Sunday, October 6, 2019

Aşka Susayanlar-Seks ve Cinayet/Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder (1972)

Aşka Susayanlar-Seks ve Cinayet is known in English as Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder. If there's ever a title to draw you right into a film, it's that! Tells you everything to expect and look forward to, and builds up expectations. The only question is if the film meets them.

Happily married Mine returns home from Venice with her husband, only to find strange things happening. She's repeatedly victimised by a strange man, and a series of murders rocks the city. Could these things be connected? And what could be the answer when this stranger himself ends up dead?...

While Kadın Düşmanı was more of a krimi, Aşka Susayanlar is unmistakeably a giallo. From its lurid trappings, to how almost everyone is terrible, everyone is a suspect, and women wear little to no underwear, except when they want to give the guys (or girls) more of a challenge.

This is a decent little horror film, and at only 57 minutes long it never overstays its welcome, but it feels [a little] like it lacks something. Another half hour, some might say, but no, the pacing's alright. Maybe the story could've just been a bit more interesting. I wouldn't say it's all style no substance, but it didn't wow me either.

The mystery here is alright. Being a giallo, I figured there'd be some outrageous twist. My money was on the heroine having a split personality and would turn out to be the killer. I shan't say what it is, but it's not super compelling or out-the-box, sadly. Then there's the ending, which is simultaneously the most fun and most disappointing part of the whole movie. The tone is completely changed as the film suddenly becomes a Yeşilçam style punch-up. Entertaining, certainly but quite a bit different to what we were watching beforehand! Then of course there's the ultra-abrupt ending.

[By the way,] this is as good a time as any to say that this film is [in fact] a remake of Sergio Martino's The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh of all things! It follows the plot of that movie pretty closely, and while it might not be quite as extreme, there's still a fair amount of blood and nudity here.

Aşka Susayanlar is stylishly directed, and not all of this can be attributed to the source material, either! It succeeds in its own right. It directs the scenes it copies very well, even improving on a couple if I may say so, and features some original moments, like a blood dripping shower stabbing, or =. This film gets pretty tense in some scenes, and is never dull.

While the slashes can sometimes look like fake blood smeared over the actresses, the effects here aren't that bad. There is one hilarious severed head though. That does lead in to an interesting development though!

The actors here all do good jobs, although the men all look the same, barring the moustachioed villain. What surprised me is how Italian the girls here look! Not that Turkish women aren't pretty or stylish too (please don't kill me!), but Italian women of the giallo era had an unmistakeable look to them, which Aşka Susayanlar captures perfectly. It's as if Edwige Fenech herself learned Turkish and booked a two week trip to Istanbul!

The score here is very good! It's got a gripping Euro-thrill feel to it!...Admittedly the fact that it's been pinched for a European film might have something to do with this, but... It's familiar to me for sure, but I couldn't quite place its providence. Then, finally I worked it out, mere minutes before finishing this review! It's the theme from the Italian Charles Bronson vehicle Violent City. That did actually cross my mind, but when I thought of that movie's theme, the chandelier song from Castlevania IV popped into my head, and I went "Ah, no, close but that's a bit different.".

In any case, once you're committed to ripping off a whole movie I guess you may as well pinch/use the score too. The Turks aren't all bad in these situations though. They probably never considered it as theft, and felt such copyright laws were restrictive. After all, aren't we one big family? So what's recycling movie plots and reusing existing film soundtracks among family? Not sure the lawyers of the West would agree, but sucks to be them, Turkey has its own laws!

Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder is certainly a decent ride. It might not be the most unique of films, but it's got enough to recommend it, and its status as perhaps the only Turkish giallo make it stand out...

doesn't paint a = picture of Turkish home security[, as ],   b13, 54

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki (1970)

A young couple moves to an isolated villa as caretakers, but quickly find it to be a sinister place. Strange cackling keeps them up at night, and the butler is an unsettling presence. One night, things come to a head and both guests are killed by a maniacal ghost. Over time the being claims more victims, and sets his eyes on the latest tenant, a schoolteacher named =...

Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki (The Dead Don't Talk) gets off to a very good start! It sets the scene well, with an immediately spooky atmosphere that starts off slowly, and subtly builds...And then the main characters are killed 25 minutes in and the movie suddenly becomes a parade of death scenes and cackling. Disappointing, right?? The movie = becomes unfocused,   After a while it suddenly feels like the movie had begun looping! Except this time with a significantly less interesting protagonist who barely opens her mouth. She eventually redeemed herself in my eyes though when she actually ran from the killer! She gets away in a really impressive way too. I question why she chooses to keep staying in the creepy = house though. [Cheap rent only goes so far.]

Overall, despite the new lead ='s relative quietness and meekness, she's pretty proactive and fearless! Meanwhile, the first couple may get more interactions, but they're marginally stupider people. The husband = has brought a gun with him to this = job for unforseen reasons, seeing fit to brandish/brandishing it about every chance he gets. When his wife asks "What good is a gun for ghosts?" all he can say is "Don't be childish, Oya." Oi, dickhead, she asked a sensible question! He deserves his inevitable violent death.

The villain is pretty one dimensional, although the way he = is at least interesting. The butler meanwhile seems =, despite his ominous presence and sometimes crazy behaviour.

The other characters are alright. Appearing about two thirds in are these townsfolk, who provide some much needed life to the movie. They may not be the funniest, but for a movie quite sparse on dialogue, they were a treat! They also help/aid in the climax too, which is nice.

Then there's the carriage driver who takes the couple to the creepy house. Scared out of his wits, he risks his life to get them there for the money, then leaves before he gets it! I mean, it's nice that money isn't the only thing her cares about, but still, =

Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki is lit in atmospheric black and white, which goes a long way. The interesting thing about that is Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki is from 1970! It looks more like late 50s/early 60s! If one's gonna be behind the times, it's nice to be stuck in times as good as that for your movies!

There are some decently tense scenes here. One that was almost a favourite was totally silent except for a strange and ominous clicking that permeated the area...Unfortunately the scene ends up going for far too long, with nothing ultimately happening. It's repeated a bit better near the end though, which was a relief.

The death scenes are ok, but not that great. There's one in particular that's so drawn out! Even though he's right on top of his victim, the ghost takes like 2 full minutes to lean down, all while the woman endlessly screams! She never runs either, despite the ghost giving her plenty of time.

The direction and cinematography here is quite good. Some shots are framed very well, and some scenes are filmed in a neatly creative way.

The music here is cribbed from sources such as Rosemary's Baby, and 2001, A Space Odyssey. As it turns out, Also Spake Zarathustra doesn't fit well with a Gothic horror story. We even get a dash of OHMSS in one scene before being quickly cut off.

The acting in Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki is a bit of a low point. It's mostly decent at best, but whenever characters have to express = emotions, they're absolutely laughable. "I DON'T KNOWWWWWWWW!" they shriek at the top of their lungs when asked a question, while the villain's evil cackling wavers between sounding effectively spooky, and almost like wailing. = is  as the creepy butler, but unfortunately someone else palys the ghost, and...uhh, not well, if I say so diplomatically. Bloody awful!

If this was an example of Turkish horror back in the day, it's no wonder it took so long to kick off! Still, Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki is an interesting experiment and time capsule if nothing else, and has got some neat things about it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Kadın Düşmanı (1967)

In the bustling streets of Istanbul, a series of brutal murders has rocked the community. It seems no woman is safe, as they are targeted by a masked killer. Police detective Kemal is able to work out a clue-The names of the victims all match the street they lived in, and he realises the killer is making an acrostic. Intent on stopping this fiend before he can finish it, Kemal must also keep his new girlfriend safe from harm...

Kadın Düşmanı (Woman Despiser) is considered by some to be a Turkish giallo, but is has more in common with the German krimi-lurid to an extent, but more heroic, as well as less violent and bleak.

For a simple b-picture, this tackles a lot of social issues! Misogyny among men and other women, the status of widows/widowers in 1960s Turkey, and the stigma of remarrying, or hanging around at night with men who are just friends.

The story here is pretty simple. A maniac is going around killing women, and the police try to stop him. Bang up job they do too, only getting him when half a dozen mondaines are in the ground!

The movie is well paced, although has one big issue. It probably should've only been an hour long, but it's 90 minutes. This isn't so bad a problem that I was clawing for the remote and praying to Allah that it would get on with it, but I was getting a little antsy. This is no more evident than in the scene when the imprisoned suspects accuse the peeping tom who's just been thrown in the cell of being the killer. They keep saying the same points over and over!

The characters here are quite well written, and engaging enough leads. One weird point is that there's an inordinate number of people with dead spouses in this movie!

Kemal and Oya are decently fleshed out, from their sad pasts, to their hopeful future. They're a sweet couple. Kemal's sister meanwhile is interesting, with her disability that maybe has more (or less) to it than she lets on. Oya's in-laws are total creeps, but they do get their more tender and likeable scenes, so they're not one dimensional assholes.

One drawback I have with the cast is that just about every man and woman in this movie looks the same! This became such a problem that when Kemal's sister kissed a photo, I couldn't tell if it was some lost love, or Kemal himself, and she had some creepy incestuous crush on him.

We get a few stupid character moments as the movie rolls on, such as with one of the victims. Even though her boyfriend literally left only three seconds ago/prior, and her very much awake father is right upstairs, she doesn't make a peep as the killer advances!

The heroine isn't free from idiocy either, like when a strange man is chasing her down the street, and when she bumps into a policeman..she just asks him for directions, then leaves! She doesn't stay, or tell him a possible maniac was on her trail!

The killer is an interesting presence, with a new mask in every scene, from a devil, to Frankenstein, and more, with giant skeleton gloves to boot! He's a little silly visually, but not too bad, and he does come across as pretty ominous, especially with the movie's effective lighting, his silence, ad his near-unbroken kill count.

When it comes to the mystery, thankfully Kadın Düşmanı thankfully has a healthy suspect list. I'm glad, because from the first moment I saw the bookish quiet young man with a fascination for his mother and a penchant for staring ominously, I declared "He's the killer!", but then we got a few more candidates with equally compelling reasons to be the murderer, so you're left guessing/on your toes. There's an impressive twist at the end too! That is, I managed to guess the twist itself, but this uncovered a bit of information that's staring at you in the face the whole time, yet you don't realise until the reveal!

There was one twist I was expecting though that didn't come to pass. All I'll say is that I was expecting the car crash to be the one holding the gun news  I'm hoping that makes zero sense unless you see the movie, and in which case you understand perfectly, and can see where I was expecting/hoping the scene to go.

The direction by Ilhan Engin is quite good. It's more than just a point-and-shoot affair, with some decently stylish camera angles here and there. The death scenes are well shot too, with the majority of them showing just enough. A couple do cut away just a tad too early than I would've liked though.

One could probably debate whether this is a thriller or horror. It can be hard to tell sometimes. I'm somewhere in the middle. On one hand it is more of a crime plot, but there's a masked killer, a sizable body count, and cobwebs aplenty, so I feel comfortable looking at it for the spooky season.

Kadın Düşmanı is quite a decent little movie. It surprised me with how good and not cheesy it is. No, it's not an undiscovered masterpiece or anything, and you wouldn't get anything out of this than you would any given Maigret book, for example, but it's still an entertaining watch, especially if you're a fan of the krimi cycle, and are curious how other countries handled the genre...

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Şeytan (1974)

The Yeşiçam era of Turkish cinema is notable from its knockoffs and remakes (whether there's a distinction depends on both the viewer and the movie in question), from Batman, to Superman, Star Trek, etc, and today's feature...

Innocent young Gül lives at home with her single mother Aytan. Together they live a peaceful (if sometimes difficult) life, until Gül begins acting strangely one day after the pair use an old Ouija board they found in the attic. Things get worse as her behaviour becomes more extreme. Aytan takes her to as many doctors as possible, but none of them can find anything wrong with Gül. Faced with no other option but believing the problem to be supernatural, Aytan calls on the church to perform an exorcism, and expel whatever demon has taken up host in her daughter's body...

Right from the get-go, Şeytan is unmistakeably The Exorcist. It faithfully recreates just about every scene, and although this is trimmed somewhat compared to that movie (it's around 20 minutes shorter), I find this somewhat merciful, as Exorcist is pretty long at two hours.

The story here is relatively unchanged from the original, so there's no complaints on the storytelling front, though there's always the perhaps on the way its handled. Thankfully the writers of Şeytan seemed to understand it just fine, so we don't get any strange diversions that ruin anything.

The main failing that could affect a movie like this is how it recreates these famous effects on a much lower budget. Now, Şeytan is by no means an expensive production, and this really shows in some scenes, most notable the archaeological dig. Instead of being a full operation in an ancient site, crawling with diggers and equipment, it's instead three guys in the desert randomly hitting the ground with picks, while the imam brushes the ground twice and immediately finds a demonic relic with zero trouble. The funniest thing to me though is that for all the cheapness, the location is just about spot on! This is Turkey after all, only a stone's throw away from Assyria.

The other cheesiest moment in the film is when the devil statue apparates in the girl's bedroom, and she starts worshiping it, moving up and down so fast it's almost comical.

What strikes me about Şeytan is how much more casual the filming seems to have been for everyone involved when compared with The Exorcist. No being crammed in chilled rooms, not being hurled around rooms by wires, or having guns going off in their ears, and whereas the original production carefully searched for an American girl up to the task of portraying a child in such a traumatic position, the Turks presumably picked any random girl off the street they could find, like it's no big deal. Americans are wimps compared to the Turks/Turkey! The conversation probably went something like this-"Hey, do you wanna play the Devil?" "Do I?".

Perhaps the most interesting difference between this and its source material is that while The Exorcist is Christian, Şeytan is Islamic. This is only a superficial change, and it doesn't affect the story in any way, but it's still an interesting cultural element to see.

The Exorcist was controversial at the time for its then extreme imagery. Some might consider it tame by today's standards, but there's no doubting that Americans in the 1970s were terrified. Some moments you could imagine making it in to Şeytan unscathed, but others like the peeing scene or masturbation with a crucifix you would imagine wouldn't by a long shot...Ummm, they actually do! The latter scene is even worse, if you can believe it! Şeytan makes up for the distinct lack of crucifixes in Turkey with, pointy replacement. The only thing that didn't make the cut was the profanity.

Its cheesiness aside, Şeytan is well made. After all, it is only a simple/typical possession flick, so a lot of the effects are easily achieved on a low budget, if the film crew are hardworking and dedicated enough. And it was made in only a year too, probably far less time than the original. The most convincing scenes by far are the medical ones, which look unnervingly real...No, don't worry, not that real! The Turks are industrious, not mad!

Some of the props are well crafted, others amusingly fake, like the relic the imam finds. It looks less like a 3000 year old amulet from Assyria and more like a plastic toy bought for 3 lira at a department store. The head turning is quite well achieved. There's a mix of a mannequin body and the actress's head, and while it's not a 100% perfect effect, most of the seams are covered up, and it's pretty effective.

The soundtrack here is quite good, although the fact that it nicks music from its source material might have something to do with that. Surprisingly for a Turkish film, it's pretty conservative when it comes to how many times it replays Tubular Bells. Only about three times during the whole movie!

The cast all acquit themselves here. Even in the more dramatic moments they don't give into overacting...Until the end. The end will make you laugh! Canan Perver is cute as a button as Gül, and pretty creepy when she starts turning evil. She does a very good job, from her actions to her facial expressions. You don't wanna mess with this girl! The actor who voices the Devil does a good job too, sounding gravelly and spooky enough, even if you do wish you could give them a mentos at times. Cihan Ünal does a good job in the reluctant young priest role, while Agah Hün does an alright job as the older one, though he doesn't appear enough to leave a big impact. Meral Taygun does a fine job as the concerned mother trying her best in a bad situation.

Şeytan is a decent horror film in its own right, as well as an interesting companion piece that shows how important a great story can be to a movie, and whether or not that can save it if the script is remade under different circumstances. While it's not as scary as The Exorcist, my opinion of/towards Şeytan is still a positive one...

1:22:56, 1:28