Friday, May 17, 2013

"T" is for Turkish Star Wars

 Normally, I try to do some research about the movie I'm watching. It helps to have some context going in or when trying to relay what's happening in the film, particularly if the film doesn't make much sense. For The ABCs of Movie Masochism, I've looked at it on a case by case basis, and often it helps to give you some idea why I chose the movies I did.

 But not when it comes to the 1982 "movie" Turkish Star Wars.

 The only information I sought out for this film was its actual title (Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam or The Man Who Saved the World), because I knew going in that I wouldn't be watching it with subtitles. I was just going to let the film wash over me, untranslated, and see if I could figure out the story beyond its copious (and unauthorized) use of footage from Star Wars - hence its more popular online title. I had done this before with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs, and was mostly able to keep up, and that movie I actually cared about.

 After a long prologue that I couldn't really make sense of, other than the fact that it consisted almost exclusively of space footage from Star Wars - sometimes the same footage, but upside down and backward - the main plot finally kicks in. The "story," as best I can tell, involves two pilots attacking the Death Star who crash land on a strange desert planet. They wander around and then one of them whistles, which draws the attention of skeletons on horseback. Fortunately, they make short work of them (if excessive, considering that they didn't need to kill ALL of them just to steal some horses) and continue on their path, until robots take their horses and force them into gladiatorial combat with the planets' indigenous population.

 The evil Emperor / sorcerer / villain who was (is?) on the Death Star is now also on the planet and our heroes are trying to stop him from finding... something.  But first they meet an old man and a girl who has a young son. When the other people are killed by mummies and pink werewolves (or I guess just aliens, it doesn't really matter) they barely escape. There's a montage of the heroes training by karate-chopping rocks and kicking boulders until they explode, and the main hero (the one with the silver-y Eric Estrada hairdo) begins to feel a romantic attachment to the woman and her son. I guess, because the extent of their "romance" consists of the camera cutting back and forth between them, until he smirks and then she smiles. It's love, you see.

 Because I don't speak Turkish let's just assume that they went to the cantina from Star Wars to start a fight and get caught by the Emperor's robots, because otherwise I'm not sure how they knew he would magically appear to taunt them and make the world turn red. The guys are split up and the main hero talks tough with the Emperor (who wants a magical brain) while the other guy is seduced by a sorceress. Like every scene in Turkish Star Wars, it ends with them fighting monsters, but this time they lose and the main hero once again finds himself in the gladiatorial battle, but with a werewolf who has tinsel on its fingertips.

 Anyway, he uses his powers of off-camera trampoline jumping to defeat the wolf and once again escapes to the tomb of Jesus (and maybe Shiva, if the mural on the wall was what I thought it was) to retrieve what I'm just going to assume is the brain of Jesus and his lightning bolt sword. After he defeats two golden ninjas, he takes the sword and the brain and there's some more stolen footage from what looks like a religious epic I couldn't place (but is letterboxed where the rest of Turkish Star Wars isn't) and betrayed by his "friend" - actually a monster in disguise.

 He goes to save his friend who again betrays him and takes Jesus' brain and sword to the old man, but that's the Emperor in disguise who uses the force to throw him around. Our hero saves him and the Emperor disappears, leaving the brain and sword behind, so they go find the real old man, who is dying. Then there's an explosion and the sidekick dies and the hero melts the brain and sword and uses them to create golden gauntlets. He's the man with the golden fists, ready to do battle with all of the forces of evil, conveniently waiting outside in a ravine.

 With his gauntlets, golden boots, and trampoline skills, he chops monsters in half, rips their heads off, and generally makes short work of everybody, including the Emperor, who he CHOPS IN HALF. Yes, he chops him in half, and to demonstrate this, the camera shows half of his face and the rest of the screen is blocked by a piece of paper (or something to that effect). Our hero then leaves in the Millenium Falcon while the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark plays.

In fact,  I really hope you like John Williams' music from Raiders of the Lost Ark, because you're going to hear it a lot during Turkish Star Wars. Whether it's the main theme, the love theme, or the music from the truck chase, the cues are re-purposed ad nausem, with only snippets of other movie scores appearing in between (I caught some from Ben-Hur, Planet of the Apes and Battlestar Galactica). Strangely, there's no music from Star Wars - I guess they felt it was pushing it enough to lift entire sequences from the film, sometimes for no apparent reason.

 While I am not terribly familiar with Turkish cinema, I have heard of its reputation for sometimes shamelessly ripping off other movies / characters without permission (for example, I have seen 3 Dev Adam, which pits Captain America and Santos the masked wrestler against Spider-Man), but Turkish Star Wars takes it to new levels. The beginning and ending of the film consist almost entirely of footage from Star Wars, often without changing it in any fashion. It's really hard to tell if the Death Star is attacking the planet they land on or if they just crashed on the Death Star because the footage is used without context in the film.

 My friends refused to watch this with me if I wouldn't watch it with subtitles, but I sincerely doubt that would have helped beyond the long, rambling prologue and maybe the speech the old man gives in a temple. It's not that Turkish Star Wars is hard to follow, per se, but so much of it is stolen from more iconic films (specifically the one in the title) that it doesn't even matter why things are happening. Nearly every sequence ends with the heroes fighting monsters, so it's not important how they got there or why. There's barely a plot and calling the characters "wafer thin" would be a gross understatement.

 In the end, Turkish Star Wars is a curiosity, one that is probably more entertaining when watched in snippets online, completely devoid of context. Trying to make sense out of the last ten minutes without watching the first 80 is vastly more entertaining than sitting through the whole film, subtitles or not, and I certainly wasn't dying to find out what was actually happening when it was over.

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