Working copy of "Bathory" stolen by production manager in inside job


It's being billed as the most expensive film ever made in Central Europe, so reports that a working copy was stolen from an editing room caused something of a stir. The working version of Juraj Jakubisko's new film Bathory - about the legendary 16th century "blood countess" Elizabeth Bathory - has now been recovered, and the case will now go to court.

With a budget of around 10 million euros, the Czech/Slovak/Hungarian/UK co-production "Bathory" is being described as the most expensive film ever made in Central and Eastern Europe. It tells the story of the Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was alleged to have sadistically murdered dozens if not hundreds of young women at a castle in what is now Slovakia. The story is well known among Hungarians, Slovaks and Czechs, and several dozen books and films have been made about the so-called "Blood Countess".

Juraj Jakubisko, Slovakia's best known film director, is just putting the finishing touches to a new two-hour English-language version of the famous story, in which he seeks to portray Elizabeth Bathory in a more sympathetic light. The lead role is played by British actress Anna Friel, and includes a number of well-known Czech actors.

The film was in post-production at Prague's Barrandov studios, when Jakubisko's wife Deana, who acts as producer on his films, received a call from someone claiming to be a middleman for someone who had stolen the working copy of the film. The person was threatening to circulate the film illegally unless he received half a million crowns.

Deana Jakubiskova called the police. Together she and the corruption and financial crime squad set up a meeting with the so-called middleman, who arrived as planned to pick up for the cash. He was arrested, as was the second man. The working copy was safely returned, but as Deana Jakubiskova explained to me, it turned out to be an inside job:

Deana Horvathova-Jakubiskova and Juraj Jakubisko,  photo: CTK
"This is the biggest disappointment and pain of this, that these two guys, mainly the one who had the DVD, were from another production that was in post-production at the same studio we were. He stole it from our editing room. When we arrived at the editing room three months ago, they were still there. So he had an open door, he could come anytime. You know, no-one would ask him why he was there. He was a production manager in post-production on another film. That was how he managed to get hold of it."

The case will now go to court. The working copy was clearly marked and protected and would have been useless to any potential counterfeiter. However Deana Jakubiskova says the case is a worrying development, and warns other film companies to exercise extreme caution. Bathory will premiere in Slovakia and the Czech Republic this autumn.