Review By: David Austin
During its heyday of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Turkish film industry demonstrated a extraordinary ability to borrow foreign source material and still create movies with a uniquely Turkish feel. Superheroes Captain America, Spiderman and El Santo may have been swiped from the US and Mexico, but only the Turks would think to cast Cap and The Saint as detectives battling a murderous Spiderman in 3 Dev Adam. Killing may have been an Italian anti-hero, but it took the Turks to create an excellent serial where he fought Shazam. In this fascinating double bill from Onar Films, the focus switches from comic book-inspired crime thrillers to horror. Specifically, the two films included here, The Dead Don’t Talk and Thirsty for Love Sex and Murder, tackle two of the most popular horror genres of the era – gothic horror and gialli.
By the time of the films in this set, the fundamentals of two genres were set. Hammer studios in England, AIP in America, and Mario Bava and his colleagues in Italy had been cranking out a steady stream of gothic horrors for years. Similarly, at their high tide in the early 70s, the Italians, led by Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Bava produced countless giallo murder mysteries. The distinguishing characteristic of these films lies more in tone. While Italian filmmakers took familiar genres and ramped up the violence and sleaze at the expense of characterization and plot structure, Turkish filmmakers took that model to the next level, stripping out even the bare minimum of character and turning the plot entirely into a vehicle to get from scene to scene. Moreover, while Italian films were often visually stunning and innovative, the Turks, without a highly professional core of technicians and designers to draw on, relied almost entirely on sheer energy and bravado. These films are no exception to the rule – though Thirsty in particular shows signs of a real eye for composition.
The Dead Don’t Talk
Rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (above average)
Director Yavuz Yalinkilic’s biography on the Onar DVD describes his technique thusly: “character development was unheard of, complicated plots were dropped.” Truer words were never spoken. In The Dead Don’t Talk, plot and characterization weren’t just minimized, they were surgically removed as by a lobotomy.
Yalinkilic starts the film in media res as young couple Melih (Aytekin Akkaya) and Oya arrive in town just in time to be ushered to the local guesthouse in an ominous horse-and-buggy. Apparently, Melih has inherited the house from its dead owner (though this connection is rather obscure in the film), who provided for the home to be converted into a guesthouse on his death. The pair are welcomed by Hassan (played by the Turkish Vincent Price), who exhibits a remarkable ability to speak with the aid of an echo chamber. While Hassan appears to be an ominous figure, the most horrific thing he does at first is refuse to tell Oya where the bathroom is.
However, night is when the film’s true horror comes out - an evil trench coated ghoul who attacks the living and likes to peep at girls in their nightgowns. As played by Jirayir Carkci, the ghoul’s main asset is a maniacal laugh, with which he lets fly long and often. After menacing Melih and Oya, the ghoul sets his sights on new teacher Sema and local manly man Kerem the Hunter.
All the tropes of gothic horror are here – horse-drawn carriages, foggy nights, ominous mansions, full-figured ladies in flowing nightgowns, and superhuman creatures from beyond the grave. However, Yalinkilic flat-out removes all of the “getting to know the characters” scenes. Why does Melih carry a gun? Who knows. For half the movie, I kept expecting a gangster scenario to come into play. Yalinkilic fills out the empty space with some nice visuals and laughing, lots of laughing.
According to Akkaya, this low-budget “lost” film probably did not even make it into the large Istanbul market, but was shot solely for regional distribution. Akkaya himself plays only a limited role, and took the part only because it was early in his career. Certainly the film was never intended for foreign distribution – Yalinkilic steals liberally for the soundtrack, expropriating Also Sprach Zarathustra and the theme from Rosemary’s Baby. Unfortunately, the gothic mode never caught on in Turkey, and The Dead Don’t Talk disappeared until its recent rediscovery.
Recommended? Yes, this Bizarro-world Hammer film is an amusing glance through a cracked mirror, and moves so quickly it doesn’t have time to overstay its welcome.
If you like this, you might like: Dementia 13, Curse of the Living Corpse, El Vampiro, Nagina, Zinda Laash
Thirsty for Love Sex and Murder
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)
Created a year after Sergio Martino’s successful giallo The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (aka Next), Thirsty for Love Sex and Murder is a remake in all but name. Director Aslan borrows many scenes wholesale and lifts the plot, while adapting the entire affair to Turkish sensibilities. Frankly, he could do a lot worse - Strange Vice is one of my favorite gialli and fares well in his hands.
As in the original, Thirsty focuses on a married woman torn between her dull husband, a younger lover, and a mysterious stranger from the past with who she shared a sado-masochistic relationship. An attractive Meral Zeren fills out the Edwige Fenech role well, and her Mine carries an array of 70s outfits nicely. Eva Bender is also enjoyable as her slutty friend, who has a little more going in this version of the story. Simultaneously, Mine must also contend with a rash of serial slayings of women - eventually the two plot lines converge and Mine finds herself the target of an unexpected plot.
For those asking themselves if Thirsty is worth checking out if they have already seen Strange Vice, the answer is yes. While many of the scenes are taken directly from the Italian version, like the paper-dress catfight, there are a number of alterations and changes to character motivations which I will not spoil. Thirsty also clocks in at a lean 58 minutes, forcing Aslan to alter or compress a whopping 40 minutes of material and giving the proceedings a reckless speed. Moreover, the energy is pure Turkish. The slasher doesn’t just stalk his victims, he literally flings himself at them from a distance like a mad kamikaze. Aslan even finds room in his plot for a fistfight – a brawl at complete right angles from Martino’s original. Those who enjoy observing variations on the same source or screenplay will be in heaven.
I must admit, upon noting the unusually creative camerawork (for the Turkish industry) in the opening murder setpiece, I went back and checked the source to see if Aslan had aped Martino’s cinematography as well. I’m happy to say that, while Thirsty takes a lot from Strange Vice, it is not a shot for shot remake. While the initial shots of the killer cruising for his victim are lifted from Strange Vice, the subsequent dynamically edited and innovatively framed chase, with its shots from under the carriage of the car, of running legs, and of the victim crouched behind a tree, are the intellectual property of Aslan, not mere mimicry. Aslan, who also directed the astounding Tarkan vs. the Vikings (my favorite Turkish film so far next to the Kilink series), clearly has a genuine, vibrant talent.
Recommended? Yes, giallo and horror fans will get a kick out of this high-octane thriller.
If you like this, you might like: The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Bloody Iris, Tarkan vs. the Vikings
DVD Production Company: Onar Films (www.onarfilms.com)
As usual, Onar Films has done an excellent job recovering these previously unavailable films and the prints, while far from perfect, are serviceable. Both films are presented on Region free PAL DVD in their original full frame aspect ratio; Dead in black-and-white, and Thirsty in color. Onar has also arranged for new English subtitles which are mostly very good. The rare, amusingly Hong Kong-esque malapropism like “Freeze you fraud bastard!” only serves to enhance the entertainment value of the materials.
Also included are a number of interesting extras. First up are trailers for upcoming Onar releases Supermen Donuyor (Superman Returns), Demir Yumruk: Devler Geliyor (Iron Fist: The Giants Are Coming), and Tarzan Istanbul’da (Tarzan in Istanbul). There are also a number of lobby card images and posters, as well as biographies and filmographies of the two directors.
The main extra is a lengthy interview with actor Aytekin Akkaya, who played the husband in The Dead Don’t Talk and Captain America in 3 Dev Adam. Akkaya talks about his career in action and adventure films, and noteworthy roles during that time, including parts in foreign productions like You Can’t Win Them All starring Charles Bronson, and Yor the Hunter from the Future, and going on to co-star with his friend Cuneyt Arkin in The Man Who Saved the World (perhaps better known outside Turkey as Turkish Star Wars). After all these years, Akkaya still has a commanding mien, and discusses turning down roles because his name wasn’t high enough on the poster, and his anger at the disrespect of those who recently created an unofficial sequel to The Man Who Saved the World.
Also included are in-depth interviews with Metin Demirhan and Giovanni Scognamillo, co-authors of the book “Turkish Fantastic Cinema.” Demirhan and Scognamillo each cover the history of the horror film in Turkey from its roots in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s with Drakula Istanbul’da, and discuss the recent revival of horror in Turkey on the backs of such films as D@bbe.
© David Austin
Filed under: Movie Reviews and DVD Reviews and Contributors: David and Genre: Giallo and Rating: Good ★★★ and Movie Reviews: Turkey and DVD Reviews: Turkey and DVD Companies: Onar Films