A warped double feature offering from Onar Films is “Ölüler konusmazki [The Dead Don’t Talk]” (1970) and “Aska susayanlar seks ve cinayet [Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder] “(1972). The former is a creepy haunted house number and was deemed forever lost after sparse local distribution and all prints believed destroyed. A copy was discovered gathering dust at the Yeni Lale Film Studios and presented in a reasonably clean condition with a candid interview with star Aytekin Akkaya. “Ölüler konusmazki,” despite its over-reliance on haunted house clichés (they’re all here in spades) and a spook with an irritating laugh, is rich in atmosphere, its mood as thick as pea soup. It suffers from a pantomime style of play, its performances serving their ham thickly sliced, but it’s this direction that adds to the charm. Far more loopy is “Aska susayanlar seks ve cinayet,” a Turco remake of Sergio Martino’s superb giallo “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh/Lo Strano vizio della Signora Wardh” (1971). With a commended approach to style and jump cut editing that echoed the clay footprint set by the gialli, “Aska susayanlar seks ve cinayet” hurtles through its running time of just under an hour. Typically, the production steals scores from other Italo slashers and Ernesto Gastaldi’s efficient screenplay is curiously adapted with a distinct Turkish flavour. It lacks the cinematic finesse of the Martino model but it’s suitably snazzy with a perverse, wicked sheen. Note must go to model and actress Meral Zeran as a suitably and curvaceous femme fatale with lips that could suck pips out of an apple at forty feet. Edwich Fenech would have approved.
“Tarzan Istanbul’da [Tarzan in Istanbul]” (1953) is another cracker of a release by Onar Films and of remarkable quality considering it was deemed lost for over fifty years. At a time when Turkish cinema was considered to be technically primitive, Orhan Atadeniz’s direction was assured, interlacing documentary footage and excerpts from other Tarzan movies (Atadeniz had also filmed animals at a zoo) with the actors’ actions seamlessly. Predictably, “Tarzan Istanbul’da” is a boy’s own adventure set in deepest Africa where Turkish explorers search for hidden treasure in Death Mountain, a place where every cliché is to be found, except quicksand, which was disappointing. But the natives mean well and dance to the beat as the main characters stroll onwards pointing at exotic creatures every few minutes. “Look, a gazelle. Look, a zebra. Look, a f*****g monkey,” and so on. Spliced with said documentary film, its method might have been the inspiration for Bruno Mattei’s “Zombie Creeping Flesh/Virus” (1980), but as to why this uncontrolled Turco production should place a Komodo dragon stalking the African jungle is anyone’s guess. Turco Tarzan (played by Tamer Balci) plays his part convincingly as he fights rubber crocodiles (it almost beats Arthur Davis’s shoddy “Brutes and Savages” (1978) to the award for rubbish croc fight) and pats his pet chimp Chitah/Cheetah, although Tarzan author, Edgar Rice Burroughs may have raised a voice of objection. There are two interesting extras: a short clip of behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Turco trash auteur, Kunt Tulgar, who plays the part of ‘Little Kunt’, or young Tarzan. The latter is of interest to those who want to learn more on Yeşilçam cinema as he explains how he made Superman fly in Süpermen dönüyor (original footage projected behind tracing paper and the actor would be filmed in front) as well as directing “Tarzan korkusuz adam [Tarzan, The Mighty Man] “(1974) and sacking Sergio Bergonzelli from “Diamond Connection” (1982). Reflecting on the past, Tulgar estimates that over 15,000 Turco movies were made, many being of fantasy cinema. It is believed that around 7500 prints remain, the negatives of the others pulped for their silver content.
Richard Donner was surely blessed when director Kunt Tulgar turned his eye to “Superman” (1978) when “Süpermen dönüyor” followed a year later. With eyebrows like muttonchops, Turkish Superman (the late Hasim Demirciogiou) saves the world in an almost lethargic slumber with the assertiveness of a limp salad. Given its scant running time, “Süpermen dönüyor” crawls though its set pieces as Turco Lois Lane is repeatedly kidnapped, for Superman to rescue her from a villain with a gun that can turn people into gold. Of course, said bad guy needs kryptonite to arm his weapon but he failed to grasp that it’s actually a slide projector. The movie starts promisingly enough where outer space is portrayed as Christmas tree decorations in front of black card (the film crew can be seen reflected in a festive ball) with the Superman logo plastered in crayon if drawn by a special child. Superman’s flying scenes are cringe-worthy; Tulgar’s tracing paper projection system painful. Also, Demirciogiou’s performance (his credit name was changed to Demir Tayfun, the ‘Iron Typhoon’) is that of a suspicious superhero, reluctant to throw a punch in case of cutting his hand – hardly the stuff of legend. In an interview, Tulgar (the same as on the “Tarzan Istanbul’da” disc) claims that his wife wrote the script and made the costume – I can believe it. Also, Demirciogiou was serving in the army at the time. Wanting him to be the star, Tulgar lied to the army stating that Demirciogiou’s father has been involved in a car accident. Demirciogiou was granted leave and had a week’s leave to work on the film. And indeed, it does look like the production was shot and wrapped within a week.
The same disc is graced with another super obscure flick: “Demir yumruk: Devler geliyor [Iron Fist: The Giants are Coming]” (1973). And how can you go wrong when a villain has a large bald head with small pig-like eyes with a hefty scar running over one ear? Killer combo! Not only that, there is another bad guy, a wheel-chaired transvestite called Fu Manchu, who is aided by beautiful bikini lethal babes. Of course, their evil plans to conquer the world come to nothing when a superhero (who lacks superhero talents) comes to the rescue. Great fun with much double-crossing and funky music in a remarkably clean print.
“Casus kiran” (1968), from the same team that offered “Kilink,” is loosely based on Spy Smasher, a comic strip character from DC Comics. With much bish, bash and bosh, Spy Smasher and friends takes on The Mask (a bloke with a towel over his face: an inventive touch, I have to say) and mischievous companions. Regrettably, The Mask wants to take over the world – a painfully boring Turco achievement by now – but ends up getting slapped about by Spy Smasher. Smash, wham and wallop to you, sir. Some corking lines, too. One bad boy gives the back of his hand to a babe and says, “We don’t need your project in which you were trying to brainwash the zombies in the pots.” Eh? And also: “What? The Mask will be pissed off about that.” Onar Films have done a magnificent job in remastering the sole surviving master considering it was in a rotten condition and can now be enjoyed with more masked action, kicks, stunts and nostalgic mayhem. The disc also comes with an informative interview with director Yilmaz Atadeniz.
There is more to Turco movies than described here and this commentary cannot do them justice within the parameters of this article. Sadly, a great number are forever gone leaving behind fading posters and memories. Presumed lost, as are sixteen movies or more in the series, “Altin çocuk Beyrut’ta” (1967) is a native take on James Bond, complete with thrills and gadgets galore. Well, that would be a little white lie. Turco Bond’s less than thrilling arsenal consists of a toy gun and a watch that flips open to reveal a vanity mirror: very handy in case clumsy moustachioed bad guys creep up behind him. However, he stills enjoys a cocktail and the ladies, so it’s not all bad. Viewed from an unknown television recording, the plot consists of drug smuggling and a final confrontation between the smooth spy and Dragonman (his costume features the Welsh dragon emblem, I kid you not). Other movies presumed destroyed are “Flying Saucers in Istanbul/Uçan daireler Istanbul’da” (1955), “The Invisible Man in Istanbul/Görünmeyen adam Istanbul’da” (1955), “Turist Ömer” (1964), “Binbasi Tayfun [Turkish Captain America]” (1968), “Örümcek adam [Turkish Spiderman]” (1966), “Turist Ömer yamyamlar arasinda (1970) [Turist Omer among the Cannibals] ” and “Bombala oski bombala [Turkish Rocketeer]” (1972) and many more.
However, there are a selection of Turco movies to be savoured, such as those from Onar Films and Mondo Macabro (“The Deathless Devil/Yilmayan seytan” (1973) and “Tarkan vs the Vikings/Tarkan Viking kani” (1971)), as well as grey imports on eBay and various sites specialising in world cinema such as revengeismydestinty.com, Trash Online, in particular. You want Arkin’s rip-off of “The Sting” (1974)? You’ve got it as “Belalilar” (1974), complete with Marvin Hamlisch music and karate! Want more Arkin? Go for “Battalgazi destani” (1971) and “Savulun Battal Gazi geliyor” (1973) with torture, swordfights and satanic nuns. In “Cemil” (1975) he practically smokes himself to death while punching out lights, and does more of the same with a Great White shark in “Çöl [The Desert]” (1983). Gladiatorial goofiness can be found in “Tarkan” (1969), based on the Attilla Khan comic strip and numerous follow-ups including the delightfully insane “Tarkan: The Golden Medallion/Tarkan: Altin madalyon” (1972). There’s “Altar,” a Turco “Conan the Barbarian” (1982) with babes and gore (and yes, that is the score from “Suspiria” (1977)). “Kara boga [The Black Bull]” (1974) is a bloody tale of Vlad the Impaler as a vampire, and there are hairy caveman shenanigans in “Toros canavari” (1961). The list goes on and on and on. Like a bad dream, it never ends…
Grey imports, usually overpriced, are essential for research and curiosity purposes, but visual/sound quality and lack of English subtitles remain a dilemma. Thankfully, Onar Films, are putting heart, soul and considerable expense in releasing Turco bonkers cinema in their best condition where possible, graced with filmed interviews that not only entertain, they also educate. It’s an ethos that has to be admired, quite frankly. “I don’t know why these movies attract me,” says Bill Barounis, founder of Onar Films, as he reflects on his passion for Turkish fantasy cinema. Leaning back in contemplation, Barounis’s office is adorned with Turco posters and videos – it’s as if these movies that time forgot pump though his veins. “It has to be some kind of magic; that naïve style. They remind me of my childhood comics with their colour and inventiveness,” he says. Interestingly, Onar Films plan to release more movies throughout the year and are not in it for the money – they want these little but resourceful films to be seen by a wider demographic. “You know, I just dig this stuff and act like a fan, not a merchant. I also love Euro stuff such as the giallo and I am sure to deal with these sooner or later,” Barounis smiles. Films such as “Kizil tug – Cengiz han” (1952), “Zorro kamcili süvari” (1969), “Casus kiran – yedi canli adam” (1970), “Maskeli Seytan, Korkusuz Kaptan Swing [Courageous Captain Swing]” (1971), “Maskeli ulcer” (1971), “Örümcek [The Spider]” (1972) and “Tarzan korkusuz adam” are slated for release in 2008/2009. Of note, new Turkish horror cinema such as “Karanlik Sular [The Serpent’s Tale]” (1995) was released in 2007. Dripping with extras for those daring or foolish enough to venture into the world of the yeşilçam, it’s a world of cinema that will delight, enthrall and bash your brains in with their sheer badness. Amen to that.