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Tarkan Versus The Vikings: Maniacal Sword And Sandal Action Courtesy Of The Turks
Posted on 11.20.05 by David @ 10:21 pm

AKA: Tarkan Viking Kani
Country and Year: Turkey (1971)
Director: Mehmet Aslan
Starring: Kartal Tibet, Eva Bender, Seher Seniz, Fatma Belgen

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars (great)

Lotus and Toro - The Original Axis of Evil?

Tarkan Versus the Vikings, Turkey’s answer to the Italian sword and sandal films, is more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys and just as crazed. Everything in this movie is energetic, outsized, colorful and wacky, from Tarkan’s mighty moustache to the Vikings’ red and blue fuzzy underoos. Tarkan doesn’t just walk around, like Hercules - he runs, he leaps, he literally bounces from place to place. The gigantic melees capture the frenetic flavor of old Errol Flynn movies, but up the ante of sex and violence to please ‘70s moviegoers. It’s like Conan the Barbarian done on $10,000 and amphetamines.

Tarkan, Kurt and Kurt, Jr.

Tarkan is a fantastic bit of trash cinema from the now largely defunct Turkish film industry. During a brief, glorious period in the ’60s and ‘70s, Turkey pumped out a huge number of pulp masterpieces, perhaps the most famous of which is the excellent Kilink Istanbul’da. Turkish movies blended the sensibilities of comic books, serials, and violent ‘70s pulp entertainment, into a uniquely strong Turkish brew. While some may only be familiar with the rip-offs of Western pop culture like The Man Who Saved the World (Star Wars) or 3 Dev Adam (Turkish Captain America and El Santo vs Evil Turkish Spiderman), there was quite a bit of original film-making going on also.

The Giant Has a Bad Hair Day

Tarkan, appropriately enough, is an adaptation of a long-running and extremely popular local comic book series based on the adventures of the eponymous hero, which filled a similar niche to Robert E. Howard’s Conan novels. Written by Sezgin Burak, the series lasted many years and inspired an entire series of Tarkan films. Tarkan is a classic loner hero, raised by wolves, still closer to animals than to people, but willing to step in and save the day when injustice threatened. Kartal Tibet was the not the only man to play Tarkan, but he was far and away the most successful. His Tarkan is small but athletic and wiry, armed with knife and bow (the traditional weapon of the steppe Turk), and more comfortable with his father-and-son wolf companions (both named Kurt) than with people. Definitely the strong, silent type.

Inflatable Octopus

In the beginning of the film, Tarkan, champion of the Turkish peoples, has been tasked with escorting the Great Attila’s daughter, the feisty Princess Yonca. No sooner do they arrive at an undermanned Turkish fortress, when they are set upon by a horde of hairy, merciless Vikings, who slaughter the men and children, and kidnap all the women. The Viking Commander, Toro, is in the employ of the villainous Lotus, a daughter of the Chinese Emperor who wants Yonca for her own advantage (who knew that the Chinese and the Vikings were the original Axis of Evil?). Toro slays the older wolf, and Tarkan is left for dead with several arrows in his back. Fortunately, Kurt, Jr. witnessed his father’s murder (as illustrated by an awe-inspiring quadruple zoom shot), and as soon as the two have recovered, they set off to avenge Kurt, Sr., and incidentally to rescue the Princess.

Ursula

Meanwhile, Toro and Lotus get up to all kinds of shenanigans, sleeping with and betraying each other, deposing the rightful Viking King, and trying to feed his pretty daughter Ursula to a giant rubber octopus that hangs around outside their castle. Eventually, Tarkan shows up, joins forces with Ursula, her gang of cute Viking girls, and a bizarre giant with a crush on Ursula, and kicks Toro’s butt.

Tarkan

Tarkan is a crowd-pleaser in the truest sense of the word. Rubber monsters, swashbuckling, sexy girls, manly men, evil one-eyed Vikings … everything you could want is here. The film’s creators were clearly influenced by the 1958 slash-and-burn opus, The Vikings, starring tough guy Kirk Douglas. Several of that movie’s greatest hits are put to good use again in Tarkan, including a falcon vs. eyeball showdown, and a charming game where women are strung up by their hair and used for axe-throwing practice. Highlights from Hollywood spectaculars are not the only things Tarkan borrows - among the recognizable musical cues are Also Sprach Zarathustra and Morricone’s harmonica theme from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West (if you’re going to steal, might as well do it from the best).

Muppets Storming the Castle

The film is a helter-skelter mix of the low-tech and the weird. The Vikings are a funny looking scrawny bunch in bright furry clothes, blues, yellows, reds, purples – think Braveheart as staged by The Muppets. The costumes are so outlandish, and the violence so extreme, that I was put in mind of Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, with its imposing Teutonic knights. The Viking women are basically sorority girls with swords and helmets, and the inflatable octopus … don’t even get me started on the octopus (I loved the octopus). The actors also all sport some really tremendous hair.

Lotus

The supporting cast is so colorful that Tarkan himself takes something of a back seat. Lotus wears silken robes, does a knife dance, undresses at the drop of a hat, and oozes malevolence. Toro stomps around in his matching powder-blue fuzzy diaper, wrist-warmers, and cape, looking like he was just rejected from an audition to join He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Eva Bender plays Ursula as a tough sex-bomb in barely sealed vest and winged helmet. Even Tarkan’s wolves have tons of character. The two Kurts, played by what appear to be a couple of German Shepherds that have been overdubbed with wolf howls, are the best-trained dogs I’ve seen in a movie since Moti the Wonder Dog in Mard (who could whistle, drive a wagon, and construct Molotov cocktails). Kurt, Jr. adds a few new tricks, like crying and, in a scene that rivals any for sheer silliness, climbing a vertical wall.

Fuzzy Hat Massacre

Tarkan is simply dripping in national pride. After 50 odd years of humiliation following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey’s staggering losses during World War I, the national cinema provided a great vehicle for pride and patriotism, to some extent mirroring similar developments in Chinese cinema. Characters constantly refer to the strength and courage of the Turks, and even one of the Vikings (a legendarily hardy and warlike breed themselves) suggests that they ought to think twice before messing with the Turks.

The Axe Game

Recommended? Absolutely. Be warned though, the four stars I give Tarkan are not based on technical merit, or excellent dialogue/performance etc. On any scale of normal quality, Tarkan is clearly total crap. The four stars are based entirely on the fact that it’s amazingly fun, and a perfect way to introduce yourself to the insanity that is Turkish cinema.

If you like this, you might like: The Vikings, Tarkan and the Golden Medallion, Conan the Barbarian, Hercules and the Haunted World, Warlords of Atlantis, Kilink Istanbul’da, Mard, Alexander Nevsky

DVD DETAILS

DVD Production Company: Mondo Macabro (www. mondomacabrodvd.com)
Release Date: October 25, 2005
Run Time: 87 Mins
Extras: The Deathless Devil (feature film), Turkish Pop Cinema documentary, Mondo Macabro trailer reel

DVD Menu

For those of you who have never heard of Pete Tombs’s Mondo Macabro DVD label, this is your chance. Tombs has taken it upon himself to release many of the previously unavailable films he has featured in his book Mondo Macabro. Moreover, he has been releasing them with restored prints, documentaries, extras, and a lot of TLC. While the films themselves range from excellent to … interesting, there is no better way to explore the unbeaten paths of world cinema, from the Pakistani Dracula film, Zinda Laash, to the Indonesian sci-fi knock-off, Lady Terminator.

The new Region 1 DVD is presented in what I believe is its original 4:3 aspect ratio. I can honestly say that I have never seen a period Turkish film look this good. The only previous Tarkan movie I had seen was so faded and scratched that it was almost impossible to tell the characters apart, and none of the movies I have seen ever had English subtitles (though a Greek DVD of Kilink Istanbul’da with English subs is now available). Mondo Macabro’s release marks a tremendous step forward. The picture is not perfect, but is largely clear, and damage is minimal. The colors in particular stand out, enhancing the comic book feel of the film. Thanks to Mondo Macabro and their fine subtitling team, Charlie’s friend Mehmet will no longer have to do translation duty, for which I am sure he is grateful.

Two Hundred Dollar Longboat

In addition to Tarkan Versus the Vikings, this double bill includes Yilmaz Atadeniz’s The Deathless Devil (aka Yilmayan Seytan), a wacky and fun serial picture from the same man who brought us the magic of Kilink. The disc also includes an informative 23-minute Mondo Macabro documentary on Turkish Pop Cinema, featuring interviews with living legend Cuneyt Arkin and director Yilmaz Atadeniz among others, along with plenty of footage to whet your appetite for more Turkish films. Those familiar with the Mondo Macabro documentaries will know that they are often half the pleasure of any disc.

It’s wonderful to be able to see Tarkan and the Deathless Devil with a clear picture and subtitles. Mondo Macabro has done all of us a great favor. I hope to see more Turkish releases from them in the future.

© David Austin

Click here to buy the Tarkan/Deathless Devil DVD from Amazon.com .


Filed under: Movie Reviews and DVD News and DVD Reviews and Contributors: David and Rating: Great ★★★★ and Movie Reviews: Turkey and DVD Reviews: Turkey and DVD News: Turkey and DVD Companies: Mondo Macabro
Comments:

30 Comments »

  1. I’ve been curious about the Turkish rip-off films, but I think I’ll take your advice and begin my foray into cheesy Turkish cinema with Tarkan.

    Comment by nilblogette — November 21, 2005 @ 6:05 pm


  2. BEST THING……EVER!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by James McIlroy — January 24, 2006 @ 11:25 am


  3. This movie rocks. the octopus rules, and Lotus’s death dance well - it needs no comment. Definitely time well-spent (doing the death dance and watching the film)

    Comment by neilfinncanbellydance — June 25, 2006 @ 11:30 pm


  4. Although I have a site on Turkish history, my knowledge of Turkish films is next-to-nil. I had heard of the crazy titles from this “golden age” of Turkish cinema, and was hoping to get a taste someday. “Tarkan Vs. the Vikings” was my introduction thanks to this fabulous Mondo Macabro release, and I was absolutely blown away. I had the sense that these films would be next-to-worthless (and surely with the huge output of those years, there must have been plenty of stinkers), but if this one serves as an indication, I look forward to my next exposure to such fantastic and energetic delirium. One of the ingredients that greatly surprised me was the overt sexuality and nudity, rivaling (perhaps even generally surpassing) the “trash cinema” counterpart of countries (from the late sixties-early seventies period) we are more accustomed to. In retrospect, it would be ironic for such “bad” films to serve as a “goodwill ambassador” for the nation of Turkey, but it’s a pity this cinematic chapter is so little-known. […]

    [edited to remove a wee bit of irrelevant hate speech, which we do not permit on this site]

    Comment by Holdwater — July 8, 2006 @ 2:09 pm


  5. Tarkan :D Haha

    These films are very interesting :D

    Comment by Turk — October 28, 2006 @ 9:38 am


  6. very good..

    Comment by kont dracula — January 22, 2007 @ 8:35 pm


  7. im turkish and i think this movie is fun abd goood as heck

    Comment by Battal gazi — May 18, 2007 @ 6:24 pm


  8. and Turkz are badmanz.they rule da all countrys.every 1 knows that.TURKZ ARE BEST

    Comment by Polat Alemdar — June 9, 2007 @ 8:16 am


  9. very very good

    Comment by hany abdo — June 13, 2007 @ 3:19 am


  10. tarkan the one man army!! the best turkic film ever.

    Comment by hako — September 25, 2007 @ 2:16 pm


  11. Çok enfes bi film ” NE MUTLU TÜRKÜM DİYENE “;AYRICA TÜM İSLAM ALEMİNİN RAMAZAN AYI MÜBAREK OLSUN

    Comment by Mücteba EREN KAYSERİ YAHYALI — October 7, 2007 @ 8:45 am


  12. kheyli kiriye

    Comment by reza — November 4, 2007 @ 6:36 am


  13. Tarkan o yıllarda çekilen ve günümüzde de hala izlenilen en güzel tarihi filmlerimizden biridir. Daha sonradan Hun Devleti’ni anlatan ve yabancılar tarafından yapılan birçok film Türkleri yanlış tanıtmaya yönelik gerçekle alakası olmayan filmlerdir.

    [EDITOR: FYI, OUR UNDERSTANDING IS THAT THIS COMMENT ROUGHLY TRANSLATES TO “Tarkan is one of our best historic productions of the time and is still viewed today. Many films, produced by foreigners, that came later portraying the Hun (Mongolian) State, were meant to portray the Turks in an incorrect light that had little connection to fact.”]

    Comment by Oğuzhan Ünal — January 2, 2008 @ 3:36 pm


  14. güncel filmler için sitemize bekleriz. www.kayseriforum.org

    Comment by ahmet — March 12, 2008 @ 7:32 am


  15. off topic to oguzhan unal Huns and Mongols are the same thing ;) but according to “official” turkic history(written by austro hungarians and germans) there’s a half century gap

    It’s a pity only this DVD has been translated into English. This is the best Tarkan film( the Rubber Octopus makes me cry from laughter every time I watch it), but Silver medallion is also recommended. There’s even a Tarkan film where he fights kung fu fighters in China.
    Turkish pop cinema must be brought to western audiences. it’ll give Bollywood a run for its money

    Comment by Halil Halil — March 15, 2008 @ 5:42 pm


  16. it is one of very old films of Türk films. its scenario is not bad except some nonsences. I watched it on tv yesterday. it is believed he was real. but he wasn’t such a man. Turkish people don’t love get off from horse, that’s true. and they always domesticate wolfs to use e personal defence, an helper. watch it if you love myth, you will enjoy. I watched maybe 10 times, but I still watch:) ignore some parts, just smile. It is an old film, there are lots of mistakes;)

    Comment by Atmaca — May 4, 2008 @ 12:13 pm


  17. çokkk ama çoooooooookkkkkk seviyorum filmlerini büyük bir zefkle izliyorum

    Comment by hira — May 7, 2008 @ 1:53 am


  18. Very nice article!
    I like this film. It’s right up there with
    Lionman/Lionman 2: The WitchQueen (These films are awesome!)

    Comment by Mark — May 15, 2008 @ 7:14 am


  19. bizim eski türk filmlerini amerika ve almanya komedi filmi olarak izliyor

    eskiden türkiyede animasyon ve ekipman eskiliği ortaya bunları çıkardı

    ama günümüzün teknojisi ile neler yaptık mesela ; kurtlar vadisi ırak

    Comment by grave_stone — July 6, 2008 @ 6:07 am


  20. ne mutlu türküm diyene

    (ed. note: Turkish national slogan meaning “How happy is he who can say ‘I am a Turk’”

    Comment by öhöhjm — October 14, 2008 @ 1:21 pm


  21. heeee

    Comment by adem kağan — October 23, 2008 @ 1:54 pm


  22. hey Im Turkish and I know so much about funny movies.

    Tarkan is not a movie which was though on very hard.its just a movie for fun.Its like playing a very unnecessary game at the weekend, which is not worth to pay money.And no Turk says “wow a great movie, Ive learned a lot from that movie”. actually when it shows on TV nobody watches it, maybe little kids do.Old Turkish movies are generally based on fun or emotional things. for example in one movie theres a kid whichs born in jail etc. etc. if you really want to watch the very most funniest movie ever go watch “The man who saved the world” or in original name “Dünyayı kurtaran adam” :) watch with your friends,so much laugh you will hear.

    About Tarkan; “kurt” is not the name of the wolf. “Kurt” means wolf in Turkish.Tarkan was raised by wolves he couldnt name a wolf, he didnt even know what is a name.but he learned soon :) Theres so much hyperbole in the movie and it makes so much fun.and i think the serie was made for money.because people used to love so much sex, so much nudity, so much fighting, especially so much armpower.Turkish people like hand to hand combat. Tarkan says “Drawing sword unnecessary means you dont trust your wrist” wrist means “bilek” in Turkish but bilek also means skill sometimes, when you fight with your fists and you win, this is your right,its normal.but if you draw sword to an unarmed man you are the filthiest son of a *****.because you dont deserve it, you are not equal. ah i wrote so much damit noone’s gonna read it.

    Comment by GURU — March 28, 2009 @ 6:09 pm


  23. ohh my gard you are noot tarkan

    Comment by annikavalen — April 14, 2009 @ 5:24 am


  24. Woooow! Turkish nostale film :) Tarkan best.Wolfs are symbol at Turks.Turks best national other.

    Comment by MaxTeJan — June 21, 2009 @ 3:54 pm


  25. I like tarkan,tarkan you and film is very good .I like in the film

    Comment by albi-hoti — December 19, 2009 @ 11:06 am


  26. Great stuf, good old skool times

    Comment by Murat III Boruza — February 26, 2010 @ 6:26 am


  27. classic great film, especially when look at the budget, the end result is very good.

    Comment by Polat Boruza Hisarcik Kayseri — March 10, 2010 @ 10:08 am


  28. Tarkan was the comics-strip hero created by Sezgin BURAK and it was most sucessful and popular comics-strip on its era.. Although the creator Sezgin BURAK contributed the movie TARKAN it was not not succesfull as much as comics-strip becuse of its low budget…However it has never deserved to be fun material for sh–head american people those compare it with huge budget hollywood movies..

    Comment by cesur barut — July 13, 2010 @ 6:20 am


  29. very very good TURK Film. Hun Turk Tarkan.

    Comment by Maotunhan — March 14, 2012 @ 5:07 pm


  30. Tarkan(Tarkhan) is a Turko mughal Title like the Titles Khan, Khaqan Khatun, Tegin , Shad, Baig, Mirza.It is a Turko Mughal Tribe, a family of Genghis Khan,Who was a real Hunic Ruler Turk Tarkhan,there ancester called Erganakon Smiths.They were real Mughals(mongoliod Turks)

    Comment by Imtiaz ahmed mughal — April 30, 2013 @ 12:56 pm


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