Thursday, September 29, 2022

Blue Eyelids (2007)

Among all the random films I'd catch late at night on SBS, there was one that eluded me. The Spanish romance (and possible comedy) Blue Eyelids. It was a catchy title, and the plot sounded alright. And I do like the Spanish. So I was keen to check it out. Unfortunately I never saw it on tv again. In recent weeks I was determined to find the film, with English subtitles, and finally I was successful! So how does the movie stack up, after 10 years of waiting (Bugger me, has it been that long?)?...

Marina is a lonely young woman, just barely scraping by, when suddenly she wins the first prize in a work competition-An all expenses paid holiday and cruise, open for two. With no-one to bring, she settles upon a stranger, Victor. An old schoolmate, he is keen to reconnect, and surprised when she suddenly starts showing an interest. But can trying to artificially create a romance really help either of them?...

Blue Eyelids (Párpados Azules) is a Spanish (as it turns out, Mexican) romantic-drama film, emphasis on the drama. It gets off to a fairly decent start, and promises to be one of your typical 'Real life is gloomy' film festival fare. I didn't mind the dour beginning, since I figured it was just setting the scene. Naturally things are gonna be glum at first, otherwise there'd be no reason to get excited for the sunny cruise and holiday!

After a proverb from an otherwise superfluous character, the film sets the stage by introducing heroine Marina to us. A beleaguered worker, winning a luxurious seaside holiday does nothing to lift her spirits. Even though the trip can easily be changed for one, she insists on finding someone, anyone. She soon meets Victor, who proves to be quite pushy, insisting he knows her and desperate for a date. Marina declines, for all of a day. Suddenly it's her turn to be clingy and desperate, to the point where even Victor is having second thoughts!

This is where we begin to realise what the film's going to be. Long scenes of characters sitting, staring into nothing, and repeating themselves over and over. It gets boring quickly, but what makes the film unbearable is its characters. Holy crap, they are pathetic like you wouldn't believe!

Marina is a raincloud of a protagonist, and never really has a big moment where she steps up (unless you count her actions at the end, not that they really matter). She was apparently fairly popular in high school, but fell by the wayside, and is now cripplingly lonely. She remembers so few of the names Victor mentions that I seriously began to question if she had Alzheimer's!

Victor fares better. He's a bit of a chump, and is like a dog chasing a car. If he actually caught it (i.e. if a woman actually said Yes to a date), he has no idea what to do next. He has a little self-respect, but not a lot, and he settles for a loveless relationship too by the end.

There's one awkward scene where Marina calls Victor's workplace, and practically mobilises the whole building just to find one random dude in the post office. It's a miracle she even got through, though he is so fired after that!

Worse is a gross masturbation scene (although props to the dude for using his imagination, I guess!) although it is immediately preceded by a sexy bottomless senorita in the kitchen, and followed by a much more welcome female masturbation sequence from Marina! (Hey, don't judge me!).

There's one scene where they head to the movie theatre. We can actually see this film's poster on the wall. This can be cute but felt a little self indulgent for the title to be plastered where we can't miss it. And if you were wondering, the two are seeing a black and white experimental arthouse film. Jesus can't they watch something fun?

It's later on when they have their first big date, and it's pretty bad. The leads make a concerted effort to not enjoy themselves. I bet if they smiled their faces would crack. Even when they're about to knock boots, they take their clothes off like a pet has just died! There's a complete lack of any music, let alone sexy Barry White. They don't tun on a light, they don't even smile!

The film's whole dilemma is flawed. How many passengers on The Love Boat went with a plus one? That's right, they were alone and found love on the boat! Blue Eyelids seems predicated on Marina being unable to go on her own, even though it's clear she can, no problems.

Their picnic scene is fairly decent, but even then they're unspooling picnic blanket or tearing leaves, like they're crazy. It's almost an hour in where something actually happens, and we finally get an interesting exchange. Victor finally asks why Marina's suddenly so into him out of nowhere, and she admits the truth.

The supporting cast is pretty minimal. There's pretty much just Marina's sister, who gets one scene early on. Marina is searching for a travel partner, and her sis, having some relationship difficulties, insists that Marina give up the holiday to them. The audacity! Naturally Marina declines (as if she even could agree if she wanted! "I can't help noticing you're not who we gave this holiday to."), and her sister immediately accuses her of being envious. The bitch is chummy when she thinks she can get a trip out of her, but the moment Marina doesn't want to be cheated out of her own holiday, she's envious! Riiight.

Even the rich businesswoman, with her legion of servants and palatial villa, is miserable and lonely. Christ, and here I thought cartel movies give Mexico a bad name! This does far worse, suggesting that life itself is untenably depressing for everyone. Also, the story that makes up the moral crux of the film turns out to be nonsense, which feels unnecessary and makes that whole character pointless.

And now for my biggest complaint with Blue Eyelids, and it's a doozy. For years I thought this movie was about a lonely woman going on a cruise to a sunny Spanish island. That's what all the plot descriptions say. I figured the first 10-20 minutes would set up her day-to-day life, then we'd be off. But as more and more time passed, it seemed the cruise wouldn't start till halfway through. Annoying, but workable. It was at the hour mark when I realised something that pissed me off! The cruise was never happening! The film's big selling point, and a great location for self discovery, and it never bloody happens. Marina does finally go, offscreen, 10 minutes before the end.

With no big shift, it feels like the movie is building up for nothing. And yes, the time it could have spent on cuising is wasted. Even in the last 13 minutes we're still treated to extended shots of the leads lying in bed, or sitting in couches. You know, it would have been really nice to see a holiday right about now!

The direction here is all fairly decent, with some nicely framed scenes. There are some moments where the action is so still I genuinely wondered if I'd paused the film by mistake. The film has a great final shot, though overextends a little, and the film ends with a dull and unnecessary addition.

The music is ok. A bit drab and lowkey. There was an alright melancholy tune that plays over the ending credits. Also present is the Dave Berry track Strange Effect, which gets a few playthroughs.

Blue Eyelids isn't a badly made film per se, but I found it to be almost totally worthless. It has no real point I could see, and watching it made me as miserable as the characters. It's a shame the film I waited so long to see is as unimpressive as it is, but oh well. At least I won't moan about it as much as the leads!...

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Ölüm Savasçisi (1984)

Turkish bizarro cinema is a gift that keeps on giving. Sure, there may only be a finite number of these films, but there's more than enough to keep fans satisfied, and Turks embarrassed. Today's film isn't one of the famous knock-offs, though it does take inspiration from more than a few areas, delivering what has to be the craziest ninja film to ever come out of Turkey!...

Murat is a by-the-books ex-cop, who is brought out of retirement after a series of deadly ninja attacks rock the country. He battles them at every turn, but nothing seems to stop them. Their fanaticism is so extreme, and their powers so great that it seems they can keep fighting after death itself. Can Murat save Turkey from this ninja menace?...

Ölüm Savasçisi (Death Warrior) is a weird one! Even those used to these kinds of movies may be surprised at what goes on here. It's an 'everything but the kitchen sink' film, moving at a mile a minute, rarely stopping to breathe.

The film opens with a training session by an intensely enthusiastic ninja master, who tells his students how they can turn anything into deadly weapons. Afterwards we get a montage of assassinations, showing their skills in action, before being introduced to our hero in what feels like the middle of the story.

What sets Death Warrior apart from other ninja movies, in and out of Turkey, is how much of a horror focus it takes. The assassinations feel like they're from a slasher film, and the violence and bodycount gets quite high for your average action flick. The ninjas have a supernatural power, attacking like demons from The Evil Dead, using killer vines to strangle their victims, and one scene even sees a corpse coming back to life as a clawed monster. Don't ask me to make sense of it!

When not focusing on action, much of the film is made up of the heroes discussing things. At times it gets borderline surreal, like when Murat meets a hypnotised girl, and looking into her eye shows a frog/lizard, which then jumps out and tries strangling him to death!

As is typical for such films, Death Warrior has no ending. It's hilariously abrupt the way Murat finally kills the baddie, then walks off in the most casual "I don't give a fuck" kind of way! The End. In under 5 seconds. Granted, the film didn't exactly have much to wrap up, but still, give us something! Thankfully other cuts of the movie do have a quick coda.

The hero is a lot of things. Ex-cop, karate expert (and ninja?), and a biker. He's also a charming boyfriend who hangs around on the beach a lot, dressing as an Aussie would. Lead actor Cüneyt Arkın pulls all these things off with a straight face, and is ridiculous in all the right ways.

The supporting cast is made up predominately of men in suits, most of whom get killed. Murat really doesn't do a good job protecting people! He also has a faithful girlfriend, whose hair colour seems to change along with her actress from scene to scene.

The villains are nameless and often faceless ninjas. Their vicious streak makes them tough enemies. Their leader is the only one who speaks, and he gets carried away a lot. Speaking as fast as he can, getting more and more dramatic and breathless with each word. His training scenes are a highlight. In one particular scene, he's demonstrating karate moves on a guy whose body has been carefully trained to withstand any force...then uses him as target practice! Dude, come on, they surely can't come cheap!

The action is a lot of fun here. These Z-grade Turkish filmmakers may have been lacking in some areas, but fighting wasn't one of them, nor creativity. Here we get to say the hero catching knives mid-air and throwing them back, and using a multi-shot bow and arrow to mow down a dozen ninjas at a time. There's also the expected trampoline jumping (they're sometimes even visible!). And one part of the film becomes Turkish motorcross GP.

The most impressive sequence is the (seemingly endless) final fight, which manages to continue despite the main villain being set on fire!...No, hold your horses, I don't mean they really set the actor alight ("Fireproof gel? What's that?" asks a Turkish director), instead it's a very fake mannequin. But it's a fake mannequin that won't stop moving! How they managed that, as many times as they do before it must have totally disintegrated, is nothing short of a miracle. And accomplishing the scene without the lead actor going up in flames equally so.

The effects here can be pretty fake, always in a funny way. The biggest effect is the briefly-appearing monster, and it's difficult to tell what you're even looking at. But it does look unique, and I really like the bleeding effect they managed! Little touches like that can bring life to a costume, even if the rest isn't convincing.

The direction in Death Warrior is fairly standard Turkish action. Where it gets different is its inspiration from The Evil Dead, with a handheld POV cam. I'm not sure how a Turkish action vehicle came to mine that particular film, but it makes for one of the more distinct ninja flicks of the time.

The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of Flash Gordon, James Bond, and Enter the Dragon. The sound design is predictably cheesy. There are funny ninja screams, and unique but repetitive sword sounds. We also get a nicely tense chase sound in one moment.

Something I didn't know until fairly recently was that there's actually a reason Death Warrior is so jumbled and confusing! Yeah, who'd have thought. It's a Frankenstein picture cobbled together by re-editing an existing movie, and shooting new footage, resulting in the incomprehensible product we have. The original film was called Holy Sword (for some reason, when its title actually translates to Last Warrior), and it's a fairly straightforward Cüneyt Arkın flick. Ridiculous, with copious amounts of jumping, and fake swords. It's mixed all through Death Warrior, with the final fight taking place 10 minutes in. The new footage consists of the entire evil ninja story, the horror elements, and who knows what else. It wouldn't be fair to say the new footage is all the weird bits, but it certainly does contribute! One wonders what made Arkın want to do a 'film' like this. Were his other 300 films not enough to pay the bills?

Ölüm Savasçisi is a crazy film even by Turkish standards. If you like that sort of thing, you can't find much worse/better than this! And if you don't like them? Well, this won't do anything to change your mind...

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 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...

Friday, September 16, 2022

Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man (1972)

Professor Imre Kosta and his young wife Justine journey to his homeland, but disaster strikes when bandits attack and he is killed. Justine is saved by handsome nobleman Waldemar Daninsky, who holds a dark secret of his own. He is cursed to transform into a werewolf by the light of the moon. To repay him for saving her life, Justine is determined to see Waldemar cured, and takes him to England to meet Dr. Henry Jekyll, who draws upon his family knowledge. Will his experiment finally cure Waldemar, or will their efforts instead unleash an even greater horror?...

Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man sounds like one of the more out-there entries in the series from the title alone, and it kinda is. While not the first time the Hombre Lobo has met a Universal monster, this is the first it's taken centre stage.

The film begins with some set-up Jekyll and Hyde, and is named after the Wolf Man, yet oddly enough we follow this random guy Imre, as he and his wife journey to the Hungarian countryside. There's a decent amount of emotion in his dialogue, and with the importance given, you really get the feeling that he's an important part of the film. He'd better be, it's 17 minutes in and we still haven't seen hide nor hair of Waldemar Daninsky yet!

Eventually he shows up, and is introduced well, albeit with not as in-depth of an origin as usual.
Overall, the first act serves as a standalone mini werewolf film. It has all the hallmarks of the subgenre, told a lot quicker than usual, and with little padding. The second half is where the other half of the title finally starts ringing true. After their flight to England, Justine enlists the help of her friend Henry Jekyll.

Jekyll is skeptical at first, but reports of local maidens being torn to shreds by a mysterious animal attacker changes his mind. He decides to use his expertise to find a cure, and the idea he comes up with is either the dumbest imaginable, or the smartest! He will give Waldemar the formula to transform him into Hyde, under the assumption that Hyde's evil will be strong enough to destroy the werewolf curse (like purging bacteria?), then they can jab him with the antidote and banish Hyde. Problem solved! Unless literally anything goes wrong!

The film's structure has its pluses and drawbacks. On one hand having the separation allows the film to do a lot without feeling overstuffed. It also has the effect of never being stale, showing us the routine werewolf story without constantly interrupting the Jekyll one. On the other hand, the title promises a Jekyll and Hyde story which is really only half the film, at best. While the werewolf act gets enough time to shine, the Hyde story is pretty undercooked.

Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man has some really good spooky setpieces. The best is the fantastic lift scene, which is a highlight of the whole werewolf genre I feel! The film overall is kinda like a proto-American Werewolf in London, with its swinging Soho setting. Dr. Hyde gets up to some S&M antics in his short time. And the climax is fairly good, even if it does rely on quite a lot of happenstance and luck. The end's a bit of a downer, but it didn't feel depressing).

Waldemar is a decent protagonist. He does sometimes come off a little mopey (To quote a Dark Corners review: "Oh, it's so hard being rich, and handsome, and immortal"), but never comes off as unbearable. His werewolf side meanwhile is as vicious as ever, yet for some reason Waldemar doesn't lock or restrain himself during the full moon, instead wandering the land freely. An ill-timed visit to the clinic in the city results in him claiming a few more victims, before he's banished for the rest of the film. Until a sudden return near the end. In a nightclub, where he has so many victims to choose from he gets none!

Justine is is surprisingly intelligent and proactive, searching for a cure for her new friend, and quite determined. It's really quite unique how she's not so much in love with him, but comes off more as a staunch ally, helping Waldemar despite her own personal tragedy. Of course, this lasts up until the halfway mark, when she blurts out "I love you very much" with all the abruptness that you expect from a European dubbed film. She doesn't get the typical consolation love interest, which makes sense since she started out with one, now deceased.

Jekyll is a pretty good guy, who tries his best to help, as well as make something good come out of his family's darkness. His assistant/girlfriend Sandra meanwhile is devious bitch, who encourages Jekyll to go further than needed with his experiment, making sure the film doesn't get a happy ending.

Hyde takes almost an hour to appear, but from his very first scene he has plenty of personality! It's a shame he took so long to appear, because he could easily held a movie on his own. He somehow attracts women despite being sickly pale with greasy hair, and says bitch more than Freddy Krueger. Unfortunately he just vanishes before the climax, and never appears again! Bringing Hyde out of Waldemar may have given Naschy an excuse to play the other monster, but robs the film of a final fight between Hyde and werewolf.

Who Hyde even is is a good question, that's not answered satisfactorily by the movie. I think it's suggested we all have an inner evil persona that Jekyll's formula can bring out, and it's called Hyde for simplicity's sake. Yet they all know what they are and who Jekyll is, and accessorise with fashion from Victorian England?

There's a small but decent supporting cast. In the first half Waldemar has a maid at his castle, who is harrassed and feared by locals who think she's a witch. She can't be much of a witch though, since they easily kill her offscreen. Surprisingly brutal, too!

The townfolk, including a homicidal local, are assholes, who talk in hushed whispers about the Daninsky estate, and how the mysterious events there are ruining the area's reputation. Because as a bandit who murders tourists, he wouldn't want this town to have a bad name. Someone has got to protect the people, and it may as well be him! Interestingly enough, he meets his end at the hands of Waldemar's human form.

The acting (Spanish and dub) is really good here! Many of the cast are just fine, doing ok enough jobs for a cheesy horror movie. Paul Naschy is good as ever as Waldemar, and great as the Wolf Man, in all his animal rage. He also plays Hyde, and gives a really good performance! From his appearance to his burning eyes it's really something, and he definitely does the part justice.

I also feel the film shows a definite lack of ego on Naschy's part by hiding his behind-the-scenes parts in the credits, and for waiting so long to appear in favour of other actors. I know, I know, he casts himself as the handsome wealthy hunkaspunk, irresistible to women, but, well, he's Spanish, an actor, and is a big hunkaspunk, so it's not wrong. The fact that he willingly takes a brief backseat in a film he wrote and starred in shows he's not a diva.

Shirley Corrigan is a nice co-star with a juicy role. Jack Taylor is fine and looks the part, although it's a shame he never got to play his own Hyde here. Mirta Miller is beautiful yet icy. And Jose Marco has a nice enough small part.

The direction by Leon Klimovsky is very good, and turns what was presumably quite a low budget production into a pretty impressive watch. The music is also really good, spooky and at times funky!

And then there are the effects, which are very good! The werewolf make-up is great, and the transformations well done. The violence is well made, satisfying to watch, and at times funny. The make-up for Mr. Hyde is perhaps the most impressive effect though! The sallow skin, the golden eyes, and the greasy hair makes this same actor look totally different! For any Jekyll/Hyde make-up to make the actor look somehow different while still being the same man is what every adaption should strive for, and this nails it.

There are a few different versions of this film floating around, resulting in a bit of confusion. All I know is the 83 minute cut is perfectly fine, full of blood, and doesn't feel it's missing anything. Maybe there are longer cuts out there with a bit more added sin, but this is good enough.

Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man has its faults, but I found it a surprisingly good time! It knows to be daring, while also keeping things simple at the same time. If you can only watch one Jekyll and Hyde meet a werewolf movie, make it this one...