Sunday, May 31, 2015

Golden Boy in Beirut, aka Altin Çocuk Beyrut'ta (Turkey, 1967)

Back in March of 2010, when I reviewed the first Golden Boy film for Teleport City, I described it as stripping the James Bond film down to its barest elements. You wouldn't think that that would leave much material left over to fashion a sequel from. But, apparently the success of Golden Boy--and perhaps the ego of its producer/star Goksel Arsoy--was big enough to warrant one. And so I now present to you Golden Boy in Beirut.

Let me first say that the version of Golden Boy in Beirut that is currently available on YouTube made me miss anew the late Bill Barounis and his Onar Films, who would have at least given us some English subtitles and gotten rid of the tracking lines at the bottom of the screen. Nonetheless, I accept that the experience of watching Turkish pulp films is inseparable from the ordeal of decrypting them from the layers of stank that have gathered upon them over years of neglect and abuse.

Then again, with Golden Boy in Beirut, we are again working with the bare bones of genre, so the basic touchstones of the plot were easy enough to work out. There is a much sought after document--the key to reading an also much sought after code--that switches hands numerous times throughout the film, going from coveted briefcase to coveted satchel to coveted valise, all the while being sought by an assortment of black suited gunsels who will refrain from no level of meanness to get their hands on it. Eventually super agent Golden Boy (Arsoy) is put on the case.

Sadly, Goksel Arsoy didn't win me over any more than he did in his debut. He here continues to displays a chronic case of Bitchy Resting Face that makes him look like a churlish toddler. His corresponding lack of charm does nothing to distract from the fact that Golden Boy is basically just a bully, grimly trundling from one assignation to the next to push and slap people--men and women alike--until he gets the information he wants. True, the same could be said of Sean Connery's James Bond, but Connery could at least pull off a dick move with some arguably mitigating panache. I also have to again point out Arsoy's resemblance to the Fall's Mark E. Smith.

As Golden Boy goes through his routine of making snitty faces while pushing and slapping people, he is all the while shadowed by a mysterious, black clad woman, who is played by the Lebanese singer Taroub. The two meet and make a cursory love connection while on the train to Beirut, insuring that Taroub will later be captured and picturesquely tortured by the heavies. The train's arrival at its destination then heralds a flaunting of production value that amounts to four solid minutes of Goksel Arsoy walking aimlessly through the streets of Beirut.

The obsessive in me feels irresistibly compelled to point out that, when Arsoy and Taroub finally do the deed, it is to the tune of that old chestnut from dad's record cabinet, the theme from A Man and a Woman ("ba ba ba dabba dabba da..."), which marks a departure from a score that is otherwise almost entirely made up of needle-dropped cues from the Goldfinger and Thunderball soundtracks. Other exceptions include the Golden Boy theme song from the first film, the Lebanese song "Yalla Habibi", and a snippet of the Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There" that plays during an early nightclub scene. Yes, I feel better now.

As always in these films, there is a mysterious "Mr. Big" behind all of the nefarious goings on, and eventually Golden Boy's ritualized routine of pushing and slapping brings him close enough to him to infiltrate his hideout, which is located deep within a ruined fortress. This he accomplishes by bringing with him the coveted briefcase and posing as--I think--a courier for the lesser villains. When revealed, the mysterious Mr. Big is this guy:

Now, I am willing to admit to you that I understood very little of what this movie was about. But I am also willing to admit that I do not care what this movie was about--because, for me, once he showed up, this movie was ALL ABOUT THIS GUY. I want to point out that he has a symbol of a gryphon both on his chest and on his cape. His cape! This he flounces behind him majestically as he paces around a hideout that looks like what Mission Control would look like if it was set up in a high school boiler room, attended by a retinue of shirtless muscle men and mini-skirted robo-babes. I wish at this point that this review could play a jackpot noise, but... well, you get the idea.

Anyway, once we have learned that Bizarro Batman is behind all of the villainous goings on, the action of Golden Boy in Beirut proceeds in fairly predictable fashion. Golden Boy has to whip the captive Taroub to prove that he is one of the bad guys, followed by a raid upon the lair by the authorities in which there is much shooting and people falling off of things. Yes, it is predictable, but would we really have it any other way? Might Golden Boy instead rip off his suit to reveal that he is really several babies standing on each others' shoulders? Might Taroub and the villain do the Bat-tusi to a rockabilly version of  "A Man and a Woman" as the hideout crashes down around them?

No. I think we should instead think about all of the other somewhat routine thrillers that could have been improved upon by the inclusion of a villain in what looks like a Halloween costume sewn by his mother and be grateful to Golden Boy in Beirut for that soupcon of compensatory ridiculousness. In this way, the chaotic virtues of world pop cinema make beggars of us all.

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