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.)


sunil said...

OMG! Lovely screencap of Batman in Robin's arms. Funny that neither of them wears the pants in that relationship.

Todd said...

Good point. One thing this movie proves is that, no matter how aggressively, obnoxiously macho you make Batman and Robin, you still end up with the impression that they're really just all about each other.

Michael Barnum said...

I applaud you Todd, so far I have not been able to make it all the way through a single Turkish action film, and that includes the 1950s Tarzan one. I don't know if it is the dubbing that sounds like it was recorded through a tin can or the fact that the films look like a grade schooler's 8mm movie...but I just can't do it.

You of all people know that I am all for films that are bad, bad, bad, fun, bad. And If I can sit through SKY DIVERS, THE CREEPING TERROR and just about anything that Kanti Shah can through at me you'd think I could deal with what the Turks have created on celluloid...but even I have my limits, evidently! LOL!

Todd said...

Mike, I'm tempted to throw out the titles of some favorites of mine that might change your mind -- 3 Dev Adam, Iron Fist: The Giants Are Coming, etc. -- but the fact is that those also have dubbing that sounds like it was recorded through a tin can and look like grade schoolers' 8mm movies, so I think I may just have to accept that these films are just not your cup o' tea.

Tars Tarkas said...

A lot of the older Turkish super hero films are very similar to old serials, especially when they have fight sequences that go on for over five minutes that are just guys punching each other. One of the Kizil Maske films is especially bad with long punching fights. This makes several of the films blend together, so you have to have a special kind of fun to escape from the pack.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

This is probably what Grant Morrison means when he talks about "the hairy-chested love god Batman".