Sunday, June 21, 2009
DVD Review: KADIN DUSMANI
Directed by Ilhan Engin
Starring Ekrem Bora and Sema Ozcan
Available from Onar Films
Wow. If you've been waiting for just the right Onar DVD to risk buying sight unseen, I think I may have just found the answer to your dilemma. KADIN DUSMANI or WOMAN DESPISER is one of the very best movies our friends in Greece have ever released. It's a weird, sleazy and often violent thriller in the best Giallo tradition. Fans of those obsessive Italian thrillers will have a field day with this admittedly cheaper Turkish variation, as it holds its own against many better known films of that ilk. It has spooky gothic elements, beautiful girls half undressed half the time, startling violence, necrophilia, hints of incest, cameras tilting into delirium and impressive B&W cinematography. Add to that that this is one of Onar's best looking discs to date and you have the recipe for one of the year's best DVD releases from anywhere in the world. I'm very excited about this one and think you will be too once you take your plunge into the murky waters of KADIN DUSMANI!
The movie opens, as most movies should, with a girl taking off her clothes. The atmosphere drips with a stylish 60s noirish appeal as the sexy maiden prepares for bed. But before she can settle into dreamland, a twisted monstrous hand reaches into her room, flicking the light switch and plunging the scene into darkness. Emerging from this menacing black is a horrifying (if slightly sillylooking) devil-faced creature! Our pretty young thing, justifiably frightened out of her pretty young mind, steps back blindly to evade the creature's grasp only to stumble, hit her head and seemingly give up the ghost. At this point the demon removes his deformed hands and reveals a very human intention underneath as his unsheathed man-mitts move to caress her supple, dead body. Inexplicably, the rooms begins to fill with fog ...
The next scene, some time later, a couple of charming young women are walking home at night speaking nervously of "two girls killed in one week". Parting, the camera stays with one of the girls as she silently enters her large, enshrouded home. The eerie Italian soundtrack music and the murderous nature of the previous scene give it away that this evening is not going to end well for this unlucky dame, and so it goes. Again, we are treated to an undressing tease (though it comes close there is no nudity in the movie, sadly) before another rubbery monster-masked figure appears to claim another victim.
From here the film enters into procedural territory with the lead detective (Turkish leading man and sometime villain Ekrem Bora) interrogating the girls' boyfriends and bouncing around theories to explain these acts of a "sex maniac". The sleaze hinted at in the opening scenes becomes more frank as it is explained that the girls are not only being murdered but also raped, that is raped after they are killed! This movie fairly permeates with sex and/or perversion. Although never graphic nearly every scene incorporates sexy girls doing sexy things. My favorite is set as a particularly Jess Franco-esque nightclub scene with an alluring belly dance that concludes with a shapely sword-weilding dancer decapitating a male mannequin with graceful yet bloodthirsty panache. Sex and violence, these elements are KADIN's bread and butter.
Our first and primary suspect for the ongoing series of murder-rapes is the first girl's fiancee, a rich kid with an overprotective mother, a dead brother and a gorgeous sister-in-law whom our detective hero takes an immediate liking to. But he is just one of many suspects, as each girl seems to have had a sleazy boyfriend with some motive or another for craoking her. The detective at one point even explains that it's his job to "suspect everyone" and indeed, nearly everyone in the film is portrayed at some point in a possibly guilty light. Red herrings abound, as they are wont to do in giallo cinema, and this gives ample opportunity for weird characterisations galore. One suspect is a philandering sculptor who kneads his clay menacingly and closely inspects his tongue in the mirror. Another, a young playboy, caresses a human skull while alone in his apartment and reads aloud about necrophilia. The first suspect is no slouch either as he enjoys rubbing the barrel of a handgun against his temple and displaying an unhealthy interest in his sister-in-law. Even weirder is the detective's own sister, a wheelchair bound spinster who casually mentions how her brother's former wife met with a "peculiar death" to un-nerve his new lover. Alone in her room, she stands, apparently not crippled after all, kisses a picture of her brother and begins to caress her chest sensually as she gazes longingly at the photo. This charming scene is disrupted by (what else) the monster-faced molester gazing at her through the window. Hysterical, she runs to her brother's arms, with no one noticing that she is not actually crippled at all. This dramatic turn of events is never mentioned by anyone even when she pops up briefly later in the movie. Bad continuity or cinematic fever dream at work? Only you can decide that.
As you might be able to tell, this film is all weirdness and little-to-no logic. And that works decidedly in its favor. The finale spins out of control into sheer gothic territory with Ekrem Bora's girlfriend pursued by a host of masked devils though a cobweb infested mansion. The solution to the mystery is no mystery at all if you've been paying attention (or maybe even if you haven't) but that isn't the point. The point, at least when the film was originally produced, is, as mentioned above, sex. To have as many sexy scenes as the Turkish censor would allow and who cares about the plot. For us now, those of us willing to watch such obscure filmic treats as this, the point is weirdness. And KADIN DUSMANI is boiling in odd details, creepy music and irrational motivations and actions. For weird films fans, this one is sheer bliss.
Onar's disc of this once unknown jewel and cult film in the making is one of its best presentations to date. The films is presented full screen, which would seem to be its correct aspect ratio, with a mostly clear and as-pristine-as-Turkish-movies-can-get picture quality. There are some digital artifacts here and there and some dirt and debris, but these are exceedingly minor, especially when compared with almost every other Turkish film you can see anywhere else, including most of Onar's previous releases. So good on 'em for that one. And we get the usual batch of excellent extras including trailers for upcoming and previous Onar DVDs and Ayman Kole's highly informative bio notes on Director Ilhan Engin and star Ekrem Bora. Most interesting is another segment of the TURKISH FANTASTIC CINEMA docu - this one dealing with horror and sci-fi. The sci-fi segment has some great clips from many films including the possibly upcoming ALTIN COCUCK but the horror segment limits itself to only the two heavy hitters of Turkish scares, DRACULA ISTANDBUL'DA and SEYTAN. While of course there are very few actual Turkish horrors there are many more than just these two, Onar has even released a double feature with two of those horrors, and many other movies with horrific elements including the film of this very DVD. Disappointing that they chose only those two very well know examples to highlight, it's great fun and informative nonetheless. To conclude this review I must point out one other small thing that really made me very happy about this DVD - it has excellent subtitles. Subtitle quality has varied extremely on Onar discs, so it pleases me to no end to report that these are probably the best yet. They were very easy to read and in close-to-idiomatic English as they've ever been, making understanding what's going on very, very easy. Bravo Onar! Once again, you lite up my day with amazing worldweird-y fun and excitement! I hope it goes on forever.