Friday, May 15, 2009

6th September 2008: A Turkish Superman vs Indonesian Cannibal double

The Turkish Superman

Turkey 1979 colour

aka Süpermen Dönüyor/”Supermen Return”

Director Kunt Tulgar

Cast Tayfun Demir (Tayfun/Süpermen), Güngör Bayrak (Alev), Esref Kolçak (Profesor Hetin), Yildirim Gencer (Ekrem)

A few months ago we played the Turkish rip-off of Star Wars. Not just your average ripoff, mind you, but a film in which they actually stole chunks of Star Wars, and the theme to Raiders Of The Lost Ark, AND Moonraker… Welcome to filmmaking in a country that doesn’t subscribe to international copyright laws. Welcome to an industry that stole from its Hollywood masters out of sheer survival. Welcome to the wild, wild world of Turksploitation.

Our Turkish feature tonight is another glorious plundering of late 70s Hollywood, and you have to admire the tenacity of a producer trying to do a Hollywood special effects blockbuster for the price of a can of crab juice. It’s Supermen Return, or affectionately known as The Turkish Superman, featuring a man of steel so odd looking and so expressionless you’d swear he was one of those hypno-dolls hiding behind an enormous pair of toy spectacles.

Plot-wise it’s a direct rip: Superboy’s dispatched from his crumbling planet of Krypton, and is found by a kindly Turkish couple who raise him as their own and call him Tayfun. Once the secret of his past is revealed, he goes to work for a newspaper next to a gorgeous Margot Kidder substitute named Alev, whose father just happens to be Professor Metin specializing in the properties of kryptonite. Naturally there’s an arch villain (complete with villainous black duffle coat) who wants the kryptonite for his alchemy machine, and thus begins an endless succession of kidnappings – first the girl, then the professor, then Superman himself, who’s slowly learning to harness his abilities, including the power to see through women’s clothing.

Is it as bad as it sounds? Well, that depends on your concept of awful. Let’s just say it’s deliriously bad, in the best possible way, and for all its cheapdash chicanery and assiness, it does have an effective moment or two of action. You haven’t lived, people, till you’ve seen the Turkish Superman rear projected onto a dark room full of Christmas decorations, or heard distorted music thieved from at least six James Bond films – and of course the 1978 Superman. Seriously, if Christopher Reeves was alive today he’d be spinning in his wheelchair, and that’s exactly what your head will be doing as we head with capes flying into Turksploitation country with The Turkish Superman.


Indonesia 1978 colour

aka Primitif, Savage Terror

Director Sisworo Gautama Putra Writer Imam Tantowi

Cast Enny Haryono (Rita), “Berry”/Barry Prima (Robert), Johann Mardjono (Tommy), Rukman Herman (Bisma)

It’s hard to believe that a devoutly religious country such as Indonesia would have such a thriving film industry specializing in sex and horror. Well it does, and next to the Philippines, was one of the largest exporters of genre films. Rapi Films, still Indonesia’s largest film company, was founded in 1968 as an importer of American and European movies. In 1971 they branched into feature films and by the late 70s were successfully dubbing into English their more salacious fare – outrageous gore-soaked horrors, sexploitation and action films – and selling them all over the world. Rapi Films’ own bona fide superstar Barry Prima would feature in most of their exports, such as our 1978 feature Primitives… but more on that later.

Meanwhile the Italians were running around South East Asia creating their own Third World atrocities. The cannibal film, one of the most despicable of horror’s sub-genres, was in full swing, having emerged from the Italians’ own Mondo or Shockumentary genre, in which primitive rituals and nature’s inherent barbarism were packaged with snide narration and pompously ironic soundtracks for modern middle class audiences to be titillated by in the smug comfort of their multiplex. From the Mondo Cane films came Man From Deep River in 1972, a blatant reworking of A Man Called Horse, in which a white man becomes accepted into a cannibal tribe and experiences their savagery first hand. Italian director Ruggero Deodato subsequently delivered a pair of similarly-themed films which would define and dominate the relatively short-lived Cannibal Genre: The Last Cannibal World in 1976, and Cannibal Holocaust in 1979. For the next few years, natives chowing down on entrails would become a defining image for not only European but international horror.

The Indonesians decided to beat the Italians at their own game and rip THEIR ideas off for once. Rapi Films set to work to remake The Last Cannibal World on home turf and, for added measure, claimed the story was based on an actual incident (and seriously, from outside Indonesia, how could you ever prove it?). Four anthropology students bribe a guide against his better judgement to take them deep into cannibal territory to peer at the Pangayan tribe close up. Their boat crashes and they’re savaged by wild animals, only to find their hosts aren’t as welcoming as they’d hoped. And while sitting in bamboo cages waiting to be the tribal feast, altruistic thoughts of trying to civilize them turn a little sour…

Deodato’s plot is plundered mercilessly right down to identical scenes and you could almost swear certain shots. Without the director’s flair, however, the entire exercise is stripped back to its basest of elements, though shots of natives chewing the heads off lizards and a mother chewing through her own umbilical cord are made slightly less lurid by the film’s Third World context. Yes, the natives are revolting – and it’s this kind of cultural revolution that makes for some very jarring Schlock Treatment viewing, and not just because of the completely out of place Jarre-like soundscapes and robotic disco. We ask ourselves “who are the real savages” and – holy crap – it turns out to be us, as we chow down on the 1978 Indonesian cannibal flick Primitives.

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