José Luis is a young employee in a funeral parlour who meets an executioner named Amadeo when he goes to a prison to perform a service. Amadeo is about to retire. When José Luis takes Amadeo’s briefcase containing his professional instruments that he had forgotten to his house, he meets his daughter Carmen, who nobody wants to marry because they don’t want to become one of Amadeo’s relatives. The couple gets on well immediately, and José Luis is forced to marry Carmen when he is caught in an awkward situation by the old man.
An official board gives the old civil servant a house to live in with the newlyweds, who are expecting a baby. But when it is time for the old man to retire, they all have to leave the house, unless the newlywed inherits the sinister job from his father-in-law and becomes an executioner. Although he despises the idea and believes he is no good for the job, José Luis accepts it, thinking he will not have to carry out any executions because the death penalty is already becoming obsolete. However, one day he receives an order to go to Palma de Majorca, where he has to execute a prisoner. Hoping the desired pardon will arrive at the last minute and José Luis will not have to carry out his job, the family travels to the island enjoying their stay as if it were holidays. But the pardon does not arrive and, on the guardia civil’s (Spanish civil guard) requirement, the young executioner has to go to the prison, where he will be virtually dragged up the scaffold by a civil servant, together with the culprit who has to die.
Production: Naga Films S.A. (Madrid) – Zebra Films S.p.A. (Rome).
Director: Luis García Berlanga.
Story: Luis García Berlanga and Rafael Azcona.
Screenplay: Luis García Berlanga and Rafael Azcona, with the collaboration of Ennio Flaiano.
Director of Photography: Tonino Delli Colli (B/W).
Music: Miguel Asins Arbó and Adolfo Waitzman (“El verdugo” twist).
Editor: Alfonso Santacana.
Set Decorator: José Antonio de la Guerra.
Executive Producer: Nazario Belmar.
Production Manager: José Manuel M. Herrero.
Assistant Director: Ricardo Muñoz Suay. Second Assistant Director: Félix Fernández. Continuity: Conchita Hidalgo. Second Cameraman: Miguel Agudo. Assistant Camera: Ramón Sempere. Still photographer: Alejandro Diges. Production Assistants: Francisco Escobar and Ramón Baillo. Unit Production Manager: Luis Cuevas. Make-up Artist: Francisco Puyol. Hair Stylist: María Teresa Gamborino. Assistant Make-up Artist: José Luis Campos. Ser Dresser: Luis Argüello. Sound Engineer: Felipe Fernández. Assistant Editor: Alicia Castillo. Assistant Decorator: José María de la Guerra. Second Assistant Camera: José Cobos. Second Assistant Editor: Pilar Bernardo. Tailor: Maruja Hernaiz. Set Dresser: Manuel Frías. Furniture and Props: Mateo, Luna and Mengibar. Costume Design: Humberto Cornejo. Set Constructor: Juan García. Film Studios: C.E.A. (Madrid). Soundtrack: Exa, S.A. Sound System: Westrex Recording. Electrical Material: Mole Richardson (Spain). Laboratory: Madrid Film, S.A. (Madrid).
Nino Manfredi (José Luis), Emma Penella (Carmen), José Isbert (Amadeo), José Luis López Vázquez (Antonio), Ángel Álvarez (Álvarez), Guido Alberti (prison director), María Luisa Ponte (Estefanía), Julia Caba Alba (lady at the building site #1), María Isbert (Ignacia), Erasmo Pascual (civil servant), Xan das Bolas (building site guard), José Orjas (the Marquess), José María Prada (kitchen guard), Félix Fernández (sacristan), Antonio Ferrandis (head of services), Lola Gaos (lady at the building site #2), Santiago Ontañón (academic Corcuera), Alfredo Landa (sacristan), José Sazatornil “Saza” (administrator), Agustín González (man in fight #1), Goyo Lebrero (man in fight #2), Sergio Mendizábal (elegant man), Chus Lampreave (lady at the building site #3), José Luis Coll (organist), Manuel Alexandre (convicted man), Pedro Beltrán (bad-tempered guard), Valentín Tornos (shop assistant at the Book Fair), Elena Santonja (young woman at the Book Fair), Emilio Laguna (customs officer), Vicente Llosá, José Cordero, Rafael Hernández, Dolores García, Magdalena Mora, Enrique Pelayo, Enrique Tusquets, José Antón Rodríguez, Francisco Serrano, Pascual Costafreda, Agustín Zaragoza, Antonio A. Vidal, Lorenzo Nogueras, Emilio A. Ferrer, Magda Maldonado, Gonzalo Parra, Carmen Ripoll, Javier Escobar.
FIPRESCI Award from the International Federation of Film Critics at the Venice Film Festival.
Russian Film Critics Award at the Moscow Film Festival.
Award for best actress from the National Syndicate of the Spectacle, Spain.
Award for best story and original screenplay from the Cinema Writers Guild, Spain; San Jordi Award for best film;.
Black Comedy Award from the French Academy of Humour.
Madrid, Palma de Majorca and Manacor (Majorca).
Release Date: 17 February 1964.
Official Film Rating: Primera A (First Class A).