Saturday, October 2, 2010

Flying Saucers Over Istanbul (Turkey, 1955)

Well, I'll be damned. Here I was thinking that this film no longer existed, and here it is. It's like Flying Saucers Over Istanbul (aka Ucan Daireler Istanbulda) just showed up at its own funeral, looked around at the stunned mourners, and was all like, "What?"

Aside from the obvious, there are two big positives whenever one of these "lost" films surfaces. The first is that it serves as a reminder of the fact that something is only lost until it's found, and renews hope among film geeks from shore to shore that other of our holy grails will eventually turn up (as some of them certainly will). The second is about expectations. Since I had never entertained the notion that I would ever actually get to see Flying Saucers Over Istanbul, I had never built up any expectations around it, and so ran very little risk of being disappointed when the chance to see it came a-calling.

For those of you who do have expectations built up around Flying Saucers Over Istanbul, hypothetical as you may be, let me say this: If those expectation are built upon the action-packed Turkish trash cinema from the 60s and 70s that so many of us have come to know and love, be forewarned that this film is a wholly different animal.  That, however, is not to say that it's something we haven't seen many, many times before. In fact, regular 4DK readers will likely recognize it as a type of film that I've covered with almost numbing regularity, a type that pops up during just about the same period in seemingly every film culture in which science fiction is not a staple genre.

Be it Egypt's A Trip to the Moon, India's Trip to Moon, or Mexico's  Conquistador de la Luna, all of these films boast certain key elements: comically bumbling Earthlings, lady aliens who look more like Rockettes than rocket jockeys, cardboard box robots, and a trifling narrative that takes stock situations from American science fiction films of the 50s and attempts, with varying degrees of success, to milk them for laughs. While a film like Flying Saucers Over Istanbul could technically be called a pioneering example of Turkish science fiction cinema, the truth is that, as in those other mentioned films, its science fiction elements are less its reason for being than they are simply a timely novelty on which to hang some gags. If any American film could be said to have influenced the picture, it is more likely to be The Three Stooges in Orbit or Abbott and Costello go to Mars than it is Forbidden Planet.

Beyond that, a lack of English translation prevents me from going into much detail regarding FSOI's plot. I will say, though, that whatever that plot is, the filmmakers didn't see it as being so important that they couldn't interrupt it for a lengthy belly dancing number every five minutes. Combined with the comedic hijinks, this gives the film something of the feel of a feature length burlesque skit. Many of the opportunities for these terpsichorean interludes are provided by the nightclub setting in which much of the action takes place, but the alien babes, when we check in with them, also prove to be born of a dedicatedly hip-wiggling culture. In addition to this, the film also introduces a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at one point -- billed in the credits as "Mirella Monro" -- and she too hits the boards, performing a split screen number in which she belly dances opposite herself. With all of these fleshy distractions on display, it becomes very clear that no assumptions were made on the part of the film's producers that the spectacle of flying saucers and extraterrestrial visitation would be enough to get Turkish audiences into the seats.

What story there is to the film centers around a classic straight-man-and- stooge comic duo comprised of a loafing newspaper reporter and his stuttering photographer partner. After the requisite scene of them getting chewed out by their irascible editor and some unrelated belly dancing, the two of them, for some reason, sneak into an observatory, where they intercept an audio transmission from space. Soon after, a flying saucer lands outside and a chorus line of shapely female ETs files out, accompanied by the aforementioned cardboard box robot. Later the duo are unable to capitalize on their big scoop because the space ladies, upon discovering them, confiscate their camera, and they thus have no proof of the encounter. They do, however, have a bottle that the ladies have given them, which appears to contain some kind of alien booze -- only that end ups going missing. Great effort is then expended to retrieve that bottle, with, I assume, much hilarity ensuing. In the end the amorous femaliens take enough of a shine to the two human bumblers to want to take them home with them. And so off they go in the flying saucer, over Istanbul,  smooching all the way.

I wish I had more to say about Flying Saucers Over Istanbul, but I'm afraid that those things that set it apart, and distinguish it culturally (other than the belly dancing, that is), are most likely confined to its dialog. Because, from a purely visual standpoint, it comes across as being based on what is coming to seem like a fairly generic template. That being a template that involves sexy space ladies and clunky man-in-suit robots, however, I don't want to come across as being too dismissive. By now I suspect that we're going to see cropping up examples of these type of hapless-Earthmen-meet-sexy-cosmic-cuties movies from everywhere from Micronesia to Mauritius, and I don't want to suggest that that is in any way a bad thing. In fact, it is, in essence,  pretty much the whole reason that this blog exists. Bring 'em on, World!

UPDATE: 4DK reader/commentor Tuğba was kind enough to write in from Turkey to fill me in on the finer details of Flying Saucers Over Instanbul's plot. Apparently, the nightclub at which all of the belly dancing is taking place is a spinsters' club, and the women there have hired the belly dancers in order to lure potential husbands into the place. (You know, I was wondering why all of those old ladies were hanging out in a belly dancing club.) Also, the bottle that the space babes give the two klutzy reporters contains a youth serum, or "unaging" potion, which explains why everyone is so hot to get their hands on it. Lastly, the reason for said space babes visit to Istanbul is that time honored necessity that has seen so many amazonian extraterrestrials make their way to our green planet over the course of film history: the need to replenish their planet's dwindling supply of men. Damn those men with their shorter life spans and unhealthy habits! The next group of femaliens to hit our shores might also want to stock up on Stairmasters, Nicoderm patches and soy burgers in order to keep the new herd around a little longer. Just sayin'.

Anyway, Tuğba's comment goes into much greater detail than what I have referred to above, and deserves to be read in its entirety. Scroll down to the comments section below this post to check it out for yourself.


Prof. Grewbeard said...

it looks cute, dammit, cute!...

dfordoom said...

I love that robot! And belly dancing. I'm sold, I want to see it.

memsaab said...

Me too re: the robot. Want.

Todd said...

You know, it actually is cute. And that is an adjective I never thought I'd use to describe a Turkish movie.

Tuğba said...

I am following your blog quite sometime and like it very much. I am writing from Turkey. I’ve seen this entry in the morning and turned my TV on and had shocked! Because this movie was on TV. It’s not easy to find this kind of trash movies even here these days. I think you couldn’t watch it with subtitle so you didn’t understand what’s going on in deed. Unfortunately i couldn’t finish the movie but it can be helpful if I reveal some facts about the alien-ladies and the belly dancers.
The women in the begining of the movie belong to a spinster club (i don’t know if i use the correct word, but i mean the women who couldn’t get married because they’re ugly and old, but in desperate need of men) and they’re quite ugly. This is important because they have brought a belly dancer to their club just to take attention of the men and find a husband. So those two men are actually journalists but dont need to say they’re also very very clumsy and stupid. They want to make an interview with these old ladies. After they turn to newspaper, the boss gets angry with them because UFOs have been seen in the sky of İstanbul and every other newspaper made great news about them but these two idiots are making the news of spinsters.
So our double idiots goes to the observatory to get some information about UFOs, instead they meet the alien ladies. The purpose of alien ladies is taking away some men from İstanbul to Mars because they’re in lack of man in their planet. It’s really very very funny. And that bottle contains the potion of unaging. So double idiots can deceive other men with that.
I think these are the important facts of the film to make it even funnier. Anyway i enjoyed your writing anyway. Thanks.

Todd said...

That's awesome, Tuğba. Thanks so much! I -- as well as, I'm sure, the other non-Turkish speaking readers -- was definitely in need of some clarity regarding what was going on in this movie. You know, I was wondering what all of those old ladies were doing in that belly dancing club.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Cool article !! Another rare Turkish film found !! Where can I get a copy of this film ? Is it available on dvd ?


Todd said...

I believe it can be gotten from Cinemaggedon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Todd.


Anonymous said...

hi there Todd, I downloaded Flying Saucers Over Istanbul off a Turkish site and it was around 720 megabytes. Your pictures on this thread look more sharper and clearer. How many megabytes was the version you got off Cinemageddon. For some strange reason I couldn't sign in so I'm writing this as an anonymous guest.
Btw your review for this movie was spot on, I agree with nearly everything you said. Cheers...

Joe Mizuki

Todd said...

Hey, Joe. Keep in mind that I tweak my screen caps a little for publishing, so the difference between the quality of the actual copy of the movie that I had and yours might not be that much. To be honest, I didn't download the movie, but was given a dvd-r copy of it by someone whose source I didn't inquire about.

Anonymous said...

Thanks that explains it, My copy of 'Flying Saucers ...' looks more like the screen grabs on the link below. This is where I downloaded it off :-


jake the snake said...

Latecomer to this thread.
This classic can now be found on the Internet Archive with English subs.
Also, who knew the Humpty Hump
had a prior career as comic relief in Turksploitation movies?

You could do a whole festival starting with Devil Girl From Mars
through this, then El Nave de la Monstruos, La Planeta de los Mujeres Invasoras, and so on.
Would lack of a cardboard robot disqualify Invasion of the Star Creatures?

Todd said...

Thanks, Jake. I'm assuming you've already heard this:
The Infernal Brains Episode 17: Space Ladies from Space