aka Turkish Star Wars
DIRECTED BY: Çetin Inanç
FEATURING: Cüneyt Arkin, Aytekin Akkaya, Füsun Uçar
PLOT: The Wizard is bent on destroying the Earth, but a pair of Turkish space pilots, Murat and Ali, evade destruction, crash-landing on a planet where the locals eke out their existence under the Wizard’s oppressive thumb. By strengthening his body and taking control of a mighty sword, Murat confronts The Wizard and his grotesque minions.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Somehow managing to combine crowd-pleasing action with an awe-inspiring level of filmmaking incompetence, this infamous Turkish “blockbuster” is impossible to believe even as you’re watching it. The sheer magnitude of the amateurish techniques and narrative shortcuts results in less of a film and more of a fever dream – which is a surefire way to get our attention.
COMMENTS: Let’s start with the theft, as that is the full and complete reason for Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam‘s notoriety in the Western world. Director Inanç and star Arkin plotted their new film to take advantage of the public’s interest in sci-fi fantasy epics, with Star Wars leading the way. Steal from the best, they say, and Inanç took that phrase as literally as possible, illicitly dubbing an anamorphic print of the box office juggernaut and peppering his new movie with random and strangely squeezed clips from the pilfered print. The result is riotously inept: scenes are offered in no particular order; clips are frequently repeated; the original film’s good and evil seem to have flipped sides. Perhaps most amusingly, space pilots are filmed with the Star Wars footage rear-projected to simulate space flight… only the footage retains its original cuts. For anyone who knows the ubiquitous blockbuster, it’s hilariously naïve, like an art thief trying to cart away the Venus de Milo in the middle of a midday crowd.
But the snarky moniker is genuinely unfair, because (a) the purloined clips constitute a very small portion of the film, mostly during the scene-setting opening, and (b) there’s so much other stealing going on. Star Wars is joined by clips from old fantasy epics, stock footage of space launches, and even another studio’s logo card. And then there’s the soundtrack, a veritable calico quilt of lifted cues. The sharp-eared will pick up the bass line from Queen’s Flash Gordon score, a hyperactive take on the Battlestar Galactica theme, and fanfares from a James Bond movie, while it takes no listening skills at all to notice the liberal use of John Williams’ “Raiders March,” which the film appropriates as Murat’s spring-into-action theme, meaning we get to hear those noble trumpets literally dozens of times.
But pinching footage from another film alone does not a weird movie make, and Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam proves that it can vie for the title on its own. The story, what little can be teased out, is that a villainous warlord has an insatiable vendetta against the Earth, and is determined to destroy it. Or already has. (Possibly owing to translation issues and definitely because of regular re-use of the exploding planet scenes, the Wizard seems to destroy the Earth a lot in this film.) A pair of surviving pilots foil his conquest , but it must be said that the Wizard is really bad at his job. Consider: having captured the pilots, the Wizard orders them buried alive. So his henchmen dutifully cover our heroes in about a foot of dirt… and after a minute or so, they stand right up. Who knew? But we’re also supposed to believe that Murat (and, to a lesser extent, his pal Ali) is touched by fate. The script juxtaposes his understanding of the world he has landed on against a local wise man’s narration about the enduring power of Islam; he is able to wield a sword like a science-fiction King Arthur, and he takes on the trappings of a Christ-like figure who can endure any pain, including dipping his fists into molten metal to form gauntlets. With these gauntlets, he will engage in many fistfights, foleyed with the sound of pounding steaks.
The confusion is compounded by the grade-school level production. The reported budget of $300,000 was lavish for Turkish cinema in the 80s, but the result still looks like a low-quality fan film. Murat and Ali do battle with a motley collection of monsters, including mummies, robots from a 1930s Republic serial, and a horde of Times Square Elmos. Arkin engages in a lengthy training montage that mainly consists of strapping papier-mâché boulders to his ankles, jumping off trampolines, and then pulverizing said boulders with his fists before charging into battle with a sword that looks like an enormous Drain Weasel. (He somehow simultaneously looks like the world’s most-fit and least-fit man.) And Inanç’s direction only serves to heighten the cheapness. When Murat is about to charge into battle, he is framed in a lengthy closeup betraying almost no emotion or interior motive at all. And when Murat is engaged in conversation with a comely local woman trying to protect her son, he gets the exactly same stone-faced closeup. Suspense never builds, a sense of location is constantly shifting, music starts and re-starts and re-starts again with every edit, and stock footage of Earth landmarks and historic mosques are thrown onscreen with only the lamest attempts at context. It’s important to recognize cultural differences and how they can color our appreciation of art, but this is a mess in any language.
I’ve been struggling with how to classify this undeniably strange motion picture. We’re certainly not allergic to bad movies at 366 Weird Movies; we even have a category labeled “So Bad It’s Weird”. But there also seems to be an essential quality that a movie has to have in order to join the ranks of “those you’ve gotta see.” For every legendary cinematic disaster that we have enshrined, there is another dumbfounding dud that we have denied entry into our hallowed halls, and the trick is deciding which side of the line is the proper home for Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam. The film is a real brain-melter, with its persistent disdain for anything linear and its joyful DIY aesthetic. But it’s earnestly terrible in ways that are not at all pleasing. Ultimately, I lean in favor of keeping it around for further consideration; it is a truly unique piece of cinema. But the presumed fun of watching everything go haywire is tempered with the pain of seeing the end result. Watch if you must, but as a character in this movie might say, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…a feverish nightmare of celluloid dementia which needs to be seen if only to prove how far the minds of lunatic filmmakers can run.”–Phil Hall, Film Threat
(This movie was nominated for review by alegria. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)