Monday, December 28, 2009

The Turkish Santo & Captain America vs Spiderman (1973)

The Turkish Santo And Captain America vs Spiderman

Turkey 1973 colour

Fullscreen, in Turkish with English subtitles

aka 3 Dev Adam/“Three Mighty Men”

Director T Firket Ucak

Cast Aytekin Akkaya, Yuvuz Slekman

Welcome to Instanbul in the 1970s, where men roamed the streets in flares and regulation mutton chops and mustaches, smoking was regarded as one of the erotic arts, and popular culture is fair game - even masked wrestlers from Mexico City couldn't walk the streets without encountering Turkish film producers with large rolls of flypaper trying to snare a costumed superhero or two. In the case of this movie, they found three - and possibly more - in the baffling "Three Mighty Men", or as we prefer to call it, The Turkish Santo and Captain America vs Spiderman.

Long-time Schlock Treatment fiends will recognize the term "Turksploitation", a signal that our Ottoman friends will no doubt be appropriating Western iconography and mutating it with their own unique sensibilities to create a strange and exciting new cinematic hybrid. Its culture is a schizophrenic one: both modernist and centuries-old, a true crossroads of East and West, and symptomatic of a colonial outpost with transplanted cultures, like Mexico, India, the Philippines, from which similarly strange hybrids thrive. For us Western audiences, we are very much the foreigner, the outsider to these seemingly jarring cultural dislocations, astounding leaps of logic, and an almost free-form jazz interplay of icons and signifiers. For us, part of the pleasure of viewing such films is to see familiar figures reflected back from an amusement park hall of mirrors: either too tall or too squat, with Borat mustaches and the costumes wrong, and in languages so impenetrable even subtitles can't do them justice.

But where do "inspiration" and "appropriation" end, and carbon copying begin? There's a knowingness, a kind of tacit agreement on the part of audiences and filmmakers alike, when it comes to outright thievery; it's a gleeful, rebellious act of cultural hijacking as much as it is an impotent resignation of defeat, as if stealing hubcaps and throwing rotten eggs at the ever-rolling Western juggernaut would ever halt the machine, if only to stop crushing its victims under the wheels for a brief moment. It's a filmic Stockhome Syndrome in which you resent as much as fetishize your attacker - in this instance, Superman and everything in the Western world that hegemaniacal rapist represents. Which means falling to your knees and fumbling for his cock in his tights with one hand, and plunging a Kryptonite dagger into the back of his leg with the other.

...Which brings us to one of Turkey's most notorious hijackings - a frantic, fast-paced and always-entertaining rejig of the DC Comics world via the Mexican wrestling ring. All that's missing is Superman, and presumably there were already too many Turkish Supermen (at last count there were four and possibly more!). Not that Turkey wasn't fond of its costumed superheroes - there were homegrown Batmen, a local Spy Smasher, a Flying Man versus Kilink (a Turkish version of costumed supervillain Kriminal). And they were equal opportunity offenders, stealing from everywhere: the Three Fantastic Supermen from Italy, Kriminal from Spain, but from Mexico? Just how far did those Santo films travel? It's clear the producers went looking for a hero, but had no real concept of just what makes a Mexican Masked Wrestler. Gone is Santo's trademark barrel chest for one thing; for another, "Santo" spends most of the film without his mask on, breaking a cardinal rule no self-respecting luchadore would ever allow happen, even in death.

Spiderman this time is a supervillain called "Spider", a slightly odd creature with pale eyeshadow visible under his scarlet executioner hood's eyebrows, perched atop an ill-fitting green body stocking. Described as a "child-minded lunatic" by police, he's also mastermind of an international plan to sell art treasures and launder counterfeit currency, as far as the United States and even in Mexico. Hence the arrival of Captain America and Santo - without masks, at first, and looking like your regular hashish-buying tourists - and the Captain's partner-in-crime, a gorgeous mistress of disguise named Julia. Ostensibly a kid's film, there are strippings, mutilations, a perfectly-executed death-by-guinea-pig, and a killer opening sequence in which a girl buried up to her neck in sand gets a steaming eyeful of an outboard motor. Blood splatters the leg's of Spider[man]'s lover Nadja while she laughs sardonically, and all before the opening credits. Cue musical stings from the then-current Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, and our excursion into Bizarro World has only just begun.

"You speak Turkish well," local police chief Orhan tells Santo. True, no-one bats an eyelid when Captain America and his cohorts deliver their lines fluently. I would even go as far to say it's one of the most baffling films we've ever offered through the archives. In fact there's not just one Spider[man], not two, not even three, but...well, we'll let YOU count how many Turkish Spider[men] there are in The Turkish Santo and Capatain America vs Spiderman. (Andrew Leavold)

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