Thursday, June 22, 2006
DVD Review: 3 DEV ADAM!
This special DVD presentation of the Turkish superhero classic 3 DEV ADAM (or 3 MIGHTY MEN or 3 GIANTS) is a truly remarkable thing. Remarkable in that it exists at all. Overlooking all the trouble and tribulation Bill Barounis of Onar Films went through to get this thing out, just the fact that the film itself has not been completely lost to time makes it a wonder of international pop culture survival. With the original negatives long ago burned up in storage facility fire, Onar had to search for alternate elements and while the end results are far from perfect, we should all get down on our knees and give praise and thanks to the gods of exploitation that we can all enjoy this wacked-out pop-art caper in a watchable (and subtitled!) presentation, with excellent extras to boot!
3 DEV ADAM is a truly nutty flick. A simple plot synopsis will hardly do justice to the overall experience of watching it with mouth agape and eyes bulging. There are times you will hardly believe what you’re seeing. Others times when you can only wonder, “what we’re they thinking?” (or smoking, maybe). The story goes something like this: Captain America and Santo the Masked Wrestler arrive in Turkey to track down an elusive criminal organization which has been wreaking havoc in the US and Mexico, counterfeiting money and stealing extremely valuable antiques. Having trailed them to them to Istanbul, our heroes reveal the evil culprit, it’s ... Spiderman? Yes, your once friendly neighborhood Spiderman now leads a bloodthirsty mob of thugs and hoods (Cap claims they’re “from the Far East” but they sure do look Turkish to me, they all have that same mustache and hairdo, now to be forever known as “the Turkish”, alright?), who are intent on stealing various Anatolian treasures, selling them on the cheap, and then buy them back with counterfeit cash before absconding with both the booty and the loot (or something like that anyway). They also have obscure but somehow very important connections with the Istanbul fashion scene, the mannequin industry, a popular nightclub and a Gymnasium, where Santo spends some quality time at the beginning of the movie, busting the heads of some sorry Karate students (all of whom sport “the Turkish”). Where all this connects, well, you’ll have to figure that out yourself, because sometimes, even subtitles don’t help with these kinds of odd foreign exploitation films.
It’s in the film’s weirdo, sexy and sometimes outright sadistic details that it truly soars. Cap’s fights with Spiderman are marvels of barely competent kung fu-ish choreography, they grapple at each other with amateur abandon, two dudes in ill-fitting costumes going at each other with zeal, tenacity and not much skill. And almost at every turn the film throws a scene of cheapjack sadism which leave you slackjawed and/or howling with laughter. The movie begins, in fact, with a violent scene that takes you by surprise and sets the pace for what’s to follow. Spidey and his gang bury some hapless maiden up to her neck in the sand at a Bosporus Beach and while she screams for her life, the thugs drag up a boat, turn on it’s outboard motor and ... well, you get the idea. Blood splatters across the legs of Spiderman’s moll as she grins maniacally. Later, Spidey punishes an incompetent gang member by tying him down, hoisting a long tube up to his face which covers his eyes, and at the other end shoves in two starving gerbils (although the subs call them “mice”) who precede to feast upon his eyeballs. Amazing. Throughout the movie, Spiderman stabs, strangles and skewers several people (many of whom are bathing at the time for some reason) providing the film with most of it’s highlights. In comparison Captain America and Santo are something of a bore, spending more time out of costume than in. Somewhat to the film’s detriment, I think.
I might also mention the film’s many sexy girls and sexy scenes. This was a regular feature in Turkish pulp cinema, along with the violence and incomprehensible plots. While there is no outright nudity, there are several scenes with sexy Turkish dames in various states of undress or longing for love in the form of a costumed hero or villain. There’s even a somewhat Franco-esque sexy nightclub act scene, to keep just enough sex in the picture to keep it moving in between the many fight and torture scenes. But really, it’s all about men in cheap, flimsy costumes beating on one another. In this manner, it comes across not unlike a American superhero comic made during the 50s or 60s, before they became all grim and leaden in the 70s and 80s. All in all, the film is a one of a kind experience, combining the silver age comic influence with American serials and Italian “anti-hero” comics and films (the Spiderman character is more like a Diabolik or a Kriminal than any traditional depiction of the webslinger, in fact never once during the film does Spiderman ever sling a single web, or do anything spider like whatsoever)shot through a singularly Turkish perspective with results which are spectacular weird, fun and more than a little bit silly. .
As mentioned before, it’s something of a miracle that this DVD got released at all. Onar Films had to endure disappearances, deaths, deadbeats, technical malfunctions, locust swarms, erupting volcanos, assassination attempts and other hardships (OK I made a few of those up) to get this DVD out, making it a true labor of love. The results, while being maybe just shy of impressive, nonetheless present the film in a better light than it has in 30 or so years probably. The picture quality is a little soft and the colors are slightly drab due to age and lack of actual film elements (the DVD is taken from an old video master located in Germany), BUT it looks quite remarkable compared to what we’ve had of this film previously. The copy I had seen of before was among the very worst gray market VHS imaginable, a blur of green, red, brown and tan. One gets the impression that at one time this film was really pretty bright and colorful but the ravages of time have done a number. Onar deserves credit not only for going through hades to present this almost-lost-classic, but for being able to get it out in a highly watchable presentation.
All that and there are a ton of extras here as well. Highlights include three long interviews (generously donated from the fine folks at Mondo Macabro) with the director and the actors playing Captain America and the police chief respectively. They are all rather long and informative if a little dry. Aytekin Akkaya (Cap) comes off the best and most charismatic making it the most enjoyable. There are also a few pages of biographies and filmographies which unfortunately are presented as heavy black type against a bright red background, making them somewhat hard to read. Topping off the extras are a selection of Onar’s trailers for previous releases (the KILINK films, also highly recommended) as well as some upcoming stuff that looks absolutely smashing such as another superhero caper DEMIR YUMRUK DEVLER GELIYOR a.k.a. IRON FIST: THE GIANTS ARE COMING, a gothic chiller OLULER KONUSMAZ KI a.k.a. THE DEAD DON'T TALK and best of all the amazing (and I do mean AMAZING) Turkish giallo ASKA SUSAYANLAR SEKS VE CINAYET a.k.a. THIRSTY FOR LOVE, SEX AND MURDER, one of my personal all time favorite Turkish films. A neat little photogallery (I would love to get my hands on some of those lobby cards!) rounds out the bill.
While not perfect, this DVD is among the most outstanding releases of this year and is highly recommended to all fans of Turkish cinema, low budget superhero films or just weird pop culture in general.