Thursday, July 26, 2007
DVD Review: TURKISH SUPERMAN DOUBLE BILL
SUPERMAN DONUYOR aka TURKISH SUPERMAN
DEMIR YUMRUK: DEVLER GELIYOR aka IRON FIST: THE GIANTS ARE COMING!
Directed by Kunt Tulgar/ Directed by Tunc Basaran
Starring Tayfun Demir/Starring Huseyin Zan
Available from Onar Films!
I'm giving away this review right at the outset. It's a winner. In a real big way. Every one of Onar's DVDs has been stellar, but this might just be the best one yet. Every second of viewing this disc was pure pulpy joy. The extraordinary cheapness of the cinematic offerings on display boggle the brain, but in a good, maybe even great way. The glorious Turks did this kind of amazing crap better than just about anybody and thank the Old Ones that Onar is around to uncover and release them to the general public. These are two 'Superhero-on-the-cheap' type films that were kind of the bread-and-butter of the Turkish film industry in the late 1960s and early 70s, and like every other one I've ever seen are supremely entertaining. You can barely believe that they even were made they're so cheap and shoddy. You will look on in disbelief at the wondrous and inventive ineptitude on the screen and marvel at the mere existence of such incredibly disarming trash.
The headliner in this set SUPERMAN DONUYOR otherwise known amongst the gray-market elite as TURKISH SUPEMAN. It is ostensibly a re-make of the Richard Donner-Christopher Reeve 1978 SUPERMAN, swiping the soundtrack music and casting 'in-the-ballpark' look-a-likes in the lead roles. But there the similarity ends. While Donner and co. had a lavish budget to work with, auteur Kunt Tulgar had the American Dollar equivalent of about $250 to work his magick, and although magick indeed he did indeed achieve he doesn't come anywhere close to approximating that late 70s US box office champ. In lieu of the galactic epicness of the original DONUYOR takes the tried and true Turkish method of rehashing old serial stories for its plot. After learning of his origin in an astoundingly cheap re-enactment of first 20 minutes or so of Donner's film, Superman (and his huge eyeglass wearing alter-ego) gets involved in a wearying plot involving a scientist and his world-shattering formula which, if in the wrong hands, will of course wreak havoc on the civilized world. BUT - how cares about the plot? It's the details - the wooden acting, the horrible (and I mean HORRIBLE) special effects and the general ramshackle atmosphere that reminds one that the entire film could fall apart at any second. The much noted opening with Xmas ornaments serving as stars and planets in a failed effort to give the impression of the vast eternal expanse of space is indeed a watershed moment in no-budget international exploitation cinema. Also amazing is the how the effect of bullets bouncing off Supes' chest is achieved. Literally, bullets are simply tossed from off camera towards his no-so impressive torso. And how can anyone not love the special ‘flying’ effect accomplished by hanging a Ken doll in a Superman outfit from a wire with some rear-projection of Istanbul behind. Awe-inspiring! One can only stare with jaw agape as such incredible, magical cinematic stupidity. It's all just so fucking wonderful I can hardly stand it. And then there's DEMIR YUMRUCK: DEVLER GELIYOR ...
In a phrase, it's even better. And unlike the other film on the disc it actually has moments of cinematic verve that aren't dependent on 'badfilm' charm, although it certainly has some of that as well. It's more along the lines of the DIABOLIK-KILLING-3 FANTASTIC SUPEMEN school of superhero films than DONUYOR, being more indebted to the 60s spy craze and Italian fumetti than just Silver Age American comics or 30s and 40s serials. It's a bunch of nonsense involving two supervillains and their race to find a dagger which will reveal the location of some uranium mines and some sort of hidden treasure, or something. It's pretty incoherent, but full of asteroid levels of movie fun. The villains are awesome. One is a scar-faced heavy who has a steel glove thingy which shoots stuff out of it. It looks cool, but I never once saw him use it. Incredible! As for the other arch-enemy - well, he's a real doozy. He's called 'Fumanchu' even though he's not, nor even tries to appear as, Asian. He dresses up as an old woman. He uses a wheelchair. He often sports pointy razor tipped gloves and seemingly has some manner of magic powers. And is completely ham-fistedly performed by the actor at hand. It is fucking amazing. One of the most memorable villains from a film industry known for it outlandish bad guys. The heroes can't even hope to compete. But the superhero outfit is pretty nifty. It confusingly pares the superman logo on his chest with a belt baring the batman logo. What the ... ? AND 'our hero' is a complete cad! Our first introduction to him comes just after he's bedded some Anatolian honey who's not his unbearably hot fiancée! His hot-ass wife to be finds him but discovers her own anger is disarmed by him holding her down to smother her with his hunk-love. I wish I had those kinds of charms! The movie tramples the plot along at a breakneck pace and leaves no time or space for plot or character development (thank God!). And it has an pounding garage rock score, even making use of Dave Allen and the Arrows’ crushing “Blue’s Theme” during the action-packed finale. I loved every second. I think you will too, unless you're a pretentious film-crit-shmuck that is.
Video quality is actually OK, given the haphazard film preservation situation in Turkey. DEMER YUMRUK looks pretty damned good, relative to how these things usually look anyway. SUPERMAN is a little rough, but if you've ever checked out any of the bootlegs floating around you will be fairly impressed with the relative sharpness of the screen image. Onar does what it can with these as far as quality goes and again they've done a bang-up job. Extras include a swath of trailers for upcoming titles in their growing pantheon of Turkish wonders, a still gallery for SUPERMAN, a wonderful lobby card gallery for YUMRUK and informative director bios written by Turkish Film Historian Ayman Kole. The best feature by far is a long and illuminating interview with the DEATHLESS DEVIL himself, SUPEMAN director Kunt Tulgar who talks about his career from a childhood appearance in his father's production TARZAN IN ISTANBUL (also on tap for an Onar DVD release) to his mid 80s crime thriller productions that quite simply sound amazing (Hey Onar can you get ahold of any of these?). Tulgar seems a down-to-earth and rather charming chap and it's great to have his impressions recorded here for film history prosperity.
You need this. I don't care who you are, you will be disarmed by this loving presentation of these two creaky 'bad' Z-movie marvels. Onar needs the support of all fans of weird and left of center cinema and I really can't think of any reason why a self-respecting cult film fan shouldn't include this and all of Onar's Turkish Pop Cinema DVDs in his or her collection. You are a wimp and a dullard if you don't order. Yeah, I said it! Consider it a challenge, and prove me wrong ... if you can!