The Kovak Box


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A middle-aged sci-fi writer goes to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca to speak at an conference, and to enjoy a little working vacation with his long-time partner. While they are there he surprises her with a marriage proposal. They obviously have a great relationship, and soon after the proposal are heading off to their bedroom to celebrate their engagement. While she's getting into her sexy finery, he decides to walk into the second room of their suite in order to check out a CD that somebody left in the room for him. It turns out to be creepy. One or two minutes later, he walks back into the bedroom. His new fiancée has leapt from the balcony to her death. It is inconceivable that she could have committed suicide under the known circumstances, but two witnesses saw her jump. The only clue to the mystery is her cell phone, which she seems to have been holding just before she jumped, but dropped before she took the plunge.

As he prepares to leave the island in grief, he's accosted at the airport by another woman who narrowly averted death by suicide. She jumped from her balcony after receiving a call on her cell phone, but she didn't want to commit suicide and has no idea why she jumped. As they discuss the circumstances of both suicide attempts, it seems that the final message received on the cell phone in both cases was a recording of a Billie Holliday song called "Gloomy Sunday." The same thing seems to have happened to six other people on the island as well.

There is one more delicious element to the mystery. When this middle aged writer was a young man just out of the university, he wrote a sci-fi book about a future society in which the state plants microchips inside of everyone at birth. If anyone becomes a unruly dissenter, they are prompted to commit suicide when their implanted microchip is activated by an external stimulus. In such a way does the state get rid of dissenters while continuing to appear benign. The specific stimulus used? I'll bet you've guessed. The suicides happened right after the jumpers heard the song "Gloomy Sunday."

So how could a fiftyish man be living inside the plot of a book he wrote some twenty five years earlier, when he freely admits that he basically cribbed it from other sources (like The Manchurian Candidate) in the first place? Good question. If you're hooked on that mystery, you'll want to see this film.

It's a Hitchcockian mystery with a soupcon of sci-fi, and it incorporates, in addition to the elements described above, some spectacular settings on the Isle of Mallorca and a classic evil mastermind, James Bond style. The effectiveness of those elements is amplified by a director who loves Hitchcock, wrote his own script, and was actually born and raised on that island, and is thus intimately familiar with all its most exotic charms. He was also fortunate enough to land Timothy Hutton as his lead, and Hutton seemed absolutely perfect for the role.

The Kovak Box is just one of those obscure treasures that will absolutely make your day if it's your kind of movie. The director put a lot of thought into every element of this film from the opening credits forward, so that everything ties together. Like any really good sci-fi oriented mystery, it has something to say about society, but it keeps the social commentary in the background and lets the mystery take center stage.

It so happens that this is my kind of movie. I'm one of those guys who would like to bring Rod Serling and Hitchcock back to life, and I couldn't believe that I was getting such a big kick out of an unheralded film from a Spanish director I never heard of. I had no idea what this film was about before I started watching it, and I ended up loving it. I loved the sets, the atmosphere, and the plot. My only significant quibble is that the film has a very unsatisfying ending. It just sort of drifts away, and the two main characters move on to separate lives. The writer is torn between doing what he knows he must do and reluctance to do it because he also realizes that he's been programmed to do just that! So he sits on the plane and thinks and ... scribbles a bit in longhand and ... the credits roll.

Frustrating. I felt like I experienced really passionate foreplay without an orgasm. While that kind of sex is still great fun, it's even better with a climax.


* widescreen anamorphic

* "making of" featurette







There are no major print reviews online.



6.2 IMDB summary (of 10)


Straight-to-vid in the USA. It sold about 200,000 tickets in Spain. Although it is a Spanish film, it is almost entirely in English, so its potential in Spain was limited.


  • Lucia Jimenez shows all of her body in a shower scene, but it is shot from directly overhead, so it is revealing without being explicit.
  • Lucia's stunt double shows her butt and even a bit of open crotch in the suicide scene. (Her life is spared by a restaurant awning, after which she falls naked into the restaurant, because she had been showering when she leapt.)


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:

C to C+

Not without flaws, but well worth your time if you, like me, appreciate Serling and Hitchcock, and wish that people still made that kind of movie.