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Film / The Firemen's Ball

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The Firemen's Ball (original title: Hoří, má panenko) is a 1967 film from Czechoslovakia, directed by Miloš Forman.

The firemen in some small Czech town are honoring one of their oldest colleagues, who is 85 years old and has terminal cancer, although apparently nobody's told him. They elect to hold a ball in the local dance hall, with prizes to be raffled off and a beauty contest. Unfortunately, the ball is a series of disasters. The elaborate banner that the firemen meant to hang from the rafters catches fire and burns up. The prizes are stolen, one at a time, right from under the noses of the chagrined firemen. The contestants for the Beauty Contest turn out to be a bunch of mostly homely girls who are unwillingly drafted into the competition—and when the girls literally run away at the start of the pageant, a riot breaks out.

Then a nearby home catches fire.

The Firemen's Ball was the first film Milos Forman made in color and the last that he made in his native country. It was part of the "Czech New Wave", an explosion of creativity in Czech film that coincided with a period of political liberation that culminated in the Prague Spring of 1968. When the Prague Spring was crushed by Soviet tanks, Forman and his fellow New Wave directors defected to the West. The Firemen's Ball ball was immediately banned and would remain banned in Czechoslovakia until the Velvet Revolution and the fall of Communism in 1989.

Used to be Keep Circulating the Tapes, but has since been released on DVD and Blu-Ray.


  • Book Ends: The opening scene has all the firemen admiring the ceremonial hatchet they're giving to the old chairman. In the end they give him the box, only for the chairman to open it and find out that the hatchet was stolen too.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: The firemen are obsessed with breasts. When they're scouting the crowd at the ball for beauty contestants, one says "We're going to have to go to the balcony to see real busts." When they do, the same man sees a large and massively endowed older woman and calls her "a queen!"
  • Commie Land: A Commie Land movie made inside Commie Land, depicting Czechoslovak authorities as bumbling idiots and society as hopelessly corrupt.
  • Dances and Balls: One that goes pretty poorly.
  • Dirty Old Man: All the old firemen, who goggle at the girls in the beauty pageant. When one of prettier girls says she brought her swimsuit, then proceeds to take off her dress and show it, the gross old firemen tell her to pose and then wish that they'd had the other girls bring swimsuits. One angry father shows up and yanks his daughter out of the "pageant", saying "I'll show you a beauty queen, you dirty geezers!"
  • Extremely Short Timespan: A single afternoon and evening.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Locjik, the old coot for whom the ball is nominally being held, is dying of cancer, but no one has told him.
  • Male Gaze: The horny old firemen leer at the young girls they assembled for the beauty pageant. When one particularly busty young woman enters, the camera and the old men's gazes follow her bosom.
  • Naughty Under the Table: When the zaftig young woman goes under the table to retrieve her pearls, her boyfriend goes after her. At first she tries to push him away, but when one of the firemen looks under the table, he sees the two of them having sex.
  • Running Gag: Stuff disappearing from the prize table, one prize at a time.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment. One zaftig young woman has quite a few pearls disappear into her compartment after her necklace breaks. Her dance partner notices. Sex under a table follows.
  • While Rome Burns: Pretty much literally. The firemen can't actually save the poor farmer's house or anything, but folks can still stand around and drink with liquor brought from the ball while the house burns to the ground.