Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Movie Review: DEATH WARRIOR!

As a sort of post-script to our weeklong coverage of Onar's Turkish cinema DVDs here's a new review of one of the titles Bill from Onar mentioned as a possible future release, the incredibly insane Cüneyt Arkin film DEATH WARRIOR! Written by our friend Scott Wallis, it's hopefully the first review of many that he'll contribute!
Here we go!

DEATH WARRIOR (Ölüm Savasçisi), 1984




If anime or manga has ever left you scratching your head, then hang on to your hernias, folks 'cause we're about to get serious.

The usual adjectives, which accompany most of Turkey's notorious offerings of genre cinema, such as "insane" "crazy" "mind-blowing" "unfuckingbeliveable" apply here, but detailing the plot would be a waste. Like a Q&A session with God, any attempt in capsulating the experience in human words would do it no justice.
DEATH WARRIOR certainly has a middle, it has a definite end, but it's beginning feels more like a pre-middle, as it wastes no time in completely raping the hell out of you from the get-go.

In the first 5 minutes:

* an army of up-to-no-goods at their compound in a martial arts training exercise during which their evil leader (who possesses the power of TELEKINESIS) impales a tree with a matchstick from 50 feet away

* a group of assassins, each of whom look like an amalgam of a Ku Klux Klansman, a ninja, and a member of the Taliban, skulking around parking lots, and appearing/disappearing in/out of various people's homes, eventually claiming the lives of three with their plywood scimitars

* a mysterious pair of hairy beast-hands, which abruptly appear from out of a fireplace, terrorizing some poor man in his home who tried to relax with some evening music until his LP spontaneously EXPLODED on the turntable

* our shirtless hero, who goes instantly from lounging at water's edge with his lady, to preparing for one of the coolest fights I've ever seen (a flashback?), the kind ambitious teenagers film/edit with a video camera in an abandoned lot or field after school.


Directed by and starring that hunka hunka Turkish love, Cüneyt Arkin, this film is an action-filled madhouse of entertainment, full of bizarre kinetic editing in a story that goes back and forth from Arkin (a police inspector) either lounging by the water with his bikini-clad girl-toy or fighting a circle of Tali-Klan ninjas, to the bad guy training exercises without rhyme and very little reason.
Hardly a few minutes go by without a fight sequence, or a clutch of assassins suddenly rising from under the water, bursting out from under the ground, or just simply charging out of nowhere in particular. And sometimes, they're on dirt bikes.
Oh, and if you've ever dreamed of seeing a life-sized ragdoll set on fire and then get the holy fuck beat out of it until it stays dead, your life is now complete.

Like Jeff Chandler, Burt Lancaster and James Coburn poured into one pair of leather pants, Cüneyt Arkin, M.D. was about 47 when he made this film, and he looks pretty damn good. His martial arts skills are above average, and he utilizes them with gusto in sequences that are deliriously choreographed and outrageously satisfying.
In the book Mondo Macabro: Weird and Wonderful Cinema Around the World, Pete Tombs wrote of Arkin: "Always ready with a damning sneer, routing gangs of villains with his ready fists, he straddled the low-budget action movie like a colossus." And like a colossus, DEATH WARRIOR thunders through your sensibilities with a juggernaut's determination, despite it's budget limitations.
Speaking of limitations, there are, in true Turkish cinematic fashion, bits and pieces of foreign films inserted into DEATH WARRIOR-- fight sound FX from the first three Bruce Lee movies; portions of the opening credit themes from both PSYCHO & ENTER THE DRAGON; and even a few seconds of Florinda Balkan from Fulci's LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN. The great thing is, they all make sense in the film!

A perfect double feature companion piece to Robert Tai's equally insane Ninja: The Final Duel, DEATH WARRIOR is also a perfect gift idea for that snobby film friend with a Blockbuster or NetFlix account who thinks they've seen everything. I challenge anyone to show me another film that has the hero become airborne via trampoline in order to get a better, more lethal shot with his bow & fucking arrow.
Third World films such as this do not deserve to be critiqued, but simply enjoyed for what they offer. I mean, one wouldn't go to a hot dog stand looking for steak, right? But if hot dogs are your steak, then this slice of no holds barred sensory overload is for you.
And, as with most of America's exploitation films from the Golden Age, its technical limitations are just a necessary part of the film's embraceable personality.
And I wouldn't change it for anything.

3 comments:

F.B. said...

yeah!!! DEATH WARRIOR is a true masterpiece! I am dying to watch a better-looking print of it as mine is probably a 5th generation copy! Do u actually own that VHS shown in your review page?

best regards, Lefteris from Greece

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