Like Postriziny, Closely Watched Trains began as a Czech novel by Bohumil Hrabal, was adapted into a film by Jiri Menzel, and then became a popular stage show. The main difference that concerns us here is the presence or absence of a spanking scene: Postriziny certainly has one, but as for Closely Watched Trains… well, that’s a matter of opinion.
Menzel’s Oscar-winning film version of 1966 is a gentle coming-of-age story about late adolescent sexual longing, with a sting in the tail. The central character is Milos, the assistant signalman at a 1940s Czech railroad station, who sees sex going on all around him, but can’t seem to get any himself. There are also some formidable obstacles in his way. The older generation, from the local aristocracy to the stationmaster, seem determined to crack down on what they see as the undisciplined licentiousness of modern young people. And the occupying power, busy making ‘tactical withdrawals’ all over Europe at this late stage of the war, threatens railway workers with dire criminal penalties for any dereliction of duty.
But we can leave Milos on one side. The characters who concern us are the signalman he assists, Ladislav Hubicka, played by Josef Somr, and the station telegraphist Zdenka (Jitka Zelenohorska), who doesn’t get a sting in her tail but may nevertheless get a spanking. Like I said, it’s a matter of opinion.
During a spell of night duty, Hubicka is dozing, and Zdenka makes him fall of his chair. ‘You’ll get me really mad,’ he tells her, ‘and I’ll spank you.’ She makes a run for it, and there’s a chase around the office. When he catches her, he lays her flat on her back across the desk and gives her a kiss. ‘I told you I’d spank you,’ he says. So he turns her over and begins to lift her skirt.
But if what she gets can be described as a spanking, it is, to say the least, a most unconventional one, using the strangest spanking implement of all time: the office ink-stamps.
He stamps her on the thigh several times, gently and sensually, going higher each time until he reaches the seat of her panties.
She pulls them down herself and gets her bare bottom stamped with the name of the railway station.
The following morning, her mother notices the marks, and there’s all hell to pay. Zdenka is marched to the local police station and made to show the inspector her bottom.
She even remarks that she feels like spanking Zdenka for letting Hubicka do it to her. The police identify the ink, which is of a type that will take a week to wash off – which Zdenka finds amusing. She then has to show her bottom to the local magistrates, who ask her if this is some kind of new party game, and declare that it is a matter for Hubicka’s employers, not for the court.
This plays into another strand of the plot, concerning Hubicka’s activities for the resistance: mere moments before he is due to blow up a Nazi troop train, Zdenka, her mother and the pro-German railway authorities arrive at the station to hold a disciplinary inquiry. Photographs are produced, and Zdenka is asked to identify her own bottom.
Zdenka convinces them that this was all harmless consensual fun, though Hubicka still faces the grave charge of abusing the German language by stamping it onto a girl’s bare bottom. And while he’s kept busy at the hearing, the train comes through and Milos has to take the responsibility of planting the bomb. And that’s where we get to the sting in the movie’s tail, in that Milos may have come of age, but only at the very end of his unnaturally short life…
The ‘spanking’, or stamping, became the most iconic scene in the film, featuring on the poster when it was released in Germany…
… and, in a more stylized representation, when the film was screened in Russia for its 50th anniversary:
It also became a much reenacted scene. In 2013, a cabaret anthology of Bohumil Hrabal’s ‘greatest hits’ chose the scene and its aftermath to represent Trains. Here’s Tana Malikova being spanked, or stamped (take your pick), in two different performances:
And here she is facing the consequences:
The scene was also recreated for a 2014 documentary about Hrabal:
And years after he worked on the film, Josef Somr was frequently invited to revisit it, with new bottoms every time. Here he is at a photo opportunity to mark his receiving an award at the 2014 Uherske Hradiste Film Festival:
And here he’s at it again at an event for the film’s half-centenary in 2016:
The scene was even used in a Prague publicity stunt in 2006, when girls queued up to take down their panties and have their bare bottoms stamp-spanked:
But it’s in the stage version that we see the greatest proliferation. In fact, that should be ‘stage versions’ in the plural, for the story has been dramatized several times, with the character of Zdenka reverting to her name in the novel, Zdenicka. The first of them was produced at Ostrava in 1966, with a script by Sasa Lichy, but there’s no photograph to show us what happened to Monika Posivalova’s bottom. The longest running of the adaptations, by Vaclav Nyvlt, followed in 1980; it a premiered at Brno, with Zdenicka played by Sylvie Nitrova. But the earliest known photograph of the ‘spamping’ scene on the stage is from the revival of the Nyvlt script at Plzen in June 1981, with Ilana Vankova as Zdenicka:
Over the ensuing decades, the scene was handled in a variety of different ways. Some stuck close to the film and had Zdenicka lying down flat to be ‘stanked’:
But in the 1982 production at Prague, Milena Steinmasslova opted to bend over the desk instead:
Subsequently, she has to bend over and show her bottom again, when the foul deed is investigated by the equally foul local authority:
And she must do it yet again at the inquiry at the end of the play, illustrated here by the 1984 production in Hradec Kralove, with Milena Forstova:
Likewise in a Polish production of 1985, the first outside Czechoslovakia:
The play has also been produced several times in Hungary, indicating its especial appeal in countries with a history of Nazi, then Soviet occupation. Until recently (which we’ll come to later), the Hungarians stuck to tabletop staging:
But the productions show marked differences in the amount of coverage afforded by Zdenicka’s panties, from something close to cycling shorts…
… to lacy briefs:
(There’ll be more on that subject later.)
The range of available staging options is best illustrated by the production at Pribram in 1985, with Ivana Sormova as Zdenicka. First off, she was flat on the table to be spank-stamped:
Subsequent investigations involve her bending over several times, though with her rear end pointing decorously upstage:
But when it comes to the inquiry, Hubicka (Vitezslav Jirsak) gives a demonstration of what happened, and the way he positions her strongly implies what he thinks it was that he did to her:
He puts her over his knee!
The play was produced during the 1990s – indeed, it has rarely been long out of production in Eastern Europe – and a third adaptation, by Ivo Krobot, premiered at Ostrava in 1996. But photographic documentation fails us until 2002, when we have this record of the stamping…
… and the investigation:
You will notice that things have become less decorous in the present century than they were in the 1980s, a trend that continued when the Nyvlt adaptation returned to Prague in 2006. In this production, the sixteenth in forty years, Lucie Pernetova and Eva Kodesova alternated the role of Zdenicka, but the photos are of Lucie, first having the seat of her panties investigated…
… and then undergoing the reenactment on her bare bottom:
The play is set in the 1940s, but, as you can see, the production opted to clothe Zdenicka in modern white panties. And it’s really very attractive!
In 2008, the play was staged in Hrabal’s brewery town of Nymburk, and we are blessed with photos of several distinct versions. First to stage left…
… and now stage right:
It’s another case of doubtful period panty authenticity… but who’s complaining?
And this was another production that was double cast. Here’s the other Zdenicka, on video and in pictures:
She enjoyed it so much that she came back and had it done to her again the following year:
Meanwhile, elsewhere in 2008:
And in 2009, with Jitla Sedlakova:
Now a long-running production which we’ll note in a photo and video from 2012, but catch up with in more detail in three years’ time:
And a couple more productions also from 2012, the second of which, when compared with others to be seen here, perhaps illustrates the disadvantage of being too punctilious about period authenticity in underwear:
Here’s a long-running production that began touring in 2013 and is still going strong:
Period panties? No way! This Zdenicka’s wearing a thong!
Over the years, the girl has been recast and the stage business has been changed, but Zdenicka’s stalwart thong continued to be seen in 2015…
… and 2016:
The major event of the year 2014 was the revival at Brno, in which Magdalena Tkacikova got to show off her bottom to the audience like this:
But for this production we also have photos of something nice that the audience didn’t get to see: the rehearsals. These pictures show the actors partially in costume: you will recognize Zdenicka’s skirt and cardigan. You can see an early, lacy option for her panties, lowered to mid-thigh, before they chose the plainer pair worn in the production. But there’s no need to go to full nudity in ‘a mere rehearsal’, so with Zdenicka’s panties down, Magdalena Tkacikova gets stamp-spanked on the seat of her own panties! And very pretty they are too!
On now to 2015, and back to that long-running production we last glimpsed in 2012. This one also has alternating Zdenickas, Tereza Rumlova…
… and the rather spiffy Marie Majuskova:
If you can tear your eyes off the pretty seat of Marie’s panties, look closely at the foreground: the pictures on the table show the same scene as it appeared in the 1966 movie!
And 2015 also saw another overseas production, once again in Hungary. The poster designer had a pretty good idea of what would draw audiences into the theater:
Obviously nothing on a theater poster can be treated as a literal representation of what will be in the show itself, and indeed Zdenicka’s panties were much plainer and less diaphanous, as these pictures from the investigation scene make clear:
But the spanking scene was another remarkable piece of staging, in a variant we haven’t seen before. Hubicka (Joszef Kelemen) had Zdenicka (Kata Szvetnyik) literally over a barrel. At first she seems to be enjoying the horseplay:
For a good look at how much she’s enjoying it, check out this video:
But now, with the first stamp down and the next one headed for her bottom, it looks as if she might not be quite so sure:
You may have spotted that I just made a small but significant change in the terminology: I made a decision. And our final example, from 2003, will justify that decision further. It was an open-air promenade production put on for railway enthusiasts, in which Zdenicka merely stood upright to have her inked bottom checked out by the authorities:
But now look at the event that caused the problem in the first place:
Unconventional it may be, but there’s little room for doubt that this truly is intended as a spanking scene!