CAPSULE: 3 DEV ADAM (1973)

3 Mighty Men; 3 Giant Men

DIRECTED BY: Tevfik Fikrat Ucat

FEATURING: Aytekin Akkaya, Yavuz Selekman, Dogan Tamer

PLOT: Captain America and Mexican wrestling champion Santo travel to Istanbul to help defeat

Still from 3 Dev Adam (1973)

evil antiques stealer Spider.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It has its illucid moments, but there’s not enough consistent high absurdity beyond its preposterous pop premise. I admit that when three laughing puppet heads inexplicably appear in the middle of a sex scene, I was strongly tempted to make this movie a candidate for the List. But, at bottom, if you take the copyright-violation costumes off the actors and you would have a mildly exciting, ridiculous, and extremely cheap action film; a fun oddity to be sure, but not in the same league as the weirdest movies of all time.

COMMENTS: I’m not saying this movie would make a great deal of sense if the villain weren’t a blatant Spiderman knockoff, but about 90% of what makes 3 Dev Adam look absurd to us comes from the “facts” we know about Marvel’s classic superhero. Here in the West we realize that Spiderman does not wear a green costume with a red cowl and an overweight arachnid on the back. We know that his eyebrows aren’t so bushy that they stick out of his mask by a good two inches. And, most importantly, we know that Spidey does not bury women up to their necks in the sand and then pumice their faces with the propeller of a motorboat. If Adam‘s director is to be believed, it was no problem to make Spiderman into a villain because Turkish moviegoers had no idea who he was, which begs the question: why bother to rip off foreign superheroes at all if your audience doesn’t know who they are? Perhaps Turks were more familiar with Captain America and Mexican wrestling hero Santo than with Spiderman, because these two crime fighters are garbed more faithfully in suits that look like they might have been rented from costume shops in Manhattan and Guadalajara, respectively. But this brings up another issue: these two heroes don’t have any superpowers, Captain America doesn’t have a magic shield, and neither has a secret identity to protect, so there’s no obvious reason for them to get all dolled up to go out and fight crime. The screenwriters realized they needed an rationalization for their stars’ questionable cosplay tendencies, so they have Cap explain it: “Spider is a child minded lunatic. He always wears a mask. When he sees someone else wearing a mask, he wants to destroy them.” A good enough explanation for the Turkish market, I guess. Another source of our cognitive dissonance is that, looking at 3 Dev Adam through Western eyes, we assume it’s supposed to be a ripoff of an American-style comic book movie. It’s really intended as a ripoff of a Chinese-style kung fu movie, with the masked men there simply to throw us off the trail. This movie has hand-to-hand melees every five minutes, and the combatants specialize in fighting in that ancient Chinese style where three men will gang up on our lone hero but strategically hang back and go at him one at a time so they won’t get in each others’ way. The near-constant action, needlessly complicated criminal schemes, and hordes of disposable henchmen beaten up by a duo of stoic heroes is all lifted straight from the Shaw Brothers playbook, and this movie is about as much fun as a typical chop-socky product, with an extra dose of costumed ridiculousness to give it a particularly Turkish spice. All in all it’s an odd film, but not one of the weirdest you’ll ever see; it’s a bad, bad movie, but a real lost treasure if you lust for camp. I’ll end by mentioning a few more things this Spiderman does that Peter Parker’s canonical hero simply does not do. Spidey does not plan elaborate nonsensical criminal schemes whereby he steals antiques, sells them at auction cheap, and then buys them back for exorbitant prices using counterfeit money. He does not dispatch disloyal henchmen by placing a ten foot long plastic tube in front of their faces and releasing a couple of starving mice into the homemade habitrail. He does not have a Psycho fetish where he feels compelled to kill women in the shower to watch them re-enact Janet Leigh’s death scene. And he does not have about a dozen clones, so that the movie can’t end because every time Cap and Santo beat one Spidey up, another pops up from behind a chair with an evil laugh. Oh, and Spiderman does shoot webs from his fingers, climb walls and do other super-spidery things; he’s not just some doofus in a cheap costume who constantly gets beaten up by two other doofuses in slightly better costumes.

Of course, Turk filmmakers never asked for permission of any copyright holders to license their trademarked characters, so 3 Dev Adam (along with Turkish ripoffs of Star Wars, E.T. and other popular Hollywood movies) has always been an “underground” film that could never see a real legitimate release. It was traded back and forth among bootleggers in third and fourth generation VHS dubs, and for years this was the only way to see the film. Surprisingly, Onar films (out of Greece) actually tracked down the original elements of the film and put out an elaborate “official” DVD version, subtitled in English and Greek and complete with over 90 minutes of supplemental interviews of the cast and crew. Unfortunately, these DVDs quickly went out of print (one source says only 1600 of them were ever made) and the gentleman who ran Onar Films—a one-man labor of love dedicated to resurrecting 1970s Turkish exploitation cinema—died in 2011.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

” … monumentally ridiculous film loaded with goofy action sequences, bizarre set pieces and absolutely littered with plot holes… as camp as camp gets, a film that aspires to B status, and appreciated on that level it’s great fun.”–Todd Brown, Twitch (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by Gerby, who called it “both  weird & hilarious.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

One thought on “CAPSULE: 3 DEV ADAM (1973)”

  1. “And he does not have about a dozen clones”

    Spider-Man has more than a dozen clones, unfortunatley.

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