Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #49: Tarkan Vs. The Vikings (1971)

I am going to talk about Turkey.

Turkey’s typically drab and melodramatic cinematic output was slim to nil until the late 1960s hit the country like Attila the Hun. Turkey’s film industry exploded in the blink of an eye, and what once was the meagre production of a handful of films a year became approximately three hundred, at its apex. This explosion resulted in the creation of a mad host of exploitation films, filled with all the violence, sadism, sex, and senseless nudity that defined the genre. Drawing much inspiration from 1930s and 1940s American serials (the likes of Zorro, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan), the Turkish pop cinema often showcased the ultra-cliché: testosterone-powered soldiers, masked superheroes, and indomitable barbarian sword-slingers. These films shamelessly ripped material from popular Hollywood films, stealing soundtracks and even going so far as to insert whole film sequences. Of the most famous is the notorious ‘The Man Who Saves the World’ (1982), or ‘Turkish Star Wars’ as its affectionately called. Check it out on youtube.com, it’s all there.

As TV took hold in the 70s, the Turkish cinema began to flounder. Distributors began to insist on racier sex scenes in an attempt to draw people back into the theatres. It worked, and for a time the theatres were packed tighter than ever before. According to Aytekin Akkaya (of Turkish Star Wars fame), the cultural climate was all but sexually free, and the soft-core sex scenes that the films contained (mostly little more than topless women, in truth) were a necessary release.

By the time the 80s rolled around, the Turkish cinema had just about exhausted itself, and American cinema had taken its place upon Turkish screens. Sadly, the bulk of the films produced during this period of boom are lost – many films were actually destroyed for the silver contained in the negatives.

BUT TARKAN VS. THE VIKINGS REMAINS. And you must see it. Based off a popular Turkish comic book, Tarkan features a patriotic Turkish barbarian, upholding Turkish ideals, fighting Vikings and giant octopi, and laying with Valkyries and exotic oriental assassins. For your trouble you’ll get to see another film on the dvd, one titled The Deathless Devil (1973). This one’s a superhero film, and while perhaps not as grand, it is well worth the watch if you’ve some friends handy. You’ll even get to see the featurette from which, in the spirit of Turkey, I have stolen the material for this article.

So: I can't express how much I love this movie.

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