Turco superhero movies are really something else – what they lack in special effects and epic scope, they make up in sheer over-the-top loveable badness. Take “Süper adam” (1971), for example: it’s s**t. That said, so are the sequels: “Süper adam Istanbul’da” and “Süper adam kadinlar arasinda” (both 1972). “Kilink in Istanbul/Kilink Istanbul’da” (1967) prompted the birth of the Istanbul action flick. Encouraged by the success of Umberto Lenzi’s “Kriminal/Máscara de Kriminal” in 1966 (based on the fumetti of the same name, Italian comic strips that are popular in Spain and Latin America such as Satanik, Alan Ford, Dylan Dog and adult variations like Lucifera, Biancaneve, Maghella and Zora la Vampira), the Turkish bad a*s anti-hero features a similar skeleton bodysuit and attitude. More flogging and fistfights continued in “Kilink vs Superman/Kilink uçan adama karsi” and “Kilink, Strip and Kill/Kilink soy ve öldüri” (both 1967). Also, the fumetti enthused the homegrown “Korkusuz Kaptan Swing” (1971), “Zagor kara bela and Zagor kara korsan’in hazineleri” (1971).
The Turkish superhero movie would extend its psychedelic portrayal of violent excess over good taste – their ridiculous but entertaining stories warped further by pitiful budgets – throughout the ’70s. As the Europeans churned out like-minded product, the Turks continued to outshine the competition with colourful cinema; hence, Istanbul’s canon was in response to Mexican and Italian product, fuelled by Santo fisticuffs and Hill and Spencer-style capers. The late 1960s and 1970s was a demanding period for the rubbish superhero, and a number of titles include “Neutron and the Black Mask/Neutrón el enmascarado negro” (1962); “Superargo contro Diabolikus” (1966); “The Fantastic Three/I Fantastici tre supermen” (1967); “Flashman” (1967); “Diabolik” (1968); “Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankamen/Fenomenal e il tesoro di Tutankamen” (1968); “Il Marchio di Kriminal” (1968); “Supermen/Che fanno i nostri supermen tra le vergini della giungla?” (1970); “Three Supermen in the West/…e così divennero i tre supermen del West” (1973); “The Three Fantastic Supermen in the Orient/Crash che botte!” (1974); “Amazons and Supermen/Superuomini, superdonne, superbotte” (1975); “The Puma Man/L’Uomo puma” (1980); “Three Supermen in Santo Domingo/Tre supermen a Santo Domingo” (1986); “3 Supermen against Godfather/Süpermenler” (1979: a Turco/Italo co-production with Cüneyt Arkin) and “Supersonic Man” (1979). Even Michael Crawford got on the act with “Condorman” (1981).
Despite its poverty-row origins, “Maskeli seytan [Masked Devil]” (1970) is charming and goofy fun. An oddball superhero movie, its screwball plot – that lazily laments on a good-hearted scientist, hidden gold and cunning Mafia – rips with energy as superhero, gorgeous babe sidekick (love those long eyelashes, thick, silky thighs, miniskirt and large belt: so Marisa Mell), loyal canine and feminine cowboy take on the bad guys as well as an Egyptian mummy. With full female nudity, it’s another ‘wong-chop’ fisticuff flick with music lifted from Ennio Morricone’s westerns, Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther” and James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’. In other words, an innocent, happy go-lucky film for all the family, except for the issues of copyright theft and… full frontal nudity and well-deserved womanly beatings. What’s not to like? Also, the bad guy wears a polo-necked jumper with a tweed jacket, and that’s bang on. And where did the mummy come from? Mondo Macabro released another in the series, “The Deathless Devil/Yilmayan seytan” (1973) with the loopy “Tarkan vs the Vikings/Tarkan Viking kani” (1971) on the same disc. That’s value for money, that is.
“3 Supermen and Mad Girl/Çilgin kiz ve üç süper adam” (1973) is bonkers: a Universal b-movie of the 1930s with pantomime special effects and logic (hell, the bad guy robot consists of cardboard boxes with a laser gun that turns people into flashes of light and smoke). Trust me: the first sixty seconds will turn your brain into soup as if to whimper ‘Who would make something like this?’ But this is besides the point as these cheap and cheerful Turco films are wonderfully silly and juvenile entertainment as seen in “3 Supermen at the Olmypic Games/Üç süpermen olimpiyatlarda” (1984): an insane hybrid of unrelated stock footage, including “3 Supermen and Mad Girl.”
But there were times when the Turco children’s movie got nasty, so enter the incredible and f****d up, screaming loony bin of a movie: “3 Dev Adam [3 Giant Men]” (1973). Thanks to the lovely people at Onar Films (a DVD outfit in Greece that specializes in obscure Turkish cinema), films such as “3 Dev Adam” now have legit releases struck from the last surviving materials – the Turco sinema fan has never had it so good. “3 Dev Adam” is bananas, there’s no other way to describe it, and is acknowledged as the country’s most wild superhero flick. It’s a comic strip hybrid, and in a country that does accept copyright infringements, features Captain America, Santo and Spider-Man. In this variation, Spider-Man is an evil piece of work: he loves boozing, shagging and killing people in gloriously inventive ways. Indeed, one woman has her face shattered by a spinning propeller blade and a guy’s face is chewed to pieces by vermin. Spider-Man, complete with rapier-like eyebrows, ends his days after being beaten to a pulp by the good guys (shamelessly choreographed to strains of “Battle of Britain” (1969)). The film ends on a high note where Captain America assaults an innocent spastic child and a final ‘Copyright? F**k you, Stan Lee.’ The dialogue is priceless:
Police Chief: “Why are you putting on masks and outfits during duty?”
Captain America: “Spidey is a child-minded lunatic. He always wears a mask. When he sees someone else wearing a mask, he wants to destroy them. My special outfit is bullet proof.”
Police Chief: “I see…”
In all, great fun despite the quality of the last known print in existence, but it leads an air of pantomime that suits it well. “3 Dev Adam” is graced with subtitles and a complete package including interviews with director Tevfik Fikret Uçak, actor and writer Dogan Tamer and lead star Aytekin Akkaya, Arkin’s sidekick in “Turkish Star Wars.” The latter explains at length on the demise of Turkish cinema (he blames sex in society and film as well as television’s popularity during the 1970s) as well as working on Antonio Margheriti’s Italo/Turco action pics “Ark of the Sun God/I Sopravvissuti della città morta” (1983) and “Yor/Il Mondo di Yor” (1983), claiming that he was asked to direct the stage action.
Considering that the original negative masters do not exist, it was a remarkable achievement for Onar Films to release a DVD of “Kilink in Istanbul.” Despite being struck from a Betacam master with noticeable print damage (one presumes that it was used for bunting), this release is historically important considering it was the Turco superhero film that sparked its cottage industry to thrash out an almost endless supply of similar product. Based on the Italian fumetti “Killing,” a look-alike to Italo superhero Kriminal, Kilink’s objectives are to take over the world by decimating the human race with a secret formula. Why he would want to do so remains unclear, but that’s the prerogative of villains and it’s what bad guys do best. But Kilink’s plan is flawed as a Turkish Clark Kent is on the scene – enter Superhero! It’s the usual fare, pedestrian at best with a sexual tang as Kilink has his way with the women or enjoys a good punch up. One scene in particular is a rib tickler where Turco Clark Kent is seen to be rubbish: beaten to a pulp by Borat. Ending abruptly and with no payoff, one questions Kilink’s anti-hero status. Murdering innocents with glee, getting his end away, torturing teenage girls and rubbing his chin whilst laughing evilly, Kilink is referred to as the “king of rogues”. No he’s not, he’s a lively c**t.
Kilink returned to the screen with a sequel, “Kilink vs Superman,” which has been released by Onar Films with the third movie, “Kilink, Strip and Kill,” on the same disc. The introduction for the sequel takes over 22 minutes of footage from the first movie before commencing with more violence, sadism, adventure and eroticism, Kilink style. Before Kilink can erase mankind with his ‘ray of death’, Superhero arrives, destroys the ray gun – which is predictably rubbish – for the bad boy to scarper. Here Kilink claims that “Doves cannot escape from hawks” and “I never hurt the people I work with.” Really? I doubt that Kilink, as his face is the punch bag for Superhero’s fists and he has a nasty habit of killing the people who work for him. But flawed heroes are fun and Kilink drops his mission to kill every man, woman and child when he can steal jewels from an Austrian princess. Kilink’s girlfriend tells him that he’s the wealthiest person in the world, so why not leg it to Hawaii? Kilink is not having any of it: he steals the princess’ gems regardless. Why? Because he can. It’s all good fun in an undemanding tongue-in-cheek way and came very close to being lost forever when the producer of the Kilink movies had the negatives destroyed over twenty years ago. The beta masters were discovered in less than ideal shape and the last reel for “Kilink vs Superman” was not to be found, hence Onar Films substituted the finale with a slideshow and running commentary, which adds flavour to the film’s psychotronic experience. The DVDs extras consist of interviews with actor Irfan Atasoy and director Yilmaz Atadeniz (who also made the period drama “Kommando Becet” that features clips from “633 Squadron” (1963)), the latter claiming that every time he reflects on the past and what the producer did to the Kilink movies, Atadeniz states with a tear in his eye: “Whenever I think about this, I lose a hair on my head.” He’s bald.
Compared to the previous movies, “Kilink, Strip and Kill” is a damp squib, their cheeky and racy attitude jettisoned for a convoluted spy/espionage plot that sees the damning villain dancing in the dark. The story concerns a microfilm that details Turkey’s missile/radar sites and duelling bad guys want it. And here’s the crux of the problem. Superhero has buggered off leaving Kilink to become a more likeable character – he even saves a child from being skinned alive with tears of gratitude from the mother, when in previous incarnations, Klink would have skinned the kid and raped the mother. That said, Kilink does show the occasional nasty side with women being slapped across the chops, and one over-the-top descent into delirium when he seduces a beauty, punches her in the face and throws her off a balcony to her death. The fitting end sees Kilink save the day and gives himself up to the police stating that the returned microfilm is his gift to the Turkish people before being led away (if he had the foresight to see “Midnight Express,” he’d would have done a runner). Whereas Kilink had shagged the ladies and got away with dastardly crimes while charged on testerone, he suffers from a lazy lob on in “Kilink, Strip and Kill.” The Kilink franchise was Turco gold and more followed in 1967: “Kilink caniler krali [Kilink, Master Criminal],” “Mandrake vs Kilink/Mandrake Killing’e karsi,” “Kilink Frankenstayn’a [Kilink vs Frankenstein],” “Kilink ölüler Konusmaz [Kilink, Corpses do not Talk],” “Disi Killing [She-Killing],” “Saskin Hafiye Killing’e karsi [The Baffled Detective vs Killing]” and a bizarre spaghetti western hybrid of Sergio Corbucci’s “Django” (1966) – “Cango ölüm suvarsi [Django, Rider of Death].” The early Seventies saw the dastardly masked bad guy running out of juice in “Kilink ölüm Saciyor [Killing Spreads Death]” (1971) and “Killing Kolsuz Kahraman’a Karsi [Killing vs The One-Armed Fighter]” (1974).
Onar Films gets its just focus as our Turkish cinema primer rounds down in Part Five of YEŞILÇAM! Turkish Exploitation Cinema>>>