Wagner worked for his position by himself, but he makes it crystal clear that his uncle is a General working with the Chief Commander before Von Nogay even starts to have any ideas about writing denunciations.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: After being chewed out in the most humiliating fashion by Captain Wagner, Von Nogay is so enraged he instinctively grabs for his sabre. Wagner, who apparently was expecting such reaction, already opened a drawer few seconds earlier and now is casually pointing his pistol at the Oberleutnant, right down to Dramatic Gun Cock. Von Nogay instantly freezes mid-step and calms down.
  • No Name Given: The film doesn't mention the general's name.
  • Nice Guy: Baldini, especially in the film, which makes the humiliation and beating he takes as Von Nogay's aide even harsher.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: Played With. While Von Nogay trained his parrot to repeat different patriotic sentences after she is given pepper, Baldini managed to train the bird into saying anti-Germanic ones. The trick? Von Nogay always gives the pepper with his right arm, so his aide used the left one. This is important later on.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Kania & co. realise they've accidentally tried to extort a counter-intelligence officer. To everyone's surprise, Kania is awarded a medal for his model behaviour on duty and awareness as patrol commander.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Second most important characteristic of Von Nogay, after being a tyrant in uniform. He tries and fails miserably to invoke it in his soldiers, mostly because there is not a single Austrian in the entire company and the action takes place in the final days of Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • Professional Gambler: Baldini is revealed as an expert card player, able to win the entire jackpot fair and square. All while his opponents are clearly cheating.
  • Rare Guns: Captain Wagner uses Steyr M1912 pistol, a historically accurate service pistol of Austro-Hungarian Army.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: As a check to Von Nogay's Neidermeyer tendencies, Captain Wagner is calm and humane officer, mostly interested in the well-being of himself and his company. As long as things run without brutalisation and bullying, everything else is allowed.
  • Revenge by Proxy: While Baldini is a POW and Kania barely knows him, he's eager to punish Von Nogay for the constant beating and bullying of the Italian by hanging Von Nogay on a rope inside of a public toiler, in the process also avenging all of the company. In the next scene we see him, Von Nogay is in an asylum and the doctors jokingly talk about his crazy story.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The film opens with one, with Kania and his girlfriend Mitzi having sex under the bed. What is shown is the mattress bouncing, and close-ups of dolls laying on the bed.
  • Steel Eardrums: One of the hookers shoots a rifle inside a small bathroom, with Benedek sitting right behind her. She only laughs and he jokes about being deaf now.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: In the ending, when the guard platoon runs away like hell, chased by the joyful former soldiers, captain Wagner calmly walks through the chaos smoking a cigar.
  • Talk to the Fist: When Corporal Ulmbach furiously starts approaching Kania just to intimidate him with his rank and put him in his place, Kania punches the corporal so hard Ulmbach is thrown on the nearest table.
  • Threat Backfire: When Kania and co. attempt to extort money from a man they accuse of having false ID, he turns out to be a counterintelligence officer. Cue Mass "Oh, Crap!".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ulmbach, overconfident about his authority as a corporal while antagonising the entire company, the other corporal included. And without a single witness to maybe save him.
    Havranek: Luckily we are all reasonable people, or you would already have few bayonets in your ribcage, you German nit...
  • Translation Convention: Most of the dialogues are supposed to be in German, but the only characters who aren't speaking Polish are the parrot and the Hungarian-speaking lady from Budapest.
  • Vehicle Vanish: The protagonists pull one off in Budapest, hiding in the incoming tram.
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