These two short children’s tales – O medvědu Ondřejovi (The Bear and the Ghosts) and Jak se Franta naučil bát (How Franta Learned to Fear) – directed by Jaroslav Mach were jointly released in Czechoslovakia under the name Medvěd a strašidla (The Bear and the Ghosts, 1960). In the first story, Princess Blanka falls in love with huntsman and gamekeeper Ondřej. Rather than a common swain, her father, naturally, had someone of noble birth in mind for a son in-law. When his daughter rejects all the suitors with the right pedigree, the king locks her up in the castle tower promising her hand to the one who is able to find the secret entrance, while favouring suitor prince Hynek in every possible way. Ondřej, the princess’s lover, ultimately finds his way into the castle disguised as a dancing bear… The interpreters of the two lovers, Aglaia Morávková and Jiří Papež, never managed to leave a significant mark on Czech cinema. In its supporting parts, however, the film relies on Czech stars of the likes of Jaroslav Marvan (the king), Miloš Nedbal (the chamberlain) and Jiřina Bohdalová (chambermaid Anežka).
Two woodcutters are passing their time by frightening the travellers. The robust young Franta laughs at them and admits that he doesn't even know how to become afraid. He would gladly learn what it felt like to be frightened. So the woodcutters send him to the mill, which is supposed to be haunted. Franta wants to spend the night inside the mill. Even the miller, who has just moved out from the mill, can't dissuade him. Franta likes his daughter Verunka and he promises to chase the ghosts out of the mill. Verunka comes to Franta in the evening, and gives him a scapulary which is supposed to help him. In the night two ghosts start haunting the mill but the fearless Franta even claps in approval. When the ghosts try to fly out of the window, Franta catches one of them. The ghost promises to give him the money that is hidden in the cellar if he lets him go. The ghosts admit that they are cursed millers who used to steal from the people. Now they have to haunt the mill for punishment. Franta frees the ghosts from their curse when he lets them smell at the scapulary. He leaves the money to the miller to give it to the poor, together with a farewell letter. Then he runs to tell the woodcutters how he drove away the ghosts, and admits to them that he left the mill because he was afraid that Verunka wouldn't want him. When he realizes that he has just discovered the so far never experienced fear, he hurries back to Verunka. He finds her in tears and knows that he has no reason for fear.
The Bear and the Ghosts – joint title for the two medium-footage fairytales that were shot in parallel but finally distributed separately under the titles How Franta Learnt to Fear and About Ondřej the Bear.
Ladislav Vinklárek, Emil Sirotek
Bohumír Brunclík (zvukové efekty)
Václav Huňka, Miloš Šauer
Věra Winkelhöferová, Eliška Nejedlá
Jak se Franta naučil bát
How Franta Learnt to Fear