Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cotton. Jerry Cotton.

Chances are that most readers of this blog who have any knowledge of American actor George Nader at all do so as a result of him being the star of Robot Monster, a 1953 film that has earned its rightful place alongside Plan 9 From Outer Space as an exemplar of the worst its medium has to offer. However, those readers might be surprised to know that Robot Monster, despite its fearsome awfulness, was still successful enough to provide something of a stepping stone for Nader, and that the actor went on to have a fairly long and varied career in film and television in its wake. Taken under contract by Universal shortly after Robot Monster's release, Nader was groomed by the studio to be one of its hunky young leading men, though, in that regard, the actor would never manage to emerge from the shadow of his more successful friend, Rock Hudson. After a period of consistent but inauspicious feature work, he moved on to television, where, throughout the late fifties and early sixties, he appeared as a guest star on a number of series, eventually landing the title role in a short-lived syndicated show called Shannon.

I haven't been able to find a clear account of what specific circumstances lead to Hollywood going sour on George Nader. But it seems pretty clear that it involved an unhappy collision between the obsessive machinations of Confidential magazine publisher Robert Harrison and the simple fact that George Nader was gay. While not "out" in the modern sense, Nader at the time shared a home with his longtime partner, Mark Miller, and, unlike other of his peers, resisted studio pressure to enter into a phony marriage -- though he was known to go on the occasional PR-mandated "date" with a female starlet. I've found a number of sources that refer to rumors that Nader was offered up as a sacrifice by Universal in order to quell a story that Confidential was planning to run on Rock Hudson. The actor Tab Hunter is known to have fallen prey to a similar deal on Hudson's behalf, which may, depending on how you look at it, either lend veracity or shed doubt upon those rumors as they apply to Nader. Whatever the case, though, it's clear that, by the mid-sixties, work was drying up for Nader on these shores. In response, he and Miller packed up their lives and relocated to West Germany.

And it is in Germany that Nader's career entered an interesting new phase, starting, in 1965, with him being cast as the lead in a new series of films to be produced by the studio Allianz Filmproduktion. These were to be based on the adventures of Jerry Cotton, a fictional, Manhattan-based FBI agent who was at the center of a popular and exhaustively voluminous series of German pulp novels (something that, judging from the equally voluminous Kommissar X and Perry Rhodan book series, the German publishing industry apparently thrives upon). The resulting low budget productions ended up being enormously popular with German audiences, and would eventually come to comprise eight films in all, all made between 1965 and 1969, and all starring Nader as their hero. As a result, Nader became one of the country's most popular actors during the period, neck-and-neck with fellow American -- and former Tarzan -- Lex Barker, who played the recurring role of Old Shatterhand in the much beloved Winnetou films.

Despite the Jerry Cotton films relying on standard cops-and-robbers elements for their plots, they are today considered to nestle cozily within the Eurospy genre. And to understand why, one need only watch them. These are movies that would not exist in the absence of James Bond; In contrast to other cinematic treatments of the FBI's exploits from the era -- many of which take on a more procedural approach, emphasizing the machine-like precision of the organization as a whole -- the Cotton films are really all about Jerry, depicting him as a kind of super agent who, despite being teamed with a partner played by German actor Heinz Weiss, could conceivably defeat any nemesis single-handedly. In addition, his red Jaguar E-Type and tailored suits testify to a taste for the finer things well beyond the reach of any real-life G-Man. Overall, you get the sense that the filmmakers didn't put a lot of thought into the jurisdictional issues and niggling points of law that delineate the actual Bureau's scope of operations, with the clear priority instead being the presentation of a Bondian fantasy world steeped in action, speed, style and violence.

At this point I've only seen two of the Cotton films: the series' second entry, Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon (aka Schusse Aus Dem Geigenkasten) and 1967's The Body in Central Park (aka Der Morderclub Von Brooklyn), which was the fifth entry in the series and the first to be filmed in color. (My Teleport City colleague David Foster has in-depth reviews of some of the other Jerry Cotton films over on his fine blog Permission To Kill.) For me, one of the things that was most striking about these films is how, despite the obviously meager resources that the filmmakers had to work with, so much effort is dedicated to establishing the New York setting. This is accomplished by way of lots of stock footage and photographic backdrops, shooting on only the most anonymous German locations possible, and scenes in which the actors are very obviously standing on a tiny soundstage in front of a rear projection of Times Square. This arsenal of primitive gimmicks contributes to there being something just a bit "off" to the overall feel of things, and -- in complete opposition to the intention behind them -- a strange, neither-here-nor-there sense of placeless-ness that I found more than a little captivating.

I also found it interesting that, unlike in the Bond films that were so clearly an influence, Jerry is not provided with the expected array of female conquests to signpost his virility and sexual magnetism. In other words, despite what the promotional materials might lead you to believe, there are no "Cotton Girls" to 007's "Bond Girls". It's tempting to see a connection between this aspect of Jerry's milieu and the private life of the actor who played him, but this de-emphasizing of sex is reportedly a feature of Cotton's print adventures as well. In any case, I found the change refreshing, as it afforded a break from the leering schoolboy humor that usually passes for sexual sophistication in Eurospy films.

But the impression I get above all else about the Cotton series is that they are films that work very, very hard to entertain their audience, which is more than I can say about a lot of other films in their genre. Despite the threadbare nature of what you see on screen, the pacing is always tight and brisk, with rousing action scenes cropping up at dependable intervals. Nader shows a game commitment to the physical aspects of his role and, despite many of his stunt sequences being accomplished by way of some pretty rinky-dink studio trickery, always seems to be up for crawling around on the top of a moving train, or clinging to the side of a careening truck -- both being the kind of set pieces that came to be trademarks of the series. Providing a further highlight is the musical score by Peter Thomas -- a man whose work I've already praised in my review of the German sci-fi series Raumpatrouille Orion -- which serves to coat the sometimes homely, Saturday matinee aspects of the onscreen action with a sheen of sleek sixties style.

All in all, I found the two Jerry Cotton films I watched to be very satisfying, and am looking forward to delving further into the series. Not only is their star a fascinating figure, but the films themselves are quite an interesting hybrid: combining the distinctive Eurospy style with the spirit of classic Hollywood studio programmers like the Mike Shane and Mr. Moto series, capped off with an endearing oddness that is uniquely their own. Nader would move on from the series, of course, and would later retire from acting to pursue writing, eventually penning a sci-fi novel, Chrome, that was revolutionary for its gay themes. That, however, is a subject for someone else's blog. Our beat here at 4DK, after all, is the outlands of world pop cinema. And with his onscreen personification of Jerry Cotton, the German G-Man, Mr. Nader has already provided us with plenty to consider.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

James Bond 777 (India, 1971)

Given my extremely limited exposure to the Telegu language cinema of the 1970s, the fact that I could pick out three familiar faces among James Bond 777's cast makes the film, for me at least, something of an all-star affair. Of course, given the abysmal condition of the copy that I watched, picking out the actors was a task similar to trying to identify animal shapes in cloud formations. Still, when the Tollywood galaxy of stars plays host to such distinctive celestial bodies as these, its hard to be mistaken. Ladies and gentlemen, our stars:

Tollywood superstar Krishna, who also starred in the previously reviewed Kaun Saccha Kaun Jhoota, as secret agent James Bond 777, aka Kishore. (Apparently, in this instance, "James Bond" is just a job title, rather than someone's actual name.)

Vijaya Lalitha, who also starred in Kaun Saccha Kaun Jhoota, again fighting alongside Krishna, this time in the role of Sopa, the two-fisted female counterpart to agent 777.

Jyothi Laxmi, the star of the previously reviewed Pistolwali, playing a dual role as both femme fatale Jamilla and her less evil duplicate, a stroke of casting genius that allows her to have a catfight with herself during the film's rousing finale.

Oh, and also: at the helm, director K.S.R. Doss, the man behind Pistolwali, as well as a bunch of other female-centric Telegu action films, including the awesome sounding Rani Mera Naam.

As you can clearly see, Krishna's pompadour is as majestically towering as ever in James Bond 777, but there is another man on the scene whose 'do is every bit as formidable. That man is the evil mastermind known by his underlings as "Boss". Needless to say, the presence of two hairstyles of such equally monolithic proportions necessitates a battle to the death. In this Kishore is aided both by his righteousness and the able assistance of lady cop Sopa, as well as a comic relief sidekick who seems for all intents and purposes to be Tollywood's answer to Jagdeep. For his part, the Boss has at his disposal a small army of robotic goons in referee shirts and Panama hats, as well as a couple of female lieutenants ready and willing to do his dirty work. The first of these lieutenants is the aforementioned Jamilla, who operates from a secret lair hidden beneath a "Beauty Paralour". The other is Cindy, who seems to spend an awful lot of her time berating her minions, calling them "bloody fools" and whatnot.

The Boss also commands a trio of the most friendly-looking attack dogs in cinema history. The onus for portraying these beasts' menace falls entirely upon the film's human actors, who must react to their adorableness with expressions of abject terror.

James Bond 777 offered pretty much everything that I'm now learning to expect from these old Tollywood actioners: weird hair, crotch-grinding dance numbers filmed from uncomfortably intimate angles, and lots of crazy fights. It also managed to squeeze the familiar tropes of the James Bond series into the more comfortable Tollywood format of the family revenge film. In classic fashion, a prologue shows young Kishore's parents being murdered before his eyes by the movie's main villain, an injury that drives him to become the super secret agent of the film's title. Similarly, Sopa's father is also murdered by the heavy, which proves to be her motivation for joining Kishore in his fight. Of course, true to spy movie conventions, the villains also have some kind of grand diabolical scheme that the heroes are trying to prevent, but the film's lack of English subs prevents me from telling you what it is. I do know that it in part involved having the dogs rob a bank, though.

The movie -- as if you needed to be told -- is a glaringly low-budget affair, and in trying to cover up for its shortcomings employs a device that struck me as being very similar to the one used in the equally cash-strapped Mithun Chrakraborty-fronted James Bond knock-off, Gunmaster G-9, which was made several years later. In that film, whenever something took place on screen that was perhaps less spectacular than what the filmmakers had envisioned in their heads, the soundtrack blared with the character's theme tune, accompanied by an enthusiastic off-screen voice shouting "Gunmaster! G-9!" -- as if you could simply be hectored into getting excited over a pathetically underwhelming miniature effect or the sight of Mithun stepping out of a VW van while wiping sandwich crumbs off his lips. Similarly, James Bond 777 kicks in with a rousing theme tune and a female voice excitedly cooing "James Bond, triple seven!" whenever we're forced to confront, say, a motorcycle chase that's composed of lots of embarrassingly obvious rear projection.

Not that James Bond 777 doesn't provide its fair share of legitimate thrills, mind you. I was especially impressed by a pole fight sequence involving Vijaya Lalitha that looked like it was taken straight out of an old Shaw Brothers movie. I'd read that Hong Kong martial arts films were particularly popular in southern India during this period, and here is the visual proof.

I know that this is a broken record lament of mine, but I don't care. Will somebody please, please, pleeeease release James Bond 777 on an English subtitled DVD -- preferably one that, if at all possible, doesn't look like its mastering process involved using the surviving negative to snare bottom-dwellers from the bed of a stagnant lake? The fact that I enjoyed it despite all of the impediments that an angry god threw in my way indicates that, were said impediments removed, I would be moved to spout solid blocks of gold-tinged hyperbole from my mouth like some kind of xtacy-fueled verbal Pez dispenser. Want! Want! Want!

Um, was that clear enough for y'all?

calling XLU. Pompadour containment
breach imminent. Do you read me?

Wait... what?

Wow. Why did I review Times Square? Oh, I remember: Because the theme of this month's B-Masters Roundtable is youth counterculture, captured under the pithy title "These Kids Today". Check out my full review, just posted over at Teleport City.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! (Japan, 1963)

To those of you unfamiliar with the catalog of Japanese director Seijun Suzuki, please be assured that I did not vomit up that title in a fit of text-based Tourette's Syndrome. Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! is an example of Suzuki's work at the peak of the Nikkatsu Action boom, before he got bored with the cookie-cutter scripts he was being handed and created those surreal provocations -- Branded To Kill, Tokyo Drifter -- that would not only insure he'd forever have the term "maverick" affixed to his name, but also get his ass fired by his masters at Nikkatsu. The film amply demonstrates those strengths that made Suzuki an asset to the studio's stable of directors in the first place -- namely his ability to turn out a tightly constructed and expertly paced genre picture with a not inconsiderable amount of style. In other words, exactly the type of film that Nikkatsu, at that point in its history, had staked its reputation upon. At the same time, Detective Bureau also evidences the mordant humor and flamboyant use of color that would come to be considered trademarks of his more challenging and legend-building works.

Suzuki's leading man of choice, Nikkatsu tough guy Jo Shishido, stars here as a wily private detective who convinces the police to let him take part in an undercover operation in order to get the goods on a mysterious gang. The gang has been making its fortune by robbing other, more established criminal outfits of their ill-gotten loot -- most recently a large cache of stolen military weapons -- with the result that Tokyo's underworld has been turned upside down and is now boiling on the brink of full-blown war. Shishido gains entrance into the gang when he steps in to stop one of its captured members from being the victim of a jailhouse lynching at the hands of a Yakuza mob. From this point the film takes us through all of the close scrapes and tense masquerades that are familiar from other "deep cover" type cops and robbers tales, though frequently these episodes play out in a fashion that is more humorous than suspenseful. The rakish detective's former conquests keep turning up at inconvenient moments, for instance, and the efforts of his two oddball assistants often threaten to be more hurtful to his cause than helpful.

Detective Bureau could definitely be described as a comic action film. But its comedy, I'm happy to report, derives more from the absurd twists of its plot and the quirkiness of its characters than from, as is all too often the case, any unnecessary funny business being inserted into it. As such, that humor lends a breezy, irreverent tone to the proceedings that makes the story seem to careen along that much faster -- and which adds an extra bit of "pop" to the film's already bristling sense of pop art style. This more whimsical approach to the genre should not, however, lead you to expect any skimping on the violent action that was Nikkatsu's -- and Suzuki's -- stock in trade, as the film's raucous final act conclusively demonstrates.

I loved Detective Bureau 2-3. It's not Suzuki's best, but it's resoundingly successful at what it sets out to be. It's an example of how, when handled with this level of assurance, simple genre cinema can evoke in the viewer the pure, giddy delight that comes from knowing you're in the hands of a master. It's a point at which you know you can just sit back and enjoy the ride for all its colorful, stylish and attitude-dripping turns, secure in the knowledge that you're not going to be let down. Highly recommended.

Your Jesus didn't bring us any candy

America, you are a weak and sinful nation. That's alright by me, of course. Just don't go crying to Baptist firebrand Estus W. Pirkle about it when the Commies overrun your town and start driving bamboo spikes through your children's heads. That, as far as I can gather, is the message of If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, the subject of my latest review over at Teleport City.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alyas Batman en Robin (Philippines, 1993)

As a follow-up to my review of Bedmen Yarasa Adam, I thought I'd delve a little further into the abuses that the Batman copyright has suffered at the hands of filmmakers from non-English speaking lands. Today's stop: the Philippines. The caped crusader has been a fairly steady fixture of that country's Tagalog language cinema over the years, being the subject of everything from the raucous pop culture parodies that Filipino audiences apparently never tire of to more sober, but no less unauthorized, treatments starting with the mid-sixties heyday of the American Batman TV series. Sadly many examples of such films -- including the original, 1965 version of Alyas Batman & Robin, 1967's Batman Fights Dracula, and 1973's Fight Batman Fight! -- appear to be among that large percentage of pre-EDSA Tagalog pop cinema that has since been lost to the combined forces of time and neglect. (One happy exception is Dolphy's irreverent 1966 spoof James Batman, which I reviewed for Teleport City last year.)

Thanks to its more recent vintage, the 1993 musical comedy Alyas Batman en Robin is probably the easiest to track down of all the Pinoy Bat-sploitation films -- not to mention the most widely reviewed. This is so much the case that I've never really made much of an effort to get my hands on it, secure in the knowledge that it would eventually fall into my lap one way or another. Well, that inevitable day has finally rolled around. And having now viewed Alyas Batman en Robin -- armed with the very low expectations that everything I'd heard about it seemed to justify -- I have to admit to being a bit surprised. Not that Alyas Batman en Robin is all that good, mind you. It's not. It's just that it ended up being fairly different from what I'd been lead to anticipate. This is largely due to the fact that, unlike its predecessors, Alyas is not an attempt to bring Batman and Robin's comic book world to the screen, but rather a tale of two doofy inhabitants of the everyday world -- the one in which Batman and Robin only exist in the comics -- who decide to take on the role of those fictional crime fighters in real life.

Alyas stars popular Filipino comedian and television presenter Joey de Leon, here continuing a string of successful pop culture spoofs that included Sheman: Mistress of the Universe and the Starzan films, both of which were helmed by Alyas director Tony Y. Reyes. This time around, De Leon costars with his own son, actor and singer Keempee de Leon, playing -- I think -- the role of De Leon Junior's elder sibling. (Keempee's character refers to De Leon Senior as "Kuya", a Tagalog term that, while literally translating as "big brother", can also refer to an elder male relative from the extended family.) Kempee portrays Kevin, a bookish college student and closet comic enthusiast, who -- when a gang of run-of-the-mill crooks assume the guises of The Joker, The Penguin and Catwoman to commit a series of bank robberies -- convinces his Kuya Joey to join him in becoming a real world dynamic duo. The two commit to this task the best efforts that they're resources will allow, constructing a makeshift Batcave in Joey's garage and customizing a less-than-supercharged approximation of the Batmobile using one of their own cars. This aspect of Alyas' story represents a rare instance of a Filipino film's low production values being a source of intentional humor, as Joey-cum-Batman and Kevin-cum-Robin's low-rent creations are meant to look every bit as cheesy as they appear.

While Joey and Kevin's fumblings in their attempts to personify Batman and Robin provide for a lot of Alyas Batman en Robin's comedy -- the exaggerated stiffness that Joey De Leon affects whenever he's in his Batsuit, for instance, is actually quite funny -- it's important to note that, for the most part, they're heroic exploits are successful, and result in their masked alter-egos being celebrated by the grateful populace of their city. In this sense, Alyas is far less the cut-rate knock-off of the original Batman that you might expect, and is instead a full-fledged appropriation and culturally-informed repurposing of the character; In other words, not the whitebread Batman of the comics, but a Batman born specifically of the Philippines, with a distinct Pinoy identity. This kind of cheeky hijacking of Western pop totems is one of the things I love most about Tagalog pop cinema. While Turkish films, for example, were equally profligate in their blatant borrowing of characters from Western films and comics -- and did end up doing some culturally-motivated retooling of those characters -- they seemed to be doing so for mainly mercenary purposes, while Filipino film's borrowing of such characters often seemed to have a far more transformative -- and even subversive -- intent. One can't really find a better example of this than Filipino film and comic book heroine Darna, a rural reinterpretation of Wonder Woman who acts as a savior to the poor residents of her small village.

While providing us with a fair amount of the biff-bang-pow action that one would expect from a Batman movie, Alyas Batman en Robin also goes about the business of being a romantic comedy. Young Kevin finds, much to his delight, that the object of his heretofore unrequited love, Vina (Vina Morales), has become besotted with Robin, but is foiled in his attempts to reveal his identity to her by the arrival on the scene of a flock of would-be suitors in Robin costumes. Meanwhile, Joey falls for Angelique (Dawn Zulueta), the genre-requisite "plucky girl reporter" hell-bent on getting the scoop on Batman's true identity. Eventually his romantic frustrations lead to him having a "dark night" of the soul of his own, with the result that Robin is left to fend for himself against the gang of costumed criminals. Eventually the pair rallies in time for a triumphant third act confrontation with the forces of evil, clearing the way for a chirpy, all singing, all dancing finale.

A staple of Joey de Leon's comedy act was his song parodies, which involved him singing his own putatively comical words to the tunes of popular oldies. With the exception of one, very eighties-sounding power ballad sung by Keempee de Leon and Vina Morales, these are the type of songs that comprise Alyas' several musical numbers. A training montage early in the film that features Kevin and Joey getting fit for their superheroic duties is accompanied by a tune lifted from the Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari", to which off-screen vocalists sing:

"Holy smokes, Batman and RobinOh my God, Batman and RobinPraise the Lord, Batman and RobinShoot, man, shoot, Batman and RobinLet's do Bruce Wayne nowAnd Dick Grayson nowThey are a part of me!"

The Joker (Filipino comedian and frequent De Leon sidekick Rene Requiestas in his final film role) and the Penguin (beloved comic actor Panchito) are incapable of pulling off a robbery without a bit of song and dance, and their spirit is so infectious that the besieged bank tellers and customers can't help but join in and act as their chorus line. Finally, everything comes to a silly karaoke-esque head with a closing number in which the principles -- heroes and villains alike -- are joined by dancers costumed as various superheroes (midget Spider-man!) to caper about and sing to the tune of "At The Hop":

"Let's be good, not bad
Let us not be bad
Let's be afraid of God
Let's believe in love!"

In contrast to the more anarchic, seemingly Mad Magazine-inspired style of the earlier James Batman, Alyas Batman en Robin is a gentler breed of Bat-comedy altogether, redolent of goofy sweetness and bearing an earnest up-with-people message at its core. We've seen this kind of apirational comic fantasy before, with its riffing on everyday folks' use of popular fantasy heroes as repositories for their better selves. (Takashi Miike's Zebraman comes immediately to mind.) However, Alyas' intellectual-property-law-flaunting use of an actual, very recognizable piece of "real world" pop iconography disarmingly strips away a layer of artifice that those other films have to employ out of legal necessity, making possible an identification with the schleppy protagonists that is that much more poignant and immediate. It also doesn't hurt that the lead performers -- by which I refer to the DeLeons, both junior and senior, and Dawn Zulueta -- are all thoroughly likeable (and in Zuleuta's case, knee-tremblingly gorgeous in the bargain).

Again, this is not to say that Alyas Batman en Robin is a particularly good film. To be honest, it's startlingly amateurish on many levels and as hokey as all get out. Still, I think that, if you're willing to give it a chance, you'll find that it has quite a bit more to offer than what you might have read about it elsewhere on the internets would lead you to believe.

Ah, the glory days of print media.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bedmen Yarasa Adam (Turkey, 1973)

I can easily foresee a day when I have nothing left to say about these Turkish superhero movies. I mean, their typical "run, jump, hit, shoot, belly dance and repeat" structure only yields so much grist for commentary. Still, while I'd be hard pressed to dedicate a full-blown, feature-length Teleport City-style review to a film like Bedmen Yarasa Adam, I've got to say that such films still hold a lot of appeal for me. Part of this you can simply chalk up to dependability, a virtue that tends to get overlooked when considering world cinema, but one that I think becomes increasingly important in these uncertain times. I mean, you may not know what you're going to see next time you look in your 401K, or whether you're still going to have a job in the morning, but if you pop an old Turkish superhero movie into you're DVD player, you know pretty much exactly what you're going to get: Um, did I mention the running, jumping, hitting, shooting, and belly dancing?

More importantly, however, there is the fact that, while these films almost always draw upon American superheroes for their inspiration, they always manage to somehow make those heroes more sexy and dangerous than their U.S. incarnations -- and sometimes even downright sleazy. Take the version of Batman we're presented with in Bedmen Yarasa Adam, for instance: He's a smirky, big-haired guy who smokes, uses a gun, frequents strip clubs (with Robin in tow), roughs up women, and habitually screws around behind his girlfriend's back. A first rate asshole, really. But, hey, it's certainly a bold departure from how we typically see Batman portrayed. I mean, I know that Christian Bale is supposed to be this dark, "adult" version of Batman, but the makers of those movies definitely pull-up short of showing him perving around in the darkened corners of titty bars. The Turks, ladies and gentlemen!

Bedmen -- commonly known as "Turkish Batman" -- was directed by a fellow named Gunay Kosova, about whom I know absolutely nothing. In fact, the only familiar name that cropped up in the credits was that of Turkish pulp cinema renaissance man Kunt Tulgar -- director of Supermen Donuyor, star of The Deathless Devil -- who acted as soundman. What I can tell you, though, is that, being one of the later films of its type, Bedmen is an exemplar of the more relaxed standards that were adopted by Turkish cinema during the seventies, with a much greater and more explicit emphasis on nudity and soft-core escapades than in the already rough-edged costumed hero movies of the sixties. This is so much the case that the frequent sequences of women seductively dancing their way out of their skivvies, both in public and when alone in the boudoir (that is what you ladies do when you're alone, right?), actually begin to drag the pace down, robbing the film of the type of amphetamine drive that made earlier films like Iron Claw the Pirate so much fun to watch. Despite this, however, the resulting combination of outright seediness and kiddie matinee thrills makes for a perverse spectacle that is hard to casually dismiss.

Because I watched Bedmen Yarasa Adam on an unsubtitled DVD-R, I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to fill you in on whatever intricacies its plot might contain. Viewing it that way made me appreciate anew the care that Onar takes with their releases of these type of films -- and, in the interest of fairness, I have to say that my lack of comprehension might have made me more acutely aware of the amount of dialog in it, and as a result might have made it seem to drag more than it would have had I been able to understand what was being said. Anyway, what we have here basically is a Blofeld-like villain, complete with a cat and a retinue of interchangeable, black-hatted goons, who all -- except for the cat -- repeatedly clash with Batman (Levent Cakir) and Robin (Huseyin Sayan), both in their costumed and smarmy civilian guises, throughout the film. Beyond that it seems like Batman and Robin's primary beat involves the protection of Istanbul's naked women from gangs of rapists and murderers, after which Batman makes out with them. The fight scenes are, as is the standard, thoroughly entertaining, and seem to be more tightly choreographed than the usual frenetic free-for-alls we see in most Turkish films, with Batman and Robin executing all kinds of hilariously unnecessary synchronized somersaults and cartwheels in the course of their brawling, as well as some pretty gay looking tandem maneuvers.

I also might have missed some of the movie's details because I was so busy trying to identify and jot down all of the various bits of pilfered music that kept popping up on the soundtrack. That Bedmen's musical score consists entirely of unlicensed needle-drops should come as no surprise -- that is the Turkish cinema way, after all -- but I have to say that whoever was in charge here reached across a much wider expanse of the musical spectrum than usual, and with singularly eclectic results. In addition to large swaths of John Barry's score from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, we also get snippets of Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On", the themes to both "I Spy" and "The Saint", Serge Gainsbourg's "Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus", Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing", Booker T & The MGs "Time Is Tight", and Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love". Combined, this all has more the feel of random channel surfing than it does a cohesive musical score, and, as a result, serves less to ennoble the conspicuously threadbare onscreen action than it does to make it sound in every scene like someone left a transistor radio playing in the background. Nonetheless, it makes for a lively game of "Name That Tune" for those viewers like myself who are inclined to pay attention to such things.

Bedmen Yarasa Adam's sixty minute running time insures that, despite it's longueurs, it will be over before you know it, which I know is far from a ringing endorsement. Happily, for those Turkish cinema novices out there, much more easy to find films like Iron Claw and the Kilink series will provide a far better introduction. This one is really only for obsessives and those who have been pining to see Batman portrayed as an unctuous horndog.

(For a more detailed take on Bedmen Yarasa Adam, check out Tars Tarkas' review over at his site.)

Friday's best pop song ever

Clout: They're just like ABBA, only more South African and with no dudes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lucha Diaries update

I've just updated the Lucha Diaries homepage with links to all of my most recent Teleport City reviews. In the course of doing that I discovered that, for some reason, the site is currently not accessible by way of the url. I'm all paid up and the domain doesn't expire for another year, so, honest, it's not my fault this time. Anyway, until I get that sorted out, the site is always accessible via the following link:

Please update your bookmarks accordingly. Thanks!