Sunday, November 13, 2022

A Yugoslav Art Double Feature (1965-7)


Man is Not a Bird (1965)

Middle-aged Czech engineer Jan Rudisnky has come to Yugoslavia to help improve a factory's technology and living/working standards. While in town he meets a young hairdresser, who finds him an apartment at her parents' place, then starts flirting. Hesitant at first, he soon reciprocates, and the two begin a relationship. But despite their optimism, it may not last...


The amusingly titled Man is Not a Bird is the first movie of Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev. He quickly made a name for himself as an iconoclastic filmmaker, being exiled from his home country after pushing his luck too far with the sex-addled W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism. Before then, his first two features paved the way for what was to come.


Despite the pedigree of who directed it, Man is Not a Bird is a surprisingly normal film, rather than being a quasi-documentary. There are a few artistic touches, such as the hypnotist directly addressing the audience with a small lecture as the movie begins (he tells a series of anecdotes, with the hilarious coda "The moral is: Magic is absolute nonsense. You must fight it"), as well as a few stylised moments (like some comedy subtitles). But other than that this is a fairly straightforward romantic-drama.


There's a message here about common workers, and what it is is up for debate, whether positive or negative (and certainly the government wouldn't have allowed direct and scathing criticism). My interpretation is that businesses are unappreciative of its workers. Even Jan himself is overworked with crunch-times for new projects, but does it anyway without complaint, for the good of the party. The film never feels like it's attacking Communism specifically for this (although perhaps implying it), just companies in general. In one scene Jan shares a nice conversation with the lazy worker he's otherwise at odds with. There's also an unresolved subplot about stolen materials.

Jan and Rajka are ok leads. Jan is resistant to sleeping with her at first, seeing her as an inexperienced kid who doesn't know what she's in for. All it takes to change his mind is to call him old and say maybe he hasn't got the touch anymore, then suddenly he dives for her room. Well, you didn't put up much of a fight!


Their romance is portrayed well. The film doesn't shy away from Jan being old, wrinkled, and a bit paunchy. While they have chemistry, and tings go well at first, there are a few problems, like their relationship being built around sex. Jan can also be evasive. When Rajka asks him if he's married or other questions, he just gives her the silent act.

The way their relationship turns out is a bummer, but given the 30 year age gap, plus their personality defects, it's understandable. The main way I find it a downer is less in terms of the break-up, and more what it represents for Rajka's character. She seems like a good girl, ready for a nice committed relationship, but then she abruptly decides riding the cock of the sweaty trucker who's been harassing her all movie is a good idea. Once the deed is done she tries smoothing things over by telling Jan it meant nothing to her, and she still loves him. Then she's stunned to discover he's somewhat angry at her.


The other main characters of the film are scruffy and rude factory worker Barbulović, and his wife and mistress. This segment has both drama, courtesy of Barbool's verbal abuse, and humour, from his wife's conflict with his mistress when they meet. Barbool is a pathetic figure, always complaining, starting fights in bars (which causes the oddly offscreen knifing of a singer), and is facing obsolescence. He also clearly has a type, that being gaunt mousy women who look like they've been crying.

After a fight over dresses, the two women surprisingly become friends, and vow together to no longer put up with control and abuse from cruel men. It's a really nice ending for their characters, and I spent the rest of the movie praying they wouldn't have another scene, so that happiness would be unspoilt. Luckily this is the case.


While Man is Not a Bird starts off pretty strongly, it started to peter out halfway through, and I started losing interest, and looking at the clock. The climax features a Beethoven recital, and it's such a grand moment that it briefly restored my spirits.

After the inevitable break-up, we have a pretty effective final scene with Jan, then superfluous circus ending that serves only to drag the movie out further, as if they had to hit 80 minutes no matter what. Then we get a bizarre narration stressing that Roko the Hypnotist does not use plants, but hypnosis is in fact real. The End.


The acting here is pretty good. Janez Vrhovec is an ok lead. He looks kinda like a sad dog. Milena Dravić does well too, and looks great. Roko Ćirković has a small but pretty memorable role as the Hypnotist. In a small role is Bata Stojković, adorably young here are only 31 (he's most famous for his middle aged roles). The rest of the supporting cast is fine, from the two mousy women, to the grubby Barbool. We also have some amusingly overacting extras during the hypnosis sequence.


The score is decent, though a bit overdramatic. We're told how to feel with every DUN DUNNN. We get some fun nightclub music too, and of course the final rendition of Ode to Joy. It's funny at first seeing one guy miming along to the operatic bits and obviously not really singing, but aside from that it fits in well.

Lastly, Makavejev has a great eye for shots, and delivers a very nice looking picture, with plenty of variety too. There are a few wildly shot moments, but never so much that it feels sickening.


It may be lacking in some areas, but as far as feature debuts go, Man is Not a Bird is decently impressive...


Love Affair or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967)

Izabela is a young carefree switchboard operator, who meets friendly Serbian man Ahmed. They quickly forge a strong and sensual relationship. But things face a roadblock when he must go away for a month, and she can't wait to appease her ravenous libido...


Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator is where Makavejev's career really began down the path he'd become notorious for. He combines a romantic-drama with elements of documentary, and a surrealist touch in many scenes. With such an almost flippantly long title, I went in expecting a comedy, and there are a few funny lines early on.


The film's subtitle ('Tragedy' in the original translation) is the first thing to give away its darker side, and as we see more details, the more we realise we're seeing the dead body of our main character, and the events up till now have been leading up to her death. The most effective scene in the film is when after a bitter encounter, we see a brief cutaway showing a police report, identifying Ahmed as the suspect in Izabela's murder, before cutting back to the present.


Where the film falters for me is the the story just isn't that interesting. It was good to start with, but there's not much to it. It's all a bit too basic, and I began to loves interest after a while. And the ending is pretty abrupt. When everything is resolved, the film abruptly stops.

Love Affair may be a bit boring overall. However you must admit, if any film has a dull story, the best thing it can do is know to be short, and Love Affair does just that, at only 68 minutes long! While it does still outstay it's welcome just a smidge, I could never hold too much against a movie for willfully being so short.

The characters are alright at first. Ahmed is a decent guy, while Izabela is a cheeky girl whose attitude is best summed up with this line of dialogue-"Just so you know, I've gone two months without a man, and that's too long for a Hungarian girl.".


Unfortunately Izabela turns out to be a major slut. She acts all lovey-dovey at first, and forges a real connection with Ahmed. Even though he may not be a knight in shining armour, she loves him, flaws and all...Until he has to go away on work for a few weeks. Suddenly she proclaims she's not made of wood, and has to get laid, so she immediately cheats on him with the lecherous postie who's been harassing her the whole movie (This again?).

This does raise an interesting question. In this situation, who is worse? A man for sexually badgering a seemingly uninterested lady, or the woman for accepting his advances despite having a spouse? Naturally the guy initiating this is the one to blame, but one always has the obvious choice of simply not nailing the hornbag who's hitting on them. Said hornbag actually tries absolving himself of blame, saying all he does is present wives with good news in the mail, and they just get so beside themselves with joy that they kiss him and then... This would be a hard enough pill to swallow if he wasn't saying it while chatting up a taken woman! And he's persistent almost to a molesting degree. Needless to say, as much as I disliked Izabela by the end, he is an absolute cunt of the highest degree, and I wanted his handsy fingers broken.


In a way it feels like this film is a do-over of Man is Not a Bird. Like Makavejev wanted to take that same germ of a story, and take it in a different direction, further to what he saw as a logical conclusion.

One of the film's big messages is how sex and violence are intertwined. The two authoritises interviewed are a sexologist and criminologist, and both their fields are where the story lies. It begins with sex and ends in crime. Whether or not you actually agree with it is another matter entirely, of course. There are a great many people out there who don't have sex, and don't go around beheading people with roller skates, and I'm sure nymphomaniacs usually don't do the same.


One little observation from the Criminologist scenes. We are shown photos of dead bodies that I'm pretty sure aren't real, although I wouldn't put it past Makaveyev, since he used footage of the Katyn massacre in Sweet Movie.

Something to be admired is the film's frankness. It discusses topics like sex without any pussyfooting around. It also shows the central character's autopsy in a dispassionate and open way, hiding nothing.


The film is occasionally intercut with other footage. Most notable is an old film reel showing the dismantling of churches in the new communist state. What this represents among the film's sexual theories is up for debate. Not much is made of Ahmed being a Muslim, although that might just be because we're over 20 years into a Communist state. He's of Muslim heritage but probably just grew up as an atheist.

There is also a superfluous history lesson on black rats in Europe, a few weird text flashes, and some naked ballerina poses in place of a sex scene.


The direction is very good. There are many nicely framed shots, an iconic moment featuring the reclining nude heroine and a cat (she's lucky she didn't get her ass scratched!), and a delectable showcase of a Balkan dessert.

The music here is pretty nice. There are some music box tunes, and a few German Communist chants, which are rousing enough to get you badly mimicking German, even if you have no idea what's being sung.


Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator is an ok watch, but overall unfulfilling for me. While I had hoped it'd be more comedic, I did go into it expecting anything or nothing, so I suppose I'm not too disappointed. It's not the best movie in the world, but it's not bad. It's certainly a well-made and creative film at least, so Dušan Makavejev has something to be proud of...

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

The Tempest (1979)


On a distant island lives the magician Prospero and his youthful daughter Miranda. Their isolation is ended when Prospero commands his fairy Ariel to wreck a nearby ship, containing the Neapolitan royalty. While everyone makes it ashore safely, they are separated from Ferdinand, the king's son, and both parties presumes the other to be dead. As they make their way to the island's centre, the prince is found by the island's master, where he finds hardship and love...


One of Shakespeare's final plays was the fantastical romance The Tempest   It was in the 70s when avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman sought to bring it to the screen. An admirer of Shakespeare, he felt his plays still had much to offer, and threw his lot in with one of the most offbeat adaptions around.


The Tempest seems to lend itself more to abstract re-tellings, with the loony Prospero's Books being a good example (what represents the storm?!). Jarman's stab at the play is strange in two ways. The first is in its delivery, and the second is in its environment. The Tempest is set on an idyllic island, full of lush sand and trees. This  however, is set almost entirely indoors, in a run-down dilapidated manor, lit in darkness.


This is often referred to as Derek Jarman's The Tempest, for ease of comfort (since goodness knows how many others have made their own adaptions). But interestingly, the film itself goes by William Shakespeare's The Tempest. I mean, it sounds obvious, yeah, but to me that shows a level of respect Jarman had to the author, that instead of slapping his own name in the title and on the poster, he put Shakespeare's instead.


This is a good adaption, getting many of the key scenes across, as well as the core story. The dialogue is edited down from the text, but not so much that it loses the soul of the words. The omissions and changes are where it gets most interesting though. In recent decades, The Tempest has brought a wave of different readings, from feminist to post-colonial. This feels like a production inspired by that  and it delivers a unique interpretation of the play.


What really sets Jarman's The Tempest apart is its tone, and how it presents its main character. Prospero in the text is good at heart, and ends the play renouncing his magic, but even there he has his shiftier moments. This film builds from that, bringing forth a very ambiguous figure. From the darkness of the visuals, to the = in his character, Prospero here at times feels somewhat villainous.

Things come to a head in an interesting reworking of the ending. Prospero's renunciation is left out entirely, and an earlier speech in the play is shifted towards the end, where it takes on a whole new meaning. Coupled with the choice of song beforehand, this leaves us on a somewhat moody note.


Of course, it's entirely possible the film could be read straightly as a happy ending, with no bones attached. Jarman himself was inspired by the play's themes of forgiveness, so he clearly didn't see the source material as a dingy cesspool of depression and broken dreams. So one could easily read this as an upbeat ending with a simple predilection for the blues.


Derek Jarman was, among other things, a queer activist, and this was an important element in nearly all of his films, and his art. The Tempest handles this in a subtle way. There is homoerotic imagery, and one might draw subtext, but it's not like Jarman just makes Fernando and Prospero hot for each-other, or writes a threesome between the comic relief, just for the sake of it. It's deeper and more subtle than that.


One potential queer reading is in Ariel's story. That of a young gay man trapped in male bondage. His forced servitude to the witch Sycorax could represent a young homosexual stuck in an untenable relationship with a woman, before being 'rescued' by a seemingly benevolent older man, only for this new relationship to be toxic in a different way.

If I had one major complaint with the film, it's that much of the dialogue is delivered with a whisper, and this is especially a problem when the prose is already in Shakespearean English. Us modern day audience are already trying our hardest to understand the text itself. This isn't a huge problem, but could prove a slight obstacle for some.


The acting here is quite good. Heathcote Williams does a good (if occasionally over-the-top) performance as Prospero. In contrast with common = of the character, he's a younger actor, although this could just be a casting choice]. Karl Johnson is striking, with a fairy  yet mature appearance as Ariel. Toyah Willcox manages to make  Miranda  play to her strengths. She delivers a faithful Shakespearean style performance while making it her own anarchic/punk style.


David Meyer (of Octopussy henchman fame) does well as Ferdinand. The effeminate and theatrical Jack Birkett delivers a memorably goofy turn as Caliban. The rest of the cast is fine, and deliver iambic pentameter well. Claire Davenport has a short but graphically memorable role, while Christopher Biggins and Peter Turner are decent, but at times annoying comic relief. Also, not sure why he had to completely disrobe partway through though, and I can't say I was particularly keen to see his knob (no offense meant, Mr. Turner!).

Musically, The Tempest makes use of some ambient noises, like heavy breathing, like breath of the sea. Silence permeates many scenes (including, annoyingly, the end credits). That's not to say it's not a musical film though, as it gives a big [show] for the final act. This culminates with the spectacular rendition of Stormy Weather by none other than famous Broadway singer Elisabeth Welch.


Jarman directs The Tempest with a great eye for details. Many shots could be paintings, and the imagery goes hand in hand with the tone the film is going for. The camera is often languid, and every now and then there's a wild movement or amusing zoom. There is much of his visuals and themes here, from a Gnostic influence, with old English mysticism that feels right at home in Shakespeare, and his admiration of the nude male body. The scene of Fernando emerging from the ocean, battered naked by the storm, a pure and innocent figure, feels like a definitive moment in Karman's filmography.


The indoors setting to The Tempest comes courtesy of Stoneleigh Abbey, a dwelling from Shakespeare's time. Filming was held here due to the small budget, but the presence of such a historical location goes a long way! The building was in a state of severe disrepair after a fire some years earlier. There were holes in the ceiling, tons of leaves had fallen through, and piles of ash were still lying about. This appearance gives a strong sense of decay, but also opulence, especially when it's restored in the brighter scenes.


The clothing design is worthy of mention too. Each character has a distinct outfit, namely Miranda, in a torn dress adorned in seashells. I was interested by the visual parallels between how Sycorax and Miranda are dressed.

The lighting here is predominately dark, and this is mostly in an effective way, though at times it does get a bit much. Every now and then we get scenes with bright light and coloured walls, contrasting well. There are also a few outside scenes, which use a day-for-night process, plus a blue tint. This is good in small does, though after a while it becomes a little too blue.


This is a fascinating and = film. Derek Jarman really makes The Tempest his own, while bringing out the magic of Shakespeare's words. Naturally this isn't a movie for everyone. You've gotta be a fan of classical plays, art films, and homosexual =. But if you're into at least one, and don't mind seeing rather a lot of male nudity, this is a great film to check out...

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Turkish Star Wars (1982) and Turkish Star Wars 2 (2006)


Turkish Star Wars

In the annals of 'so bad they're good' cinema, one film came from humble origins to shock the internet. Opening the eyes of many to the glorious world of Turkish 'mockbusters', it quickly came to be known as Turkish Star Wars...

During a fierce space battle, two Turkish fighter pilots, Murat and Ali, crashland on a mysterious planet, formerly known as the Earth. They soon discover it is under the tyrannical rule of an evil wizard, who seeks a human brain to give him dominion over the entire universe. Will these earthlings be strong enough to stop him and his armies?...


Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, translating to The Man Who Saved the World, is a 1982 sci-fi picture, starring Turkish action sensation Cüneyt Arkın, and reliable star Aytekin Akkaya. After releasing in its home country, it was obscure for decades, until film buffs in the west discovered it, earning it a new fan name that stuck fast.

Turkish Star Wars has been labelled as one of the worst films ever made, and given the complete lack of budget, 'borrowed' footage, and the unbridled lunacy, it's hard to argue with that, but it is so entertaining, and wholesome in its DIY nature that it's hard to dislike.


Turkey is known for its 'mockbusters', making their own unauthorised versions of properties like Superman, Batman, James Bond, Rambo, etc. While most of these films were content to simply copy the ideas, Turkish Star Wars is an outlier in that it actually pinches footage, directly from A New Hope! This wasn't common, and it makes this a pretty unique film, even among its own type. Certainly the most audacious!

In terms of local mockbusters, Turkish Star Wars actually comes quite late! The majority of these films were from the 60s and 70s, and after the Yeşilçam era ended abruptly at the dawn of the 80s (due to political turmoil), films were still made, but there was a definite change [in the air]. Although, while this does come as late as 1982, you wouldn't know it to look!


The creators have always stood by the finished product, which is laudable. One defense I've heard from them is that the film was meant for children. One one hand that's not a great excuse when children's media should still be good, but on the other hand, it does have the completely off-the-wall vibe and absurd logic of children's program. Although it is pretty violent. But it is Turkish, so that explains that. In any case, this doesn't excuse Turkish Star Wars, but it does at least go to explain some of its more wild eccentricities.


The story in Turkish Star Wars is completely nonsensical. If you watch this without subtitles, you won't have any idea what's going on. If you watch with subtitles, you're gonna be even more confused! The film begins with a massive infodump about the future, space, nuclear war, shields made from magical brains, planetary destruction, and more. The lore is never kept straight either. All humanity became one tribe, but Turks still exist, and humanity flourished in a space empire, but the earth was also destroyed, sort of. These futuristic pilots come from Earth, yet the primitive planet they visit is also Earth? We see lots of ancient Egyptian landmarks, but are told they're futuristic? The wizard needs a human brain to rule the galaxy...so the humans here are apparently not human, otherwise he could just steal their brains? And this is all without getting into what the wise man says later. If you're looking to make sense of the story here, good luck!


In-case you're wondering if the story itself actually has anything to do with Star Wars, the answer is No. If anything it's got more in common with Flash Gordon. The film is set on a desert planet, and we do get a cantina scene, but that's it.

The two heroes are an entertaining pair. Stoic, but comical, and most definitely badass, their exploits range from tearing off monsters' arms and using them as weapons, to catching swords in their mouths and karate chopping them to pieces! The main hero is Murat, who eventually finds a sacred golden sword and brain (Arkın had a thing for impractically large swords!), which he eventually melts down and shoves his hands right in, which somehow manages to create a perfect pair of gauntlets!

Ali meanwhile is captured during the midsection, and makes a mistake due to desperation, which you think he'll die from. But then he survives, only to die quite suddenly and randomly later on.


One point of interest is the film's Islamic themes, which don't seem to be talked about as much in comparison with the wilder aspects. These make for a pretty unique sci-fi film, even if it can verge on the slightly patronising.

The Star Wars footage used here is almost exclusively from the Death Star Battle. What's going on is tenuous at best, with ships being good or evil at complete random, scenes are reversed, or played out of order, and at one point during the final battle we even see the earth (aka Alderaan) being destroyed, despite that not happening.The pilot scenes are hilarious, with the leads just being seated in front of projectors as they play Star Wars behind them, sometimes even changing scene as they fly.

Besides Star Wars, there is footage from other films here too, such as Sodom and Gomorrah (which I had to google), to The Magic Sword (which I recognised on my own!). These are spliced in pretty well, and there's a decent(ish) amount of effort to mesh the different footage.


Once you get past the pinched footage, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam has some decent visuals, if not high-budget. The film is shot in Cappadocia, which fits well for an alien landscape. There's a good amount of extras, and sense of scale. Say what you will about how the film looks, but you don't direct 100 films without picking up at least a little experience.

The editing is insane, going all over the place with many quick cuts. This all adds to the almost hallucinatory feel the film has. Some scenes are showm through a viewfinder for no apparent reason. It's particularly funny at the end, when the wizard is karate chopped in half, and this is shown by blacking out either half of the screen.


The effects here are cheap, hilarious, and adorable, in equal measure. The props are like cardboard, and the imagery for things like lasers can get pretty creative, like actually scratching the film. Special mention must go to the costumes. They are designed seemingly at random, with strange devil genie masks, to giant red teddy bears, skeleton knights, and more. While they look straight from a kids' TV show, what genuinely impresses is just how many there are! They come apart really well too, with the heroes often karate chopping off whole limbs and heads, or knocking them right in half.

The music is likewise taken from various sources. Most notably, the soundtrack to Indiana Jones, with the famous theme playing non-stop. You're bound to get a laugh every time it plays, from the sheer brazenness, to the fact that it's from the wrong George Lucas movie! The most original piece is the opening theme, which is surprisingly mellow muzak. Whether it's an original composition I'm not sure, but it's a fun listen, and a neat alternative to the Star Wars theme.


The acting here is cheesy, but the cast do their best. Cüneyt Arkın and Aytekin Akkaya are fun leads, and have charisma, even if Akkaya's stoicism can look wooden at times. And they're real troopers too, not only for some of the conditions they deal with, but also for taking such an insane film so seriously.

The action in Turkish Star Wars is a highlight, and one of its most distinctive features. It is ridiculous, in the best way! The heroes use karate and jump around like they're on trampolines. The best bit is by far the training montage, now one of the film's most famous scenes. From karate chopping rocks in the fakest way possible (for good reason, since those are real rocks!), to hurling styrofoam boulders till they explode, and strapping giant rocks to their legs as they run and jump, it's the funniest thing you could imagine.


One thing that helps the action excel is that as cheesy as it is, the performers do know what they're doing. And the film certainly delivers! Some people wonder what the Turkish reaction to this was, and if it was pure embarrassment, but considering they went in to see these stars kicking ass, I don't think any audience members were disappointed!


Turkish Star Wars is a bonafide cult classic for good reason, and more than lives up to its reputation. If you're looking for a fun popcorn time with friends, or just curious about out-there cinema, it's well worth a watch...


Turkish Star Wars 2: Turks in Space

In the year 2055, a Turkish spaceship flies through the stars on a rescue mission. Flighty captain Kartal is searching for his missing friend Gökmen, but after 8 years the bored crew has pretty much given up. They finally get a new lead after a collision with an alien craft, and explore the alien world of Lunaticia. Now they must contend with Zaldabar, son of an evil alien warlord. But why does he look so similar to Kartal? And can he save this world, just like his father saved Earth so many years ago?...

Turkish Star Wars sat in obscurity for many years, before exploding in popularity once the internet discovered it. Following this, it got a chance very few of its kind, if any, ever got. A sequel! The Son of the Man Who Saved the World (Dünyayı Kurtaran Adamın Oğlu), or more simply, Turks in Space (but most commonly referred to by the bootleg title), came out in 2006, 34 years after the original.


Since its release, Turks in Space has been little seen, and has garnered a reputation as being worse than its predecessor. Some of this is put down to it trying to be a knowingly bad movie, while but others were disappointed it had real special effects, rather than continued use of Star Wars footage. That first point I can understand, and I'll get into my own opinion later. As for the second, I'm sorry to say but copyright laws have in fact improved in Turkey since the 1970s. You'll still see a few knockoffs, and unoriginality is rife, but as the world gets smaller and lawyers get more vicious, I'm not exactly gonna blame the filmmakers for not going the lazy route and stealing footage.


I went into this with an open mind, hoping to like it, but expecting it to be bad. Having finally seen 'Turkish Star Wars 2', I can safely say it's a hidden gem! =.

While it may be a cash-grab on the first's sudden internet popularity, the film never tries riding its predecessor's coattails. This has good and bad sides. The good is obvious, while the bad, if you could call it that, is that is doesn't really have much to to with the first film's story, and is in no way consistent in time or place. Ordinarily that'd be a warning sign, but remember how incoherent the first film is? What we're told doesn't match with what we see, and what we see doesn't match with what's happening.


Interestingly enough, this makes more of an effort to be like Star Wars, with a few gags here and there, although it's predominately its own thing. It also climaxes in a lightsaber battle that hinges on the villain not being someone's father!

The film is low on callbacks or in-jokes, the biggest being a funny comment on the 'brainless' aliens of the first entry. Besides being a Turkish Star Wars sequel, the film also pays respect to the original Turkish name, The Man Who Saved the World. The only problem however is Cüneyt Arkın's fleeting appearances.

As I said, I've heard some criticising Turks in Space for being self aware, but I disagree. The film is comedic, but not strictly a comedy, per se. The plot is lighthearted, but takes itself seriously, and is never obnoxious about being a sequel to a famous 'bad movie' ("HA HA, aren't our effects so terrible? It's funny because we know we're bad!"). At its worst, this is just a random lowbrow comedy, and people who call it one of the worst films ever made need to see more movies, and stop jumping on bandwagons.


The story is fairly basic, and has a few cliches, but it moves along quickly, and is always enjoyable. There are a few twists and turns, and while you can generally see how things will play out, it's never boring. The ending felt weird at first, like the movie was already over, but it kept going. But by the end I thought it was a good coda, and really wraps up the movie well.

The humour here is pretty successful. While it may be a bit lowbrow at times, it's not like it's an American Pie film, and there's a level of sincerity to it that makes it go down easily. The focus on shipboard antics make this feel more like a Turkish Red Dwarf, which is definitely not a bad thing. One favourite joke was a crewmember trying to figure out the direction to Mecca in space.


As the English title says, Turks in Space makes a lot about the novelty of having Turkish sci-fi heroes, with plenty of over-the-top patriotism. It could be annoying if it was serious, but you can tell it's just a harmless joke. Also of note is that Turks understand a key element to science fiction-Put the word Space in front of everything!

Something that interested me is how the film appears to be influenced by 2004's sci-fi comedy G.O.R.A. They make for interesting companion pieces, and each do things better than the other one. For example, GORA has more planets and proper aliens, while Turks in Space has more spaceships and better pacing/runtime, and GORA is cruder in its humour, while this is milder. So if you found the former too obnoxious and want something similar, but toned down, this is for you. I wouldn't say one is better-They're both pretty equal.


While we're on the subject, I don't think it's fair to call this a ripoff of GORA either. If one film popularises a genre, it doesn't make every new film a cash-grab even if they do owe it their success. I find that a needlessly cynical attitude. If a kung fu film is popular, you're gonna get a lot of new kung fu films-Why complain?! Frankly the world needs as many Turkish sci-fi films as it can get!

The characters are a high point. Kartal is endearing if crazy, and not incompetent. There's variety in the crew, with a robot, AI, men, women, a cheeky but goodhearted kid, adorable little dog, a dotty old lady, etc. We've also got a bit of diversity in the form of a black crewmember, with a neat accent. They have amusing personalities, and get some funny moments, like when discussing past jobs. As lazy or annoyed as they can be, they band together well when the time calls for it.


The villains are a fun bunch. The true baddie rarely appears, but is distinct, and has good scenes. It's Zaldabar who has more screentime, and his character is well-crafted. As Kartal's long lost brother, and the other son of the Man who saved the world, you know he's gonna switch sides, but he has a believable turnaround. He may be villainous, but in more of a comicbook way than being genuinely evil. He does lose a bit of villainous identity after he gets a shave/haircut, but the reason is funny, and the change in appearance works overall. Also you can actually tell they look the same now.

An important crewmember is Gonca, who has an unreciprocated passion for her captain, before being kidnapped by Zaldabar. She takes no guff from him, and even gives out romantic advice! And soon enough, she starts to like him instead. After all, she's stuck on Kartal, but he clearly doesn't love her back, while his twin Zaldabar loves Maya, who hates him. The chemistry between these two then comes naturally. Their whole dynamic reflect well on Gonca too. She falls for him, but instead of betraying all her old friends, she's able to bring everyone together. Quite a surprising arc for someone who started out as a bit of a ditz!


Alien princess Maya doesn't appear a lot, but is a spunky enough character. In their short time time together, Kartal and Maya share good chemistry. It is goofy that they're so in love after literally only a day, but it's presented well.

Not only is the human crew after Gökmen, last seen lost in space, we also get some random references to him from the aliens. There's no context to this, just mentioning him out of nowhere. This eventually makes sense and gets decent payoff, but it is weird how he remains an unseen character for so long. This plays into one of the few problems I had with the movie. It's not that it has a few too many characters, since they all have their place, but not all get as much screentime as they should've, like Gökmen, and the assistant captain. The same is true for the Man who saved the world. I understand not giving him a huge role, and there's a good image of him built up through conversation, but he just appears too little!

The acting here is good all round. The lead is Turkish comedian Mehmet Ali Erbil. Vast as my experience with Turkish cinema may be, I'd never seen him in a film before, except for Hababam Sınıfı Güle Güle...which was made almost 30 years before this, so I didn't recognise him. He does a great job with his dual role. He's meek, friendly, and slightly clumsy as Kartal, then stern and authoritarian as Zaldabar, successfully making near identical characters feel different.


The rest of the sizable cast do well, with one highlight being Ayşen Gruda. I was excited to see her name in the credits, and while her role is a minor one, it's always consistent and she's never wasted. She felt like a latter day Adile Naşit, which is certainly amusing when you're famliar with her old roles.

Cüneyt Arkın, star of the last film, only has a brief cameo, and we next see him an hour later, frozen in ice. He doesn't get a proper scene until the very end. This may sound like a cheat, and it kind of is, but part of me doesn't mind, since it allows the film to carve its own identity and not coast on his popularity...On the other hand, he has top billing and is on the poster, front and centre! Surely we could've had a bit more of last film's hero jumping about?...Well, not jumping. I think there's a law about 70 year olds jumping on trampolines.
 

The effects here are surprisingly good! A lot of it is done with computers, but it never looks fake, and I really liked some of the alien backdrops. Actors are integrated into these environments fairly seamlessly. The practical effects are decent. There's a greater emphasis here on costumes than prosthetics, which is disappointing for those expecting a lot of aliens, although I suppose it does lend an old-school 'aliens all look human' aesthetic. One of the few alien costumes we see is a cheap design which takes the bold stance of asking "What if the three-boobed lady from Total Recall wasn't sexy".


The film is directed by classic Yeşilçam actor Kartal Tibet, who found a second career behind the camera. As far as actors go, he's a pretty decent director, and does a good job here. I particularly liked some of the establishing imagery (although if that's his doing or the effects man I dunno).

The music here is quite good! It has a video game feel in some parts, which is usually a plus in my eyes. There's a surprising minimum on overtly goofy tracks, and there are more which feel rousing and adventurous. There's one particular moment during a reveal near the end that had an inspirational feel to it.


Son of the Man Who Saved the World is a real surprise, and one of the best Turkish films I've seen recently. It's nothing like Turkish Star Wars, but it is what Turkish Star Wars should have been. If you want to watch an eastern sci-fu flick, this is a great choice...