Monday, September 12, 2011

Casus Kiran: Yedi Canli Adam (Turkey, 1970)

In my review of Casus Kiran, Turkish director Yilmaz Atadeniz’s remake of the 1942 Republic serial Spy Smasher, I described that film as being “in constant, rapid motion from beginning to end, presenting more of a continuous event than an actual story”. I further went on to opine –- quite pithily, if I do say so myself -- that “trying to impose the strictures of plot upon it is sort of like trying to identify the conflicts and character arcs within a hurricane or brush fire”. With that in mind, you’d have to think that any sequel to such a film would have no choice but to pick up where the former left off -- to just keep rolling out that one continuous event to the point when all allotted time and resources were exhausted.

Add to this the fact that all Turkish pulp superhero films of Casus Kiran’s ilk, when taken as a whole, are themselves something of a blur and a picture like Casus Kiran: Yedi Canli Adam (“Spy Smasher: The Man With Seven Lives”) comes across as being more intended to further obscure such distinctions than it does to expand upon any particular previously existing property.

Of course, simply picking up where Casus Kiran left off is not an option for Yedi Canli Adam, because seemingly much has changed in the intervening years. Producer-and-distributor-turned-star Irfan Atasoy indeed returns in the lead role, but is mostly surrounded by new faces. And even the costume he wears as Spy Smasher has been changed, now more closely resembling the getup worn by the hero of Atadeniz protégé Cetin Inanc’s earlier Iron Claw the Pirate, a film that was already tough enough to distinguish from Casus Kiran as is.

Also subject to the old switcheroo is Spy Smasher’s sexy lady sidekick, played in the original by Sevda Ferdag and here by Feri Cansel -- playing a character who, in accordance with Turkish pulp movie naming conventions, appears to also be named Feri. Happily, what has not changed is the fact that Spy Smasher and his sexy lady sidekick have just about the best marriage in all of superhero-dom. They just really enjoy beating up and killing their enemies together, and often trade admiring glances and laugh lustily while doing so. You get the sense that they have really amazing sex afterward. Furthermore, while she is twice more likely to end up picturesquely tied to a post, Feri is the Smash-meister’s equal in both dishing out and taking punishment, and is also no slouch when it comes to talking some vicious smack (something that, even in an unsubtitled Turkish film, needs no translation).

One lamentable way in which Yedi Canli Adam does maintain the status quo, I’m sorry to say, is in its inclusion of an in-name-only comic relief sidekick for our heroes. That character, Bitik, is this time, however, kitted out in a Sherlock Holmes outfit. Atadeniz apparently really liked this idea of a gibbering comic foil named Bitik annoying his superheroic betters by bumbling around in a deerstalker and cape, because he also included that character in his subsequent film The Deathless Devil. There, however, the character was portrayed by Erol Gunaydin, a different actor from the one who plays him here, although Erol Gunaydin is, in fact, in Yedi Canli Adam, only playing an entirely different role. Yilmaz Atadeniz, you have officially blown my mind.

And then there are our villains. While Casus Kiran made one of its rare concessions to the actual plot of the film it was ostensibly remaking by featuring a mysterious hooded villain in the grand 1940s movie serial tradition, Yedi Canli Adam’s choice of heavy is more indicative of its time. Here the bad guy is a foppish, floppy haired libertine in ascot and shades, with a crew who are a bit scruffier than the generic black hats seen in the first film, some of them even having the beardy look of student radicals. In keeping with that, the gang conducts much of their business surrounded by blissed out hippies in a psychedelic nightclub, a setting that provides for such indelible musical moments as a group frug to the Standell’s “Riot on Sunset Strip”, as well as other timely favorites.

Together this motley collective goes about the general business of being enemies of Turkey, which here mainly involves carrying out assassinations and the kidnapping of a prominent scientist and his young daughter. This, naturally, means that it won’t be long before Spy Smasher and Feri are roaring down the highway after them, burning rubber on their twin motorcycles as a surf cover of the In Like Flint theme plays on the soundtrack. (A healthy chunk or John Barry’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service score and Peter Thomas’ jaunty Jerry Cotton theme also get quite a workout.) This sets in motion the usual cycle of our heroes repeatedly chasing and then engaging in frenetic tussles with the baddies, leading to each having multiple opportunities to both be captured and to rescue the other from capture. Throughout this, it must be said that Irfan Atasoy pulls off some deeply impressive acrobatics and stunts, although they do require one to willfully ignore the very many times the villains could potentially have shot him while he was executing all of those show-offy serial back-flips and handstands.

While the enjoyment I took in Yedi Canli Adam derived in great part from happy associations with every other pulp Turkish superhero film I’ve seen, I regret that watching it has placed even further from recall any of those other films’ specifics. I mean, how many nominally unrelated Turkish superhero films featuring comic relief characters named Bitik who dress like Sherlock Holmes is one man expected to keep track of? Or how many featuring pairs of motorcycle riding his-and-hers heroes, especially given that their costumes are virtually indistinguishable from one another? The answer may be that the whole of Turkish pulp cinema is really meant to be experienced as one big intoxicating morass, rather than as a collection of discrete works. I’m beginning to suspect that Yilmaz Atadeniz saw it that way, at least.

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