Turkeys from Turkey: The Best Bad Films on the Globe
Turkey has a rich cultural tradition in film, but lax copyright standards and low budgets led to some very bad rip off films that are funnier than ever today.
Back in 1997 (can you believe that was 20 years ago?) Mike and the ‘bots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 presented their lambasting of a 1988 film called Space Mutiny. Also billed with the vastly different title of (drum roll) Mutiny in Space, the subject of their episode was a terrible joke of a science fiction film notable for featuring space scenes wholly lifted from the ABC TV show, Battlestar Galactica (1978-79).
Obviously, this was not a legal use of the footage but Space Mutiny was released, aired and published anyway and has, largely due to MST3k’s mockery, obtained cult status. It's possible that Universal’s lawyers were laughing too hard at the film to sue (the pilfering from Battlestar Galactica was far from the only problem with this "movie"). It's also possible that they simply did not wish to bother suing this South African Z-movie that was unlikely to be seen, anyway. Regardless, the producers seemed to have gotten away with the theft. But where exactly did they get such a cheap and obvious idea for their film in the first place?
My guess is that the producers might have all been absolutely cuckoo for Turkish cinema, where this very thing seems to have happened all the time.
Turkey is an amazing land of wonderful people and a rich history and even a wonderful film tradition (more on that later). Further, Turkey is far from the only country famous for film rip-offs (Italian B-movie entrepreneurs have made careers of unnofficial sequels and stolen plots). That said, it's no huge surprise that the Turkish film industry would produce more than its fair share of bad movies. The name of the country, after all, is "The Republic of Turkey", so it's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Republic of Turkey might be sued for false advertising if they didn't churn out their share of "turkeys".
In this article, we discuss just a few of those turkeys from Turkey. After all, once in a while, nothing beats a terrible film when it comes to comedy. And, whether the makers intended it or not, a large percentage of these movies are terribly hilarious.
The first thing one might notice when becoming a connoisseur of Turkish turkeys is the fact that the filmmakers make a habit of laughing in the face of copyright law. I joked about The Republic of Turkey being sued for false advertising, but it seems very clear that they were not at all worried about being sued for stealing plots, effects sequences or even copyrighted characters to make their films.
For the prime example of this bizarre practice of intellectual property theft, take a good gander at the 1973 disaster piece 3 Dev Adam from "director" T. Fikret Uçak. The title of this miserable experience translates to "Three Mighty Men", but it's better known to English speakers (at least, those who give a damn about movies this bad) as Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man.
Needless to say, this is not an official Marvel Comics film adaptation. The makers of this Ottoman defeat didn't care whether or not they had permission to use the characters. They just had a really brilliant story to tell.
3 Dev Adam -- You almost forget you're watching a movie.
For the "sarcasm impaired", the story was not brilliant in any way, shape or form. Take note, this is not some proto Batman V. Superman in which the two comic icons have a disagreement before finding out their moms share the same first name (though that was pretty terrible, too). No, the "Spider-Man" in this film is an actual evil, scheming villain. Yes, apparently young Peter Parker had a forgotten chapter in his life that included his expatriation to Istanbul where he became something more akin to the Kingpin of Crime in a bad Halloween knock-off costume that looks worse than his hoody wear from 2002's Spider-Man -- and we all just missed a few issues.
This thoroughly out of shape version of Spider-Man spends most of his time cackling like Snidely Whiplash on downers, killing nude women and barking orders at his Turkish henchmen. Just when you thought he couldn't get any more hilarious, we get a few close-ups of his eye-holes, revealing some obnoxiously prominent eyebrow hair and a ridiculous amount of drag queen eye shadow. In a perfect world this would have been played for laughs but no, apparently we (or Turkish moviegoers who never read comics) were meant to take it seriously.
Luckily for Turkish moviegoers and the people of Istanbul alike, there actually is a Marvel hero (who remains a hero) who can stop old "Spider" and he happens to be coming to Turkey right about… now. It’s Captain America himself (here played by the thoroughly Turkish Aytekin Akkaya)! Now, I will admit that I am not an expert on Turkish fandom, but why the hell would the makers choose Captain America for this gig? This is the one hero who's explicitly tied to one nation and is not exactly "international", especially in his attire. Maybe the only costume they could find was Cap’s? However, the American Hero apparently forgot to bring his signature shield with him. It must have been one heavy carryon.
Why this is especially bad is that this Ottoman celluloid version of the Sentinel of Liberty could not fight his way out of a wet paper bag. Oh, he seems to keep winning his fights, amazingly, but this is less because of his patriotic superhero prowess than it is the fact that the Spider-Turks that Captain Turkey keeps facing off with are worse fighters than he is! At one point a bad guy actually knocks himself out by accidentally walking into Captain America's ass while the "hero" is hanging upside down.
Lucky for the battle-challenged Captain, he's not facing the (I still cannot believe this) "villainous" Spider-Man all by himself. No, if the informal English title fails to clue you in enough, the makers of 3 Dev Adam were not content to merely rip off Captain America and Spider-Man, but also Mexican wrestler El Santo. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn't care to learn anything about that stolen character, either.
The masked Luchadore was actually Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta in real life (and never removed his mask in public) but Yavuz Selekman’s unauthorized impersonation is out of his mask so often that I had trouble understanding that the guy in the mask and cape was the same guy walking around with the equally unmasked excuse for Captain America.
Even those performances beat the depiction of poor old Spider-Man, whose representation here is almost as offensive to comics fans as 2004’s Catwoman was. In addition to the beer gut, bad eye shadow and huge eyebrows, this sorry excuse for Spider-Man has absolutely no powers. He shoots no webs, he dispatches victims by strangulation, switchblade stabbing and, in one case, even sets a hungry rat on to the eyeballs of a nemisis. He climbs no walls and never fights like Spidey. He's just some jerk in a bad costume. He is, however, damned hard to kill, especially in the nonsensical finalé during which... you'd have to see it to believe it.
Not that I recommend that you do see it. It's so bad that only a little kid could take it seriously, but the blood, violence and nudity bar this from any eight-year-old’s watch list.
We are wholly independent, with no corporate backers.
Simply whitelisting PopMatters is a show of support.
Another Turkish film you should avoid like the plague actually does feature a kid as the main character. It's called Seytan (1974) and the kid in question is a little girl named "Gul" played by Canan Perver. Her mother, painfully in fear that her daughter must be possessed by an evil being, is credited, appropriately, as "Gul’s Mother" and is brought to us by Meral Taygun.
Yes, Seytan is an unauthorized, uninteresting, unflattering and uncontrollably bad rip off of The Exorcist (1973).
If you appreciated the shot-for-shot remake approach in Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (1998), have I got a film for you. From the early mention of "clean rats" in the attic to a silly excuse for a Ouija board to an imaginary friend ("Captain Lersen" instead of "Captain Howdy") turning out to be an evil demon bent on possession, if it happened in The Exorcist it happens in Seytan only much, much, much worse. It seems that director Metin Erksan had desperately wanted to rip off The Exorcist, but failed to understand it well enough to do so.
The special effects look like silly parlor tricks. The tricks behind the bouncing and floating bed are easily seen, the latter covered the cheapness with horrible lighting. There is even a chain-smoking cop like The Exorcist’s Kinderman. Hilariously melodramatic uses of the zoom lens are all over the film. The music is corny and attempts to be frightening even in the most innocuous of moments (like Gul playing tennis with her mother). At best the movie is cartoonish. At one point, Gul punches a doctor in the testicles and even that manages to be overacted. The Exorcist looks like a homeless Santa Claus and the Pazuzu statue is obviously paper mâché.
Needless to say, I have experienced inpatient surgeries that were less painful than watching this movie.
All of that could be forgiven due to budget limitations, but let’s focus on the real crime: plagiarism. Seytan is most commonly called "Turkish Exorcist" in the West, for obvious reasons. The list of these Turkey turkeys goes on and on and on with movies like "Turkish Wizard of Oz" and "Turkish Star Trek", but the next movie on our list is the mother lode.
Not content to simply be complicit in the theft of Captain America, Spidey and Santos, actor Aytekin Akkaya came back nine years after 3 Dev Adam to join forces with fellow actor Cüneyt Arkin (who also is credited as having written the -- ha, ha -- "screenplay") for a new height in rip-off cinema called Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (1983). If you haven’t heard it, perhaps you have heard it referred to as "Turkish Star Wars".
What makes this film, the title of which translates to something like "The Man Who Saved the World", both the pinnacle and nadir of Turkey cinema? Well, "Turkish Star Wars" is a complete mess, seemingly edited with a Cuisinart, that rips off just about everything from Star Wars to Raiders of the Lost Ark to your local Halloween costume store’s window display.
Much like the aforementioned Space Mutiny, all of the space scenes are stolen, this time from Star Wars. In that Universal created Battlestar Galactica to cash in on Star Wars I would not be surprised if Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam inspired Space Mutiny.
There's a Death Star that blows up a planet in a dramatic moment (literally the same stolen Alderaan scene from the 1977 flick) but because the planet all of the action takes place on seems to be blissfully unmarked by this tragedy, the destroyed globe seems to be a completely random and remote planet with no bearing on the story. We have Storm troopers firing on Tie Fighters (from indoors) and X-Wings firing on the Millennium Falcon for no apparent reason.
Around this time we are introduced to our two main "characters" played by Arkin and Akkaya. I say we are "introduced" to these clowns but what we actually see is each "actor" in a silly-looking go-cart crash helmet sitting in front of a movie screen which displays the stolen and badly re-edited Star Wars space scenes while mumbling about them. I could have been fooled into thinking I was watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, were it not for the fact that the morons were facing the audience instead of the screen behind them. These guys are supposedly pilots in the space battle, but they look and behave as if they were darted with 78CCs of Novocain each.
Our Emperor/ Vader/ Ming-esque main villain looks like an escapee from a bad Kabuki community theater company wearing a corrugated cardboard mask with spikes all over it. His minions partially consist of a legion of Cylon rip-offs that look like something either out of the worst cosplay convention of all time or a high school production of R.U.R. -- Rossums Universal Robots.
Turkish Star Wars seems to have been made with the idea that any costume would be acceptable and might even improve the movie, no matter how bad, how Halloween-cheap, how easy it is to see the seams and zippers in the flesh and fur of the "Aliens", where the rubber mask ends and the actors neck begins or how incongruous these things might be for a scene. Murat (Arkin) seems to be fighting the legion of cheap cosplay Cylons along with a gaggle of British Red Coats with poorly realized Spanish Conquistador helmets on. These are joined by hairy monster aliens and, you guessed it, zombies, along with toilet paper mummies and chubby guys in "skeleton" costumes with helmets on (which makes zero sense). And then there are the racist caricatures of Japanese Samurais and a devil in a rubber mask, both of which director Çetin Inanç must have picked up in a second-hand costume shop for kids.