Lemonade Joe, or the Horse Opera (Czech: ''Limonádový Joe aneb Koňská opera'') is a 1964 Czechoslovak acid western comedy film, directed by Oldřich Lipský and written by Jiří Brdečka, based on his novel and stage play. The film, a musical parody of old-time Westerns, enjoys a near-iconic status in the Czech Republic as well as a considerable cult following, and Henry Fonda was reportedly among its foreign admirers. The film was selected as the Czechoslovakia entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 37th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
Satirising the American Western genre, Lemonade Joe is a clean-living gunfighter who drinks only Kolaloka lemonade and takes on a town full of whiskey-drinkingcowboys. It is a musical comedy parodying the old silent Westerns, with color tinting and sped up fight scenes, including the obligatory breaking banister.
"What's good for Kolaloka is good for the law!" says one of the characters, and by the end of the film both villains and heroes learn to work together for the sake of business – i.e. the Kolaloka company, whose name is obviously based on Coca-Cola. As the film progresses, it becomes clearer that Joe doesn't just clean up the town for morality's sake, but because he wants whiskey out of the way.
One of the subplots involves the arrival of an evangelist in the town, with his daughter. Although the evangelist doesn't seem to be working purely for financial motives, he is both contrasted and likened to Joe in his techniques.
The film's main theme is the continuing controversy of interconnection of big business and government in society. While some would see this as necessary, and good, others think the opposite, hence the film's opinions on large scale American marketing campaigns, such as Coca Cola's, are embodied in Joe's ambiguity as a character... is he an all American hero, or just a shameless shill and coward? Likewise Joe's love interests are torn between the dark haired beauty who works in the bawdy-house, and the clean-living blonde evangelist's daughter. Initially he is more interested in the latter, especially as she is involved in a temperance campaign which would be good for his Kolaloka franchise business.
- Karel Fiala as Lemonade Joe, salesman for Kolalok & Son
- Rudolf Deyl, Jr. as Doug Badman, owner of Trigger Whisky Saloon
- Milos Kopecký as Horace Badman, alias "Hogofogo"
- Kveta Fialová as Tornado Lou, the Arizona Warbler
- Olga Schoberová as Winnifred Goodman
- Bohus Záhorský as Ezra Goodman, Winnifred's father
- Josef Hlinomaz as Gunslinger Grimpo
- Karel Effa as Pancho Kid, gunslinger
- Waldemar Matuska as Banjo Kid, gunslinger
- Eman Fiala as Pianist
- Vladimír Mensík as Barman #1
- Jirí Lír as Barman #2
- Jirí Steimar as Mr. Kolalok, Joe's Father
Brdečka's Lemonade Joe short stories were written for magazines in the early 1940s. They were adapted as a stage play in 1946 and inspired the 1949 puppet film The Song of the Prairie, where the theme song appeared for the first time. Brdečka's experience as an animator made for several effects and ideas derived from animation being incorporated into the film.