Back in the 60s, it seems that film exploded across the world; many countries in the Eastern Hemisphere that had formerly subsisted on American imports began creating their own movies, and creating a lot of them. After a robust couple of decades, the movies would succumb to television, as nearly happened in America (and. indeed, still seems to be happening). Many times, a lot of these movies, abandoned by their businessmen producers, simply vanished – or, in the case of black and white movies, were unfortunately destroyed to retrieve silver. Turkey had an astounding, prolific film culture which seemed to borrow from every possible influence – sometimes perhaps borrowed a bit too freely, as we shall see – but exhibiting such an unfettered joy in their storytelling that it is almost impossible not to enjoy them.
In this particular case, Mondo Macabro has managed to lay hands on two surviving examples of what they term “Turkish Pop Cinema”, Tarkan vs. The Vikings and The Deathless Devil.
Tarkan is one of several movies based on a popular comic book of the same name, the title hero being a fearsome warrior who was raised by wolves. In this particular instance, raiding Vikings kidnap a Turkish princess under Tarkan’s protection, and kill one of his wolf brothers, to boot, meaning that Tarkan is going to be killing a whole lot of Vikings. The movie takes its duty of translating the cheap four-color experience onto film very seriously, and the viewer finds himself wondering exactly what exotic beast the Vikings have been killing for all that blue and pink fur. One also learns that Vikings lived in huge sandstone castles, and a giant rubber octopus will climb onto a pier to consume its writhing, screaming prey. Such is the magic of world cinema.The second film, The Deathless Devil, comes from no less pulpy origins – this time, 40s cliffhanger serials, as a mad scientist bent on world domination – his name is Dr. Satan, no less – is trying to steal some super-scientific something-or-other. He has all the necessary trappings for the standard Evil Genius – huge moustache, remote controlled bombs strapped to his henchmen, a huge, slow-moving boxy robot – and therefore, a similarly flashy nemesis. The son of Copperhead, a masked avenger-type whom Satan killed two decades earlier, takes up his father’s fight. Devil does a very good job of recreating the feel of an old serial, right down to the barely-choreographed rough-and-tumble fight scenes that materialize every few minutes. And Odious Comic Reliefs? Even worse in a foreign language.
To their credit, Mondo Macabro is very upfront about the elements used in mastering this disc; each movie, in fact, is prefaced by an apologetic text page explaining they used the best pieces of film they could find. They certainly did – damage is kept at an absolute minimum. Colors are rather washed out, but this due almost more to the film stock of the period than simple age. Both movies are presented in their original Turkish language with very readable (and removable) white subtitles. The comic book-style menus are well done, and easy to navigate.
Each movie has a few text pages that try to illuminate the viewer on the whys and wherefores of what they're about to see - but it's this disc's episode of the Mondo Macababro TV show that proves truly educational. Well-produced as always, it's a crash course in Turkish Pop Cinema, featuring interviews with actors and directors, including superstar Cuneyt Arkin. As always, the clips are the most intriguing... though copyright laws prevent showing anything more than the poster of 3 Dev Adam, which featured El Santo, Captain America, and a villainous Spider-Man! There are a few shots from Turist Omer Uzay Yulunda, which appropriated classic Star Trek characters, but only the most inoffensive scenes from the most infamous example of piracy is shown: The Man Who Saves The World, best known for it's incredible special effects borrowed from a little movie called Star Wars....
Though the more astute viewer will realize that three-quarters of the score for Tarkan is John Barry's The Lion in Winter. With a bit of Jerry Goldsmith's Patton tossed in.
Past that, there's a barrage of clips from other movies available from Mondo Macabro, a delirious lot which immediately distracts one from the hunger for more Turkish Pop Cinema, to the rather more attainable desire for more Mondo Macabro offerings. A dangerous disc, indeed.
Dr. Freex, 11/16/2005