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COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT ALL AROUND!
It's always weird when a foreigner looks at your country's films. Americans take this for granted, supposing that Hollywood movies are the best damn movies in the world. Japan, amongst a few others, are proving this isn't absolutely true but for the most part Americans don't have to worry about another culture mocking the crap out of their cinema. Other countries, aren't that lucky. When my friends think of German films they make a lot of scatological porn jokes....when I think of Australian films I think of made-for-television. It's not the country's fault...it has more to do with what we're exposed to and the caliber of film we're used to. Throw in a severely alien culture and there's bound to be some confusion when it comes checking out the movies that they watch. Even weirder is when we look into the past. I'm constantly shocked as to what my parents called entertainment, just like the kids of tomorrow will be when they see what I watched when I was their age. This week I'm going to talk about a rare class of foreign films: Turkish Superheroes. That also includes the Turkish Star Trek, because I can't resist sharing the Turkish William Shatner with you.
Now before we go any further, just let me say that I'm not making fun of Turkey. I live in Berlin, one of the largest Turkish cities of the world, so it'd be stupid as all hell for me to do that. What I am making fun of is the fact that in the 1960's and 1970's Turkey apparently didn't believe in copyright law. Either that or the rest of the world didn't respect Turkey enough to care. I don't really know. What I do know is that Turkish film companies started capitalizing on other popular shows and comics...by totally and unabashedly ripping them off. This still happens today all over the world...the latest I can recall includes an Indian version of Fight Club. It's called Fight Club, oddly enough. Go figure. Point is that if an American made one of these films they'd be bludgeoned by lawyers and comic book militants before they knew what happened. That said, I'm going to give you brief looks at: Ömer the Tourist in Star Trek, 3 Giant Men/Captain America and Santo vs. Spiderman, Superman Returns (literal translation of the original Turkish title, apparently), and Killing in Istanbul. Three of them rip off something most of us are familiar with, while the last one rips of an Italian comic that rips off another Italian comic that rips off another Italian Comic that rips off a French classic. Like I said, some people just don't believe in copyright law.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be a quick look into the horror/joy of 1960's/70's Turkish cinema. If you're Turkish or a fellow cinema major, you'll be well aware of my crimes of over-simplification.
Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda (1973), a.k.a. "Ömer the Tourist in Star Trek"
I'm not a Star Trek fan. I'm not ashamed of that fact. Hell, maybe it's a good thing that I'm not into geek culture all across the board and its 24 different varieties of flavors (I am partial to Bad Movie Mint, admittedly). That still didn't stop my jaw from dropping when I was given a copy of what was called "Sweet Jesus, it's Turkish Star Trek." Star Trek first aired in 1966 and by the time it got to Turkey it was huge. Now this film isn't supposed to be a serious flick. It's supposed to be a comedy. It stars a comedian who apparently got famous in Turkey for playing a vagrant. So it's his story....on the SS Enterprise. The copyright infringement is rather overt...with music and even footage (pictured on the left, color shifted to fool only the most retarded of, well, morons) from the original series. The characters...you'll see.
A lot of what you're going to see today is going to feature "bizarro" versions of characters and actors you already know pretty well. Turkey tried to match the American actors in a lot of respects, but since it's Turkey, well, things go into weird territory left and right. So it's not the film looks foreign...in many cases the look is very American (kind of like those "spaghetti westerns" Italy made over the years). Even so, you can tell that something is wrong...ignoring the fact that you need subtitles to understand what's going on.
Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the Turkish Leonard Nimoy:
That's not too bad, honestly. Wow. Maybe this isn't going to be as fubar as I thought it would be.
Oh yes, that IS the Turkish William Shatner. By all that is holy, I wish it wasn't. The Mullet is a nice touch too.
Of course, the real star of the film is Sadri Alisik. According to a lot of Turkish folks, he was the equivalent of Charlie Chaplin...only in Turkey. While the obvious joke there is that Turkey is apparently decades and decades behind when it comes to comedy, I think the comment is really just born out of the fact that Sadri is famous for playing guy who's homeless, like Chaplin in a lot of his films. The movie is pretty much a straight forward Star Trek romp (with some parody) with a bumbling womanizing hobo that accidentally gets teleported onto the ship. In many ways it's like Army of Darkness...only instead of being transported into the medieval and evil past, Sadri gets stuck on a bad sci-fi show from the 1960's. Even though I'm not Turkish, I will admit some of it is amusing...which makes sense because this film was made for Sadri's comedy specifically. Hell, his character's name is in the title. Let's say no more about it.
Other highlights include:
A shape-shifting kissing monster with lips on her fingers...
...an evil fire-breathing cow monster that keeps flailing his arms in a vain attempt to do The Wave all by himself...
...an army of skinny Turkish boys in skimpy leopard-spotted underwear...
...and a goofy recreation of the whole "Spock must fight Kirk using ceremonial shovels" episode from the original series.
3 dev adam (1973), also known as 3 mighty men or "Captain America and Santo vs. Spiderman"
"Three Mighty Men" is a movie that really captures the bizarro/alternate reality aspect of watching old Turkish superhero flicks. In it we have Captain America joining forces with Santo the holy Mexican wrestler from...Mexico. Santo is actually the largest "cinematic" character in the film, since he already had a bunch of his own films...albeit not many in America. Together they work together to overthrow the evil plans of Spiderman. What? I don't know either. Spiderman's your classic villain in this film, creating devious torture devices, one of which includes mind-controlled hamsters put into a tube so that they eat your face off....must like rats in 1984.
The colors may be wrong, but yeah, it's Spiderman. Just be grateful he remembered to wear his cup this morning. Besides being colorblind, can you tell what the Turkish Spiderman has that the American one doesn't?
If you said "mascara", that's close to the answer I was looking for. Give it one more try.
God damn it, Turkish Spiderman has giant evil caterpillar eyebrows. So besides raising hairy critters on his temple, what does the Evil Turkish Spiderman do with his free time?
Oh, that's right. He strangles naked women with telephone cord in the shower. Spiderman is definitely the bad guy in this...sort of a discount Dr. Phibes when it comes to using crazy ways to kill his victims. For people who don't know who Dr. Phibes is...let me just say the guy's creative. He's got mind-controlled hamsters that eat men's faces...and a "buried alive & then cut up by a boat motor" death that's....interesting. By "interesting", I mean very, very phallic. The blades of the boat's prop spins so quickly you can't see the blades...which means on-screen you're looking at the....you know what? Take a look for yourself.
Evil Turkish Spiderman kills his enemies with spinning symbolic phalluses. I'll say no more.
Süpermen dönüyor (1979), also known as "The Return of Superman"
Yes, you read that right. Almost 30 years ago the original "Return of Superman" film came out. In Turkey. The spooky thing about this film is how it steals the theme music, the costume, the characters....and even footage from the original Superman movie. What they didn't steal, however, was Mr. Reeves. No, in Turkey they found their very own Bizarro Reeves to play Superman. I'm already a bit frightened. So, what does Christopher Reeves look like in Bizarro Turkish Land?
The Turkish Superman is very, very scary. I don't know if the director only cast midgets in the film, but Superman is this towering giant monster, who never smiles, and throws bad guys through walls. Sure, his biceps aren't that big (he's positively scarecrow-esque) but man. They really do play up the "creepy guy" factor in this film. You really believe that Superman's this evil alien that's going to lay its eggs in your chest.
So. Scary. But besides being so scared of the hero that you lose control of your bowels, what can you expect from The Return of Superman?
Whenever Turkish Superman flies, it's actually just an action figure in front of a blue screen. So yes. Instead of using a human being for the flying scenes, they overtly choose to use a toy. Man.
Kilink Istanbul'da (1967), also known as "Killing in Istanbul"
Going back in time a bit, let me introduce you to the super-villain "Killing." That's his name and his favorite pastime. Sort of how I get called "Macramé" from time to time. Killing is not an original superhero. In fact, Killing is potentially the least original "famous" character you're going to read about in this article. The problem isn't that he wasn't really famous...more that he wasn't famous to YOU. Americans are sort of left out of the loop here, as the Turkish "Killing" rips off a lot of very popular comic book characters...none of them American. It all gets sort of confusing, but here's the rundown: The Turkish Killing is a often called a rip-off of the Italian comic book character by the same name. Things get more complicated when people point out that the Italian Killing is actually a rip-off of the Italian comic character, Kriminal. The Italian Kriminal is apparently based off the Italian super-criminal comic character Diabolik (who got his own film in 1968 from Dino De Laurentiis which also was introduced to most of my generation as the movie featured in the last episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000). Diabolik ends up being OVERTLY based off the antics of Fantômas, a French character from early 20th century French literature. I've always preached that nothing on the Earth is truly original (by intention or accident)...so let me break it down as simply as I can. Killing is the name of a popular Italian comic book character that's very similar to a few other, older, and more original, comic book characters. So they made a Turkish version of him. The weird thing is, the Turkish version isn't really that strange. So, who exactly is "Killing?"
Killing is an evil man who dresses up like a skeleton. He's a master of disguise and treachery and his evil knows no bounds. Oh, and all the lovely ladies love digging on him whenever they get the chance.
I wasn't joking. Every female in this film either makes out with Killing (through the mask, oddly enough) or at least gets groped by him once or twice. It sort of reminds me of last year's Halloween party, where I came dressed in a hood with my face blacked out. No one could see what I looked like...and everyone flirted with me like some sort of porn-crazed freak. I guess personality goes a long way...and mystery is always attractive. We'll get back to just how smooth Killing is with the ladies later.
Every movie needs a hero...even if the film's named after the bad guy. A lonely pathetic nerd stands all alone, wishing he could do something against Killing. And then...Gandalf appears.
Gandalf is some sort of God that's here to grant our hero (Orhan, if you were curious) super powers. He ends up giving him "the strength of Hercules, the power of Zeus, and the speed of Mercury." Whenever Orhan said the word "Shazam!" he would turn into a superhero of incredible might. Man, talk about ripping things off left and right. Now, if you're not a total comic book nerd, let me explain. I've just described Captain Marvel, including his "strength of Hercules..." speech. Copyright infringement gets really weird here. Captain Marvel was one the most popular comic character in the 1940's, selling more copies than Superman did at one time. But DC comics (known as National Comic Publications at the time) sued the creators of Captain Marvel, saying the character was infringing on Superman. In 1951, Captain Marvel was found to be an infringement, but paper-fumbling meant that DC comics had abandoned the copyright license to Superman. So according to the trial, Superman's copyright was found to be invalid. Obviously DC comics appealed that case, but for a brief period in between 1951 and 1952, Superman was public domain. Later they'd say Captain Marvel was copyright infringement and DC got to keep Superman, in case you were curious. Sorry for all the geeky trivia. Point is that Captain Marvel was a popular character that was later proved to be a rip off of Superman. So here we have a character who's got the powers of Captain Marvel being called "Ucan Adam", which translates literally to "Superman." It hurts my copyright-protecting brain to think about this. So, say hello to the Turkish Superman:
Yeah, I was expecting more as well. Luckily this dork (and by dork I mean "whale-penis") doesn't save the day and stop Killing. This is a movie about the villain...the fact that they threw in Superman is sort of a side-note.
By the way, remember how I said Killing loves all the ladies? Let me walk you through my favorite scene...
The scientist's daughter struts around her own room, performing a strip tease for herself. This is perfectly normal and every woman gropes herself sexily in front of a mirror whenever the chance arises. Just look at Cinemax for further proof.
Oh NO! It's Killing! He wasn't meant to see my stripping! And he's a man named Killing and he's in my bedroom.
Admittedly, when I saw this camera angle I assumed it had NOTHING to do with plot.
Turns out I was wrong about the plot thing. She was grabbing a gun from her dressing. It's only my coincidence that the camera (and you) won't stop staring at here creamy milk-white thighs.
Killing wrestles the gun away and asks for her father's secrets. He says that if she tells him, he'll have sex with her. Ends up Killing is shrewd negotiator, as....
What starts as rape turns into a wild make-out party. Because women love being used by men in Halloween costumes...or so this movie tells us. She hates it at first but then really gets into it. Because Killing is one crazy lover. GOD. What kind of message is this film sending? Maybe this photo from the DVD will help clear things up:
Killing: what a freaking pimp. No literally. I'd almost bet money that that promotional picture was taken at a Turkish brothel.
So yeah. Misogyny and Copyright Infringement. Turkish cinema is bizarre sometimes. Not to say that nothing original or sexually enlightened has come out of Turkey...I just haven't highlighted any of it here. Also don't think that cinema anywhere else is any better. This website is a pretty good testement to that fact. Everything talked about here is just a few Turkish film companies cashing in on popular trends started elsewhere that leaked in Turkey and begged to be ripped off. You can't really blame them, really. Though it does make me wonder...do all Turkish films feature Bizarro, evil version of characters we know and love? I'll have to do a bit more research but rest assured, if Turkey DOES end up being a portal to the Bizarro dimension, you'll be the first people I mention it to.
Until next time, enjoy yourselves.
Edit: Let me say that I had a lot of trouble resisting the urge to post this review for Thanksgiving. Last year I posted a review of the only "Killer Turkey Monster" movie that I know of. If you've got a suggestion that isn't making fun of a country that shares a name with a big gobbling bird, feel free to send it my way.)
Copyright 2006, jared von hindman. All images used via Fair Use for review purposes. Oh and the 3 Mighty Men and the Turkish Superman reviews are really just sub-reviews. I haven't been able to get full copies of the movies yet...but GOd damn the long trailers I found on the Killing DVD meant they had to be included here. If you're reading this, let me apologize and just say that I'm 100% sure there will be more Turkish films in my future. That's both a good and bad thing, obviously.