Sunday, January 30, 2022

Gülizar (1972)

Mid-century Hollywood delivered plenty of fun romantic comedies, before the scene eventually changed. We still got new rom-coms, but updated for a modern era, as things often are. But there are always holdouts, and such films were still in vogue even 20 years later in countries such as Turkey, for which we can be grateful. Despite changing times, there were still plenty of films to scratch that Doris Day style itch, such as 1972s Gülizar...

Pervin is a mischievous girl, fresh out of school and eager to have fun. For a laugh, she applies at a nightclub (under a pseudonym), and to her surprise is accepted. She soon attracts the attention of playboy Suat, and it turns out the couple are betrothed to each-other. Eager to rebuff his advances, Pervin causes him to break off the engagement, but this only causes more trouble when the in-laws all wonder why Suat's ignoring their daughter in favour of this singer-Gülizar...

Gülizar is a fairly conventional romcom, both by its own country's standards, and internationally. This is a good thing, as it's a thoroughly enjoyable time. There are all the expected characters, conflicts, and cliches, but all handled in a fun way.

The movie is fairly simple, as well as economical. We're introduced well to our heroine, and her life. In fact the movie could've done a little more. Pervin's school life is almost immediately dispensed with, as if she graduated offscreen. I'm not saying it should've stayed a major element of the movie, but an extra scene or two would've been nice.

After the set-up, the film mainly focuses on Suat trying to woo Gülizar, with mixed success, until he finally charms his way through her hard exterior. There's a bit of drama, but never unbearably so, and the romance feels believable enough.

Pervin, alias Gülizar, is an enjoyable lead. Sweet, and slightly naughty, she's always fun to watch. Likewise, Suat is your typical Casanova, swanning from woman to woman, until he sees the one girl he can't have, and suddenly he's ensnared.

Meanwhile, the fathers off the prospective in-laws find themselves at each-other's throats after the marriage falls through, and their arguments grow more and more heated, all while their wives sit on the sidelines, exasperated at what men they're being.

The movie is broken up by a few songs. These are nice enough, and never feel crowbarred in, since it is the heroine's place of work, and its nice to see how great of a singer and performer she is, rather than just be told. Is it just an excuse to throw a few songs in, and to give Emel something to do with her main talent? Sure, but since when is that a bad thing!

There's some good comedy here, with many funny scenes. Some highlights being Pervin 'attempt' at suicide, and the barfight near the end, which is sudden and ridiculous, as all bar fights should be. Pervin's disguise to scare Suat away is also great, and will send a chill of terror down any man's spine.

Being a Turkish film there is also drama, but never overly so. There are moments that verge on melodramatic, which is to be expected, but these never dominate, and are over quickly.

Visually, Gülizar is a treat. The colours really pop out, and there's always lots of good cinematography to catch our attention. One highlight is the musical number at the start, which has an almost Bollywood vibe, with the sudden costume change and the nifty props. Pervin herself is also visually distinct. Among a crowd of identically dressed schoolgirls, her flash of red hair makes her instantly stand out.

The acting is a high point. Emel Sayın is gorgeous, a great singer, and acts well too. Ediz Hun is good, getting moments of humour, while also being suave enough. Both carry the comedy as well as the drama. Hulusi Kentmen and Atif Kaptan are fun as the duelling fathers, and the rest of the cast entertain.

Gülizar is a simple but fun addition to Turkey's classic rom-com collection. It's an entertaining and universal film, regardless of how little Turkish you may speak...

Mavi Boncuk (1975)

A household of guys are out on the town, when their visit to a nightclub ends with them being beaten up after they can pay the extortionate bill. As revenge they decide to kidnap the club's star attraction, famous singer Emel Sayın. She is naturally just a little bit peeved at the ordeal, but both parties soon realise they hold grudges against the same crooks, and together they scheme a bit of payback...

Mavi Boncuk (The Blue Bead) is one of Turkey's most beloved comedy classics. It's got a fun hook, a brisk runtime, and features many Turkish icons at the top of their game.

The plot is reminiscent of Overboard, but predominately does its own thing. There are some who really rail into that film now, and while I don't wish to be harsh to them, I think such people look into things too much, and are unable to simply switch off and have a good time with a movie. The same is true here.

But there are many reasons why I think the plot and romance in Overboard works just fine. There are two factors at play. The first is the story, which has to make sense. Second is the characters. We have to believe everything they do and how they interact, otherwise it'd come off like they've got Stockholm syndrome. How does Mavi Boncuk fare? I think it handles it decently, and it's all tongue in cheek anyway, though the woman does start acting a little strangely in the last act!

On that note, I found the last act to be a bit lacking. The guys all come to the right decision, and we get the kind of ending reunion we all expect, but everything that happens in-between feels a bit small. We don't get much of a resolution to the nefarious nightclub. The ending is nice, though I kinda wish there was a little more.

The cast assembled here is a who's who of Turkish cinema, from heartthrob Tarik Akan, funny man Kemal Sunal, mature Münir Özkul, diminutive Halit Akçatepe, cackling Adile Naşit, and more, all doing good jobs, and sharing great chemistry. A notable presence is singer Emel Sayın, who is not only a fun presence, in acting and musically, but she is also playing herself! It's a surprising touch, and gives a neat dimension.

This is a musically neat film. The main theme is a great song, even if it is a bit repetitive and overlong towards the end (especially when they repeat it!). The rest of the score is likewise, using the song to create different tracks and leitmotifs, all of which are lots of fun. 

The film works visually too. It's a low-budget movie when compared with Hollywood, naturally, and the settings it uses are minimal and small-scale, but effective. The ritzy nightclub is nice, as is the boys' flat, complete with old movie posters, giving a nice bit of aesthetic and history.

Mavi Boncuk is a fun example of Yeşilçam cinema. Not one of my favourites, but still a good time to be had...

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Dracula vs. Frankenstein: Assignment Terror (1970)

The first in the Waldermar Daninsky series (the Spanish Wolf Man) proved to be a success, locally, and reasonably well overseas. This led to a first sequel that may or may not exist, and a further follow up, which is one of the weirder entries the series ever offered...

Aliens from the dying planet Umma have come to Earth with a plan-Find and resurrect several monsters, and use them to dominate or destroy mankind. Investigating the strange series of events is Inspector Toberman, who soon finds clues leading to a case of both the supernatural, and the fantastical. Will man triumph against the invaders, or will Earth be theirs for the taking?

Los Monstruos del Terror, known in English as Assignment Terror, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein, is an entertaining but flawed film. For a start, it's nothing like anything else in the series. The Waldemar Daninsky movies were gothic horrors, with with continuity that would reset itself with each film there was never too much pressure to keep things connected, but they at least felt consistent. Assignment Terror however goes all out and becomes a modern science fiction film, complete with an alien invasion!

The other distinctive thing about Assignment Terror is its collection of monsters. Not only do we have Dracula and Frankenstein, but also the Mummy, and the Wolfman! All are under the control of the aliens, in an effort to subjugate humanity. Not sure how half a dozen monsters is gonna cut it, but you can't fault them for creativity!

Due to the shared title, some compare this with with Al Adamson's Dracula vs. Frankenstein, including an irate producer who thought plagiarism was afoot. This is a fallacy, because first of all, Assignment Terror predates that film by almost 2 years. Secondly, and meaning no disrespect, no-one in their right mind would watch an Al Adamson film and go "Yeah, this is great stuff to rip off!". I also question the logic of accusing someone of ripping off your idea, when your idea is literally a rip-off itself.

The story here is mixed. It's not a long movie, but it takes half the runtime just to set everything in place, and by that time the movie's so crowded that there's not much room for plot. Everything just ambles on till the end. It's never boring, but perhaps could've done with a little less complication, and a bit more story. The climax is great though, and the movie ends in a classical b-movie fashion, with the hero making an impassioned speech about humanity's triumph.

The aliens are the film's main characters. Instead of being costumed squid beings, they conveniently take the form of people. This plays into the plot though, as we see them struggling with newfound hu-man feelings. It's great seeing how they get overtaken with emotions in different ways. Even the proudly emotionless leader gets dominated by jealousy without even realising it. This dilemma probably could have been the focus of the movie on its own.

The humans are given a little less focus, and fill pretty basic archetypes, but in a good way. Inspector Toberman is a likeable guy, a smooth customer, and he's a cop who discounts neither the supernatural, or cosmic elements. Making for an amusingly forward and cheeky love interest in Ilsa, who also serves as a damsel in distress in the climax. Toberman's gotta have something to do when the Wolf Man gets most of the monsters to himself!

Waldemar Daninsky returns here, though is barely involved. He has a pretty small amount of screentime, with large gaps between appearances. Where he gets to shine is in the last act, where he provides us with all the action we need. But it's a shame that this is an entry in his series, and he's just a supporting character. The continuity seems to follow on from Mark of the Wolfman, albeit loosely.

The remaining monsters don't have any character to them, but that's ok here. They don't need to be anything deep, just some fun monsters to give spectacle. Something I liked is that the movie didn't try and explain all the magic away with science. I hate it when that happens. Also, on a sidenote, how do you brainwash someone whose brain was yanked out with a hook 3000 years ago? Maybe they sent the scanner to the canopic jar?

One of the stranger elements of the film are the names. Technically Dracula and Frankenstein don't appear in this film. Instead they are known as Count Janos of Mialhoff, and the Farancksalan monster (misheard by some as Frankenalien monster, which admittedly would fit!). Why this was done I'm not sure. Perhaps the characters weren't quite in the public domain yet?

A good question to ask is-Does Dracula vs Frankenstein live up to its title? And the answer for me is a resounding Yes! No, it's not the greatest film, and definitely has some major issues, but honesty is not one of them. It promises a monster bash and by god it gives us one! And that's more that can be said for most of the Universal monster movies. Neither House of Dracula nor Frankenstein gave us the fights that were promised, with half the monsters dying before meeting the others, or getting literally 30 seconds of screentime before a plank of wood falls on their head and kills them. But here? It may take the climax to get there, but there are some pretty great fights, with some spectacular deaths! The mummy's in particular is conceived amazingly.

The effects in Assignment Terror all look decent. The exploding castle at the end is fun, and the costumes/make-up all look good, even if a couple look a little on the cheaper side. Dracula and the Wolfman looked the best (with some decent transformations for the latter), the mummy was good, and Frankie looked the 'worst'.

The acting here is all fairly decent for what this is. The guys are chiselled, the girls are pretty (and are superbly bug-eyed when the movie calls for it), and Hollywood veteran Michael Rennie (of Day the Earth Stood Still fame) does a good job in his role. I've seen many accuse him of slumming it being in a movie like this, but bahhh. He's an actor, here he is acting, having a bit of fun in his twilight years. And can you begrudge an old man a trip to Spain?

Assignment Terror was made in the 70s and it shows, from the groovy music we get! Sure it might take away from the spooky atmosphere, but then again I don't think there was any chance people would be genuinely quivering in their seats over this. Give a fun movie a fun score, and let the audience shake in their seats.

Dracula vs. Frankenstein: Assignment Terror isn't the best movie out there, and might rank lower on lists of the best Waldemar Daninsky films, but it's still a basic fun time, and worth checking out for fans of b-movies...

Mark of the Wolfman (1968)

In a small provincial village, the young judge's daughter Janice meets a charming Polish Count, Waldemar Daninsky. This ruffles the feathers of her would-be boyfriend Rudolph, but things change when Waldemar saves the boy from a werewolf attack. While he slays the beast, the = realises to his horror that it's too late for him. He is now a victim, of the curse of the full moon...

Mark of the Wolfman is the first of 12 in the world's longest running werewolf series, both in entries and =. Borne of a desire to emulate the Universal horror classics, they kicked off a grand new era for Spanish horror, highlighting directors such as Leon Klimovsky, Amando de Ossorio, and many more.

Mark is a classic horror movie in all the best ways. It has a Gothic setting and tone, and while it is set in the modern day, this works. It manages to  This village feels like a place time has largely forgotten. Its inhabitants might wear polo shirts, and drive cars, but many of the buildings and clothing feels straight out of medieval times.

The plot is fairly traditional werewolf stuff, with a preliminary attack from another beast, passing on the curse to the hero, who must deal with the curse, = by the fact that he may have to end his life to keep everyone safe.

Where things take a detour for the more fantastical is the last half hour. Mark of the Wolfman has a very good pace, and introduces things gradually, with plenty going on. By the hour mark, we get the addition of some scientists who may be able to cure Waldermar...But they're soon revealed to have an ulterior motive, and a sinister background.    This could've gone a bit awry, but thankfully it's all handled well enough, and feels like an extra treat!

The last act has plenty of action, from a werewolf vs werewolf fight, to some good brawls with the vampires. Then there's a inevitably tragic/sad ending,

characters   Waldemar Daninsky is a suave and debonair lead. You can definitely see how Janice is so swept over by him. He's noble too, as can be seen through his actions. You feel bad for the poor guy being afflicted with this curse, especially when it only happened due to his bravery.   tragic hero

Janice is a nice girl. Smart, sweet, and proactive. She really takes action to help Waldemar when she discovers the extent of his trouble. Rudolph is a good guy too! He's pretty hostile to Waldemar at first, as you can imagine from any red-blooded fellow whose [promised] girlfriend falls for another guy. But this all changes after the werewolf attack. After his life is saved by Waldemar, Rudolph pledges himself to help, and is a loyal companion.

He still wants to keep Janice away from him, for for a wholly different reason now, as he wants to keep her safe, which Waldemar completely agrees with. He's also reasonable about it, as he and Waldemar eventually let Janice in on the secret once they realise they can no longer keep her in the dark.

The villains are a delightfully spooky pair, openly evil and =. It's Waldemar and co's bad luck that the experts they heard about happened to not only be mad scientists, but vampires too! The original weewolf is a good presence too. Long since dead, he is resurrected when a silver cross is pulled from his heart, killed again when it's put back, then brought back again by the vampires! This is why I prefer it when a monster stays dead,

The supporting cast is good all round, from the friendly (but slightly larcenous) Gypsies who set off the movie's events, to the parents of the young =, who contribute a surprisingly good amount during the finale, and grasp what's going on perfectly. I was afraid they'd be a bunch of stuffed shirts, but nope!

Mark of the Werewolf's setting is in Germany, with a Polish lead. This is for a few reasons, I imagine. First is that Germany is internationally known as a home for werewolves, whereas Spain, not so much. Then there's General Franco, whose regime would often insist that horror movies take place abroad, to not besmirch their fair country's reputation. This I say bullcrap. People want to see werewolves in Spain, Generalissimo! In any case though, they picked a great setting, that feels just right.

One amusing bit of trivia is the film's English title-Frankenstein's Bloody Terror. Astute viewers may notice there is no Frankenstein, monster or otherwise, in this movie! What happened was the studio needed a Frankenstein movie, so they took this, tacked on a narration at the beginning which says the Frankenstein family changed it's name to Wolfstein. There, problem solved!

The effects in Mark are neat! The werewolf make-up is really good, and always convince. The transitions are mixed. The first has good build-up, then a single fade instantly covers Paul with fur. The later ones are better though, in showing the transformation, or hiding it effectively, and = through shadows.

The acting is good all round. Paul Naschy is a great presence as Waldemar Daninsky. Suave, musclebound, sensitive, tragic, he really runs the gamut, playing a perfect cursed man. He also plays the werewolf's animalistic rage well too. Dianik Zurakowska and Manuel Manzaneque are good as the young couple, as are Julian Ugarte  and Aurora de Alba as the vampiric villains.

There's some nice music here, that feels traditional and authentic for an old horror movie.

Mark of the Werewolf is a great start to a long-running series, and also a perfect example of Spanish gothic horror. Spain has produced so many classics in the genre, and we can be grateful that movies like this exist for all to see...