Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tuesday: The 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down returns to referee SUPERARGO VS. DIABOLICUS!

That's right, the 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down will be returning this coming Tuesday, January 5th. Because, hey, what better way is there to start off the new year than by tweeting along with your internet friends to a crazy ass movie? Our feature for the evening will be Superargo vs. Diabolicus, one of the better Italian superhero films of the 60s (see my Teleport City review here). Ken Wood stars as Superargo, a masked wrestler who retires from the ring after accidentally killing an opponent, only to be called back into action by the Secret Service in their battle against Diabolicus, a criminal mastermind. Will Superargo overcome his debilitating case of psychedelic PTSD and prove himself worthy in this effort? Perhaps this trailer will offer a clue:

The fun starts at 6pm Pacific time on Tuesday. Join us on Twitter using the hashtag #4DKMSD. A link to the complete film will be posted here. Ciao!

Monday, December 28, 2015

4DK's five most read posts of 2015

My plans to revive the 4DK Annual Search Term Tweet-athon this year were scuttled by the fact that both Google Analytics and Blogger no longer provide a comprehensive accounting of search terms (boo!) However, while I am thus unable to let you in on some of the misbegotten notions that have lead the confused, booze-addled and horny to wash up on the shores of 4DK, I can tell you what those people who came to 4Dk intentionally were most often seeking out—and in most cases by using search terms that matched exactly the titles of the five films listed below.

5. Tarzan & King Kong (India, 1965)
It’s easy to imagine the excited pitter-pat in the heart of the expectant genre film fan upon first contemplating the title Tarzan & King Kong and all that it promises. It is also easy to imagine the crashing disappointment experienced by that same genre film fan upon discovering that the King Kong referred to in that title is nothing more than an obese Hungarian wrestler. Fans of Indian stunt film king Dara Singh will be further crestfallen to learn that, despite Dara’s prominence on the VCD cover, it is his little brother, Randhawa, who plays the titular hero.

Still, while Tarzan & King Kong might seem like it was carefully calibrated to smash movie nerd expectations, it is actually a very entertaining picture, thanks in large part to game performance from a cast of Indian B movie stalwarts like the great Bela Bose and a pre-stardom Mumtaz (who teaches Tarzan how to do the Twist) and an enthusiastic rolling out of a wide assortment of cheesy jungle movie perils. Nonetheless, I suspect that it is the promise, and not the reality, of that title that has led so many to come to my review of the film. And, true, while many of those readers may have come away disappointed, chances are that they were not as disappointed as those who came to it using the search term “Dara Singh and Mumtaz hot sex”.

4. Haseena Atom Bomb (Pakistan, 1990)
Given that a considerable portion of 4DK’s readers come from Pakistan, it should perhaps come as no surprise that three of the five films on this list are from that country. What is surprising to me is that, while I have also covered films from Pakistan’s Punjabi and Urdu speaking regions, it is only films from the country’s Pashto region that have placed in the top five. By way of explanation, let me say that Haseena Atom Bomb is something of a standard bearer for Pashto cinema. Are all Pashto films as jaw droppingly trashy as Haseena Atom Bomb is? No, they are not. But an awful lot of them are. My 2009 review of Haseena spent a number of years as 4DK’s most read post, and it is admittedly a little sad to see her knocked off her pedestal. Still, I think you will agree that her successor is a worthy one.

3. Teri Meherbaniyan (India, 1985)
My review of Teri Meherbaniyan started as a series of drunken tweets that were mostly for the benefit of my wife, who was laid up in the hospital at the time. I think these tweets succinctly communicated the WTF flavor of the Teri Meherbaniyan viewing experience, although the film ultimately demanded much more of me, with this review being the result. The onus of Teri Meherbaniyan’s utter uniqueness rests entirely on the narrow shoulders of one Brownie, The Wonder Dog, from whose perspective much of the story is told. And be forewarned that this is no Disney-esque tale of a loyal pup making his adorable way across the countryside to be reunited with his loving family. On the contrary, it is a bloody revenge tale rife with slasher movie beats and instances of hallucinatory canine PTSD. It is wholly deserving of its place in the top five, as it is a film that will truly change the way you look at movies and, as such, exactly the type of movie that gives 4DK its reason for being.

2. Adam Khor (Pakistan, 1991)
Another Pashto film, Adam Khor features a rampaging, sasquatch-like creature, a monkey riding a horse, and a dirt-encrusted Badar Munir rising up out of the ground like a hypertrophic dust bunny. As I noted in my 2011 review, it also contains everything that you’d expect from a Pashto film of its era, including “lots of throaty yelling, fat ladies in wet clothing dancing, and an abundance of loud gunfire and punching sound effects in places where none were manifestly called for.” It also holds a place of pride(?) in the history of Pakistani cult cinema for being the first in a wave of horror-themed Pashto action films that ultimately lead to…

1. Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay (Pakistan, 1997)
Given it appeals less to academic types than it does to couch barnacles like myself who can’t be troubled to bring even a rudimentary understanding of a film’s native language to its appreciation, Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay is mostly known on these shores as Cat Beast. I think that its wide cult appeal is due to the fact that, while it is to a large extent an almost frighteningly idiosyncratic foreign horror film, it is also something of a superhero fantasy. Director/star Shehnaz Begum’s Hulk-like transformation into a squalling cat monster is even more gratifying for the fact that she is doing so in order to maul to death a cartoonish assortment of glowering rapists and sex perverts—making for a film that is less I Spit on Your Grave than it is I Bury My Poop on Your Grave. Such is the demand for this insane oddity that I have not only covered it on 4DK, but also on the most recent episode of the Infernal Brains, the podcast that I co-host with Tars Tarkas. Of course, I am not the only person to have written about it; it has been widely covered elsewhere on the internet, and often with as much or more insight than I brought to the task--which makes me that much more grateful that my take on it has become such a reader favorite.

Monday, December 21, 2015

4DK's Year in Review

Any hypothetical person who tried to keep track of all of this blog's various offshoots and adjunct projects could be forgiven for suffering a kind of 4DK fatigue. That is why I have decided to give you a handy rundown of this year's highlights. Here's hoping that I have, by this effort, at least slowed the process of you becoming a glassy eyed automaton that hates me.

FUNKY BOLLYWOOD: For me, the highlight of 2015 was the publication of my book Funky Bollywood: The Wild World of 1970s Indian Action Cinema, which was released by England's venerable FAB Press on March 15th. Sales of the book were healthy and the reviews positive, but for me the best part of being a published author was the in-store events at which I was able to meet readers, answer their questions and hear their comments. The Q & A sessions at these events were lively to say the least, and I probably ended up learning as much or more from them than the audience did. This is as true for the book launch at San Francisco's Lost Weekend Video as it was for my signing at Folio Books. But my favorite event by far was the one held at the Digital Gym Cinema in San Diego, the recording of which was released as an episode of interviewer Miguel Rodriguez's Horrible Imaginings podcast. (The less said about my talk at the SF Public Library, the better.)

POP OFFENSIVE: In 2015, Pop Offensive, a show that had originated as something of a lark, entered its second year of regular monthly episodes--and with that accumulated experience came the confidence to mess with the format a little. This resulted in theme episodes like our characteristically effervescent tributes to girl groups and Bollywood, as well as a Halloween episode that managed the unlikely juxtaposition of songs by Johnny Cash, Throbbing Gristle, and Kylie Minogue. 2015 was also the year that Pop Offensive transitioned from being an internet radio show only and hit the airwaves proper. Of course, this was a boon only to people living within a stone's throw of Oakland's Lake Merritt, who can now, thanks to our mighty 100 watt signal, listen to the show on KGPC, 96.9 FM.

THE 4DK MONTHLY MOVIE SHOUT DOWN: This 4DK sponsored movie Tweet-along continued to be a source of rigorously pointless amusement in 2015, with highlights that included two installments each from the Starman and Kommisar X franchises, as well as the Filmark produced robo-wreck Devil's Dynamite. As in 2014, @lowdudgeon, @avantgardea and @culturalgutter continued to be MVPs, displaying unfailing wit in the face of even the most dispiriting cinematic washouts.

TAIWAN NOIR: The best thing about co-hosting the Taiwan Noir podcast is that its host, Podcast on Fire's Ken Brorsson, has such a clear vision of where he wants the show to go--and such a sure hand in guiding it there--that I feel like all I have to do is show up and shoot the shit. Given the easy repartee that Ken and I have developed over the course of twelve episodes, that is something that is very easy and fun to do. Some of our most enjoyable episodes this year have been love fests in which we showered praise upon some of our favorites--which, of course, included crazy, effects-driven fantasy films like Feng Shen Bang, Taiwanese kaiju War God, and, in our most recent episode, The Child of Peach

THE INFERNAL BRAINS: Sadly, Tars Tarkas and I were only able to squeeze out two episodes of the Infernal Brains podcast this year. Happily, they were both doozies, including our "Space Ladies from Outer Space" episode--featuring guest Carol Borden of The Cultural Gutter--which is surely among our best and most popular ever.  We also gave a typically thorough going-over to Cat Beast, a squalling Pakistani monster/superhero mash-up that appears to have been edited by a garbage disposal and scored by an air raid siren. Our plan is to be more prolific in the new year, a goal which, given this year's meager showing, seems like it should be reasonably attainable.

FIGHTING FEMMES, FIENDS, AND FANATICS: Despite being out of production for just over two years, this video series continues to ratchet up viewers on its YouTube Channel and likes on its Facebook page. And it's no wonder, because it's a great series, one of my proudest accomplishments during my career as a guy talking about weird movies on the Internet.

TELEPORT CITY: After coasting on my backlog of reviews for a good while, I finally got off my butt in 2015 and contributed some new content to Teleport City, writing a review of the Australian superhero farce The Return of Captain Invincible and an overview of Egyptian popular cinema's golden age. I intend to contribute more in 2016 so that I may credibly continue to claim that I write for the best cult film website on the Internet.

4DK: I reviewed 17 films on 4DK this year. This assortment was the usual mixed bag, consisting of gems that I recommended unabashedly (Cairo Station, Having a Wild Weekend, Ana Antar, La Guerrera Vengadora 2) road apples that were only of interest as cultural oddities (the loathsome apartheid-era South African thriller Terrorist) and those that simply had to be seen to be believed (2016). Along the way, I checked in with some old friends (KSR Doss, Armando Bo and Isabel Sarli, Farid Chawki) and said goodbye to some others (Patrick Macnee). I even found time to ruminate on the role of language in film and my continuing habit of watching unsubtitled foreign movies. All the while I was thankful to have found this bizarre calling and to have appreciative readers like yourselves to make it all worthwhile.

OH, AND because I still didn't feel like I was doing quite enough, I followed my 18-year-old nephew's example and got a Band Camp account, then proceeded to make a couple of my long buried musical endeavors available online. One of them is a sort of "best of" compilation of my solo work from the aughts. The other is a frequently requested live recording of my old band B Team's final show, which took place at Wolfgang's in San Francisco in July of 1983. 1983! True, you only have my sincerest assurances that neither of these suck to go on, but, when living dangerously only costs five bucks a pop, why not just take the chance?

As for what lies ahead, as blasé as a prediction of "more of the same" might sound, it is in my case an exciting prospect. Given how much I have enjoyed all of the above activities, another year like 2015 would be welcome.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Podcast on Fire's Taiwan Noir Episode 20: Child of Peach

This latest is the twentieth episode of Taiwan Noir and my twelfth as co-host. It is also the first in a series of episodes in which we will be addressing the mind bending Peach Kid films and their progeny, starting with 1987's Child of Peach. If you like your trippy fantasy kung fu films served up with a generous splash of urine, this podcast--which you can "stream" now from the Podcast of Fire website--is so you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

We played. You heard. We offended.

From Manila to Oslo to Monaco to Hollywood, last night's Pop Offensive once again took listeners on an international tour of world pop music at its most catchy and hip shaking. If you missed it, fear not. Thanks to Donald Trump's arch enemy, "That Internet", it is now available forever, along with every other one of our episodes, from the KGPC website's Pop Offensive archive. In addition, the playlist for the episode, which will also be online long past the time when the mountains have crumbled and the oceans run dry, is now available on the Pop Offensive Facebook Page.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl, aka La Louve Solitaire (France/Italy, 1968)

The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl’s title gives it a lot to live up to, as does its superficial resemblance to Danger: Diabolik, which is perhaps the Platonic ideal of fun 1960s pop art Eurocrime films. Some who come to it with expectations based on that resemblance may be disappointed, as there are more differences between the two than similarities.

One of the key differences is that, while Diabolik is based on a comic book, Cat Girl is based on, well, a book book, in particular La Louve Solitaire (“The Lone Wolf”) by French crime novelist Albert Sainte-Aube. This was the first of a series of 12 novels that featured as their protagonist glamorous circus-acrobat-turned-cat-burglar Françoise Dilmont, which were written by Saint-Aube between 1967 and 1973. Indeed, Cat Girl first came into this world bearing the title La Louve Solitaire. That is, until someone—I suspect the Italians—decided to sex it up.

Our introduction to Françoise, aka “The She Wolf”, comes in the film’s opening scene. Looking every bit like a lady version of Diabolik in her black head-to-toe body stocking, she stages a perilous burglary that involves walking a tightrope strung high above a courtyard filled with frugging partygoers, then, ill-gotten gains in hand, making her getaway in a gleaming red Firebird. Later we learn that she is a high end real estate dealer by day, and uses her knowledge of the homes she sells her clients to rob them blind once they move in. Personally, I find this to be an implausible set-up, mainly because I live in San Francisco, where realtors tend to take all of your money up front.

The She Wolf’s next caper turns out to be a sting mounted by Durieux (Julien Guiomar, of Costa-Garvas’ Z), an official with the French secret police. Somewhat predictably, Durieux has a job to which Françoise’s talents are uniquely suited and, in return for her taking it on, will grant her freedom—with the caveat that, upon completion, she leaves the country immediately and never returns. The target of this job is a diplomat from “one of the new independent republics” who is using his diplomatic immunity to act as a drug courier for a mysterious Mr. Big named Saratoga, who, in another example of Cat Girl’s toney casting, is played by Last Year at Marienbad’s Sacha Pitoëff. Françoise’s assigned task will be to steal the diplomat’s latest package, containing 20 kilos of synthetic heroin, presumably with the intent of getting him into hot water with his boss.

Françoise is portrayed by Daniele Gaubert, a French actress who was undergoing something of a career renaissance at the time, having recently returned to the screen after a long absence. This absence was occasioned by her marriage, in 1963, to the son of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, a marriage that was coming to a messy conclusion by the time of Cat Girl’s release. That her public’s hearts had grown founder of her during this period is evidenced by her sudden elevation, upon her return, from supporting to lead roles. It was during the years surrounding Cat Girl that she would star in some of her most well remembered films, including Paris N’existe Pas with Serge Gainsbourg and Radley Metzger’s Camille 2000. Four years later, in 1972, she starred in the caper film Snow Job, on which she met her second husband, skier Jean-Claude Killy, who would remain with her until her death from cancer in 1987.

To her portrayal of Françoise, Gaubert brings little of the cocky joie de vivre that we tend to prefer in our altruistic bandits and, as a sex symbol, comes off as more sullen than sultry. This may have been the point, of course. After all, Francoise is performing her daring do under duress from The Man here, and has every right to be po-faced about it. There is also the matter of her being portrayed from the start as something of an ice princess who cares only for money, which sets the stage nicely for the moment when she starts to find her heart being melted by her leading man. In any case, this puts the onus upon the elements surrounding Gaubert to give Cat Girl its pop. Among these are playful mod-era touches like Francoise’s tricked-out subterranean bachelorette pad (another nod to Diabolik) and a couple of scenes of hipsters go-go dancing to twangy pop music. There is also Francis Lai’s sleek Euro-jazzy score and, lest we forget, the game performances of Gaubert’s supporting players.

Among these is Claude Chabrol favorite Michel Duchaussoy (This Man Must Die), who plays Bruno, an agent with a gift for lip reading who is assigned to be Françoise’s partner in her mission. This mission essentially involves Françoise and Bruno being parked in a hotel room across from their suspect’s embassy. Here they exchange flirty non sequiturs while spying on the diplomat’s office, waiting for him to receive the shipment of heroin. Finally, in a very Rear Window inspired scene, Francoise, after accessing the embassy’s upper floors by trapeze, rifles through the diplomat’s office as Bruno watches anxiously through a telescope. Much like in Rear Window, the diplomat makes an unexpectedly early return and tries to shoot Françoise, only to be taken down by a sniper’s bullet from Bruno. Her job now done, Francoise hightails it to Geneva, only to find herself being pursued by two of Saratoga’s psychotic henchmen, Silvio and Hans—the last named played by Jacques Brunet in what would be, were this a German Eurospy film, the Horst Frank role.

The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl was one of only two theatrical features directed by Edouard Logereau, who worked extensively in European television. Logereau brings an assured hand to the task, but what he should really be credited for is being so keenly aware of the tradition within which he was working. Not only am I referring here to the aforementioned Hitchcock riff and the familial nods to Danger: Diabolik, but also to the repeated scenes of Françoise Gaubert, clad in a black cat suit, scampering across the rooftops of Paris. These are an unmistakable homage to Louis Feuillade’s classic serial Les Vampires, in which actress Musidora traversed those rooftops in much the same fashion--scenes that were payed similar homage by Olivier Assayas in his 1996 film Irma Vep.

Another thing that is striking about Cat Girl, Alongside Logereau’s genre savvy, is just how violent it is not. The shooting of the diplomat aside, there are no onscreen deaths until the film’s last few minutes, and those are not dwelt upon. The film also lacks the rote action set pieces—car chases, fist fights—that dot the typical Euro-thrillers of its era. In place of them are the scenes depicting Francoise’s burglaries, which are all accomplished with live stunt work, rather than the rear projection of cheesy process shots you might expect. In other words, they look refreshingly real, and as such can be forgiven those odd moments when the camera fails to hide the masculine proportions of Francoise Gaubert’s stunt double.

In the final tally, The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl’s cosmetic resemblance to Danger: Diabolik does not serve it well, as it lacks that film’s giddy irreverence and excitement. It is nonetheless a very enjoyable film in its own right, marked by solid performances from an accomplished cast, a glamorous setting, and a screenplay with a fair share of unexpected twists. In my case, it also appeals due to the fact that I am currently house shopping. It amuses me to think that one of these skinny, nervous women who insist upon showing me houses I can’t afford might be a thrill-seeking cat burglar in disguise.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Have a fa la la la Funky Bollywood Christmas!

This Christmas you can give the Bollywood lover in your life a gift that will be a gift for me also. I'm talking, of course, about Funky Bollywood: The Wild World of 1970s Indian Action Cinema, a book I wrote that is just as fresh and filled with filmi fun as it was on the day of its release back in March of this year. To refresh your memory, this is the book of which Grady Hendrix of Film Comment/Kaiju Shakedown said "reading it makes you want to fill your eyes to overflowing with all the psychedelic glories of old-school Bollywood cray-cray." Jai Arjun Singh of Open magazine said "This book is the locket fragment that helps [Stadtman] prove he is a lost-and-found sibling to us homegrown fans." Oh, and our good pal Beth over at Beth Loves Bollywood says that it is "SUPERWOW". Need I say more?

Funky Bollywood is available from all of your favorite online booksellers, and also Amazon. If your loved one is extra fancy, you can still purchase a special signed and numbered edition directly from the FAB Press website. Get it today and start planning your New Years day marathon of classic Bollywood "dishoom-dishoom!"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Rama Superman Indonesia (Indonesia, 1974)

According to some sources, Rama Superman Indonesia has been little seen outside of Indonesia due to the litigiousness of Kal-El Superman America’s copyright holders. Apparently, it is only for us, the fans, to call a spade a spade (Turkish Spiderman, Korean Batman, etc.), because for the filmmakers themselves to do it is to invite trouble. In the case of Rama Superman Indonesia, this is no great loss, as it is not a film that needs to be seen—unless, of course, you are suffering from a rare disease that can only be cured by seeing the dutiful trotting out of standard superhero movie plot points.

To be fair, Rama Superman Indonesia trots out those plot points with a lot of good natured zeal. It should also be commended for being only 70 minutes long, which is as long as any superhero movie needs to be. To further hold it up as a model of brevity, let me point out that it’s recounting of Rama’s origin story takes up as little as 5 minutes of screen time. 5 minutes! Seriously, Marvel, get these guys on the phone.

That origin story involves Andi (Boy Shahlani), a roly-poly youngster who hawks newspapers on the streets of the city. One day he offers food and comfort to a sickly old man whom he finds at the side of the road. In return, the man gives him a golden butterfly amulet which, when kissed, turns Andi into Rama (August Melasz), who looks like either a foxy surfer dude in a red leotard or a masked member of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs. (Ironically, Rama’s origin is less similar to that of Superman than it is to that of the original Captain Marvel, another character whom National/DC’s lawyers sued into near oblivion.)

In one of the film’s first capitulations to superhero movie canon, Rama’s arrival on the scene necessitates that Andi’s seemingly peaceful town immediately turn into a treacherous maze of peril and intrigue. An untended baby crawls into the path of an oncoming train, a random wacko starts chasing people around with a machete, etc. These vignettes, of course, allow our hero the opportunity to demonstrate his various powers for us. These include super strength and the power of flight, although we mainly just see Rama beating people up and grinding the stacked heel of his boot into their chests. Interestingly, there are times when Andi opts not to turn into Rama when under threat, as if these are situations for which the special powers of an out-of-shape 13-year-old are more suited. Also, Rama flies in an upright position, which is truly interesting.

In further obeisance to the form, Andi has an attractive female friend named Lia (Yenny Rachman, introduced with a spectacularly unsubtle ass-cam shot). While Lia is impossibly out of the league of a putz like Andi, it almost goes without saying that, immediately upon learning of Rama’s existence, she has a daydream in which she goes to the beach in a bikini and is attacked by literally every man on it—only to be rescued by Rama, who then makes out with her. In a later musical sequence (set to the song “Jabat Ha Ti”, sung by Rachman herself), she envisions Rama coming to her on a white steed and plunging with her into a sublimely silly montage of cliché romantic frolics.

Despite all this, it is not Lia’s rich fantasy life that makes her important to the plot of Rama Superman Indonesia. What does make her important is her role as that indispensable action movie mainstay, the beautiful daughter of the professor who has invented some new kind of super weapon. These efforts have made the professor a person of unwelcome interest for a character called The Black Dragon, who himself holds up a certain superhero movie tradition, the one decreeing that the villain is always the best part of the movie. Wearing a black hood that makes his head look like it’s wearing jodhpurs, the Black Dragon sits behind a desk covered with rotary phones and commands forth a parade of bumbling minions to kill the professor and steal his formula. These minions, of course, all end up being ground under Rama’s boot heels.

Aside from a refreshingly brisk pace, Rama Superman Indonesia boasts a great 70’s cop show funk soundtrack (credited to “Band THE DISC”) that always clues us in that we are watching an action scene, even when that is not manifestly apparent—as is the case with a couple of very leisurely car chases. The fights are of the Bollywood variety, with lots of ersatz kung fu accompanied by loud “DISHOOM DISHOOM” sound effects, but are nonetheless satisfyingly bone crunching—except for a bout with an especially dodgy looking cardboard box robot, during which Rama is conspicuously pulling his punches for fear of toppling the thing over.

Like that robot, the Black Dragon’s high tech lair is a triumph of dime store art direction, a strictly cardboard and construction paper affair. Indeed, Rama Superman Indonesia’s overall appearance of being an elementary school recreation of an old Republic serial puts it in the company of some classic Turkish pulp film of its era, such as The Deathless Devil and 3 Dev Adam. Many of you will recognize that as high praise coming from me, and I stand by it. Like those films, Rama enlivens dusty old tropes by attacking them as if they were new. It’s pure comic book ambitions could be made no clearer than by the Batman-style starburst graphics that accompany Rama’s blows. It is short, to the point, unfailingly entertaining and, by keeping it simple, in no way calls out for a reboot. Hollywood, take note.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ölüm Savasçisi, aka Death Warrior (Turkey, 1984)

 Karl over at the fabulous Fist of B List blog has kindly invited me, along with the rest of the members of M.O.S.S., to participate in his “Ninjavember” blog roundtable. I enthusiastically agreed, despite my feeling that ninjas, like zombies, have become sort of a generic cultural commodity—a faceless, insensate enemy seemingly readymade for wholesale, video game style slaughter—or, even worse, a lazy shorthand for a snarky kind of pop culture knowingness. Still—hey, ninjas!

I chose to write about Ölüm Savasçisi, a Turkish ninja film, because I thought that it would provide a welcome departure from all the Godfrey Ho Franken-ninja films that my co-hosting duties at the Taiwan Noir podcast have necessitated my familiarity with. Instead it turned out to be so similar to those films that it could almost be considered a Turkish remake of Ninja Thunderbolt, seeing as it largely consists of context-free fight scenes loosely held together by a lot of haphazardly assembled footage from other movies. In short, it is complete nonsense, albeit a very particular brand of nonsense.

I struggled to find a word to describe the editing rhythms of Ölüm Savasçisi. I finally settled upon “narcoleptic”, because watching it is like falling asleep in front of the TV and periodically waking up for 2-5 seconds at a time. Occasionally you will wake up to find that you are watching a scene from a James Bond movie and think, “Boy, I must have been asleep longer than I thought”—until you realize that that scene has been randomly inserted into Ölüm Savasçisi by its copyright flaunting producers. The best example of this is the film’s employment of the car chase from Diamonds Are Forever, which climaxes with two obvious toy cars being rammed together in front of a backdrop that looks like it was drawn with a magic marker.

Despite all of this, Ölüm Savasçisi differs from all of those Godfrey Ho movies in one very significant way, in that, rather than Richard Harrison, it stars Cuneyt Arkin, who essentially plays in it the pinnacle of Turkish manhood. This is usually the case with Arkin, of course, but here his innately Turkish awesomeness is put in especially stark relief by placing Ölüm Savasçisi’s action in an unnamed country with the grave misfortune of not being Turkey. Let’s call it Wimpistan, or Pussylvania.

This bloodless little country is being plagued by a series of ninja-style murders, and the only man for the case is Turkish police inspector Murat (Arkin), who must be roused from a Speedo-clad lakeside idyll with a bikini wearing honey to make the trip to Sissytopia. Murat, you see, has dealt with the ninja before and knows their ways. For the crazed Ninja cult that is responsible for the murders, this is a positive development, for it was the exact intent of their leader (Osman Betin) to draw Murat out so that he may exact upon him his vengeance for something or other. And so the wall-to-wall fighting that it is our divine right to expect from Turkish exploitation cinema begins.

Ölüm Savasçisi can be called many things, but a suspense film it is not. Murat so handily defeats all of his opponents that its outcome is as certain as sweet death itself. If there can be said to be any kind of real conflict in the movie, it is that between Murat and the police officials of Lameovia, who resent him hanging around and making them look weak and indecisive all the time (“What kind of man is he?” one asks, prior to meeting him. “Extremely honest, like all Turks,” comes the reply.) Time and again, they try to send him packing, only to have some new crisis come up for which he is needed. Finally, when the ninjas kidnap the country’s fat, sniveling president, Murat tears off on his motorcycle with a comely cult defector (Funda Firat) to lay siege to their mountain hideout.

Amidst the above described action, odd supernatural elements pop up throughout Ölüm Savasçisi like profanities from a Tourette’s sufferer’s mouth. A man is eaten by a hedge, and a zombie with a face covered in shaving cream rises from an autopsy table. Neither of these events is mentioned again. Elsewhere, much use is made of the careening “demon cam” effect from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, in one scene culminating with a ninja bursting up from out of the ground. Oh, and the evil cult leader can levitate rocks and turn them into incendiary bombs.

My wife watched a few minutes of Ölüm Savasçisi with me and opined that it was terrible. She was, and is, right. But it is terrible in the best kind of way. If you just want your brain wallpapered with eighty minutes of Cuneyt Arkin karate-ing ninjas into agonized heaps of human suffering, it is, in fact, a perfect movie. Because, hey, fuck those ninjas.