Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Dead Don't Talk / Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder - Turkish Horror Double Bill

The Dead Don’t Talk
Original Title: Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki
Directed by: Yavuz Yalinkiliç
Turkey, 1970
Horror, 76 min.
Distributed by: Onar Films

As you may recall in my rant on Kutluğ Ataman’s The Serpent’s Tale (Karnalik Sular) and the Turkish cinema – Yesilçam- it also had it’s own spectacular rise and fall producing some amazing movies of the fantastic genres during a brief period. But one of the most saddening facts about this time period is that when ticket sales once again halted and distributors and companies in a search to reclaim their money took drastic measures to get back their investments. Selling what they could to TV and foreign Video distribution, many of the movies left where destroyed to extract the silver contained in the prints. You can just imagine the amounts of films lost for all eternity for the small winnings that the devastating process gave in return.

With the tragic butchering of cinematic pop culture that took place in the mid eighties, it’s no wonder that the missing movies of their Fantastic scene are such sought after delights, and in some ways we do not demanded to have restored widescreen images and Dolby Digital 5.1 re-mastered soundtracks for these rarities – we will make do with what can be found – after all it’s either these releases or not at all. And it is fascinating to see the treasure hunters, or cinematic archaeologists if you like, come out from their intense searches with cultural heritage that one has thought missing forever now returned from the dead, no longer banished to the land of the Lost.

Onar Films Horror Double feature is a splendid investment for anyone who wants’ to get a grasp of what horror in Turkey could be like, as it features two movies made during the early seventies that are two completely different ways of approaching horror. One a classical old-school ghost in the haunted house flick and the other a contemporary arty Giallo flick with razor wielding killers, hot dames and eclectic soundtrack. In their own way, both movies are highly interesting, and also the short two years in between them goes to show just how fast trends and audience demands can shift, both creating and breaking new ground.

Fist out, Yavuz Yalinkiliç’s 1970, black and white Goth haunted house horror Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki (The Dead Don’t Talk) which they do, and even laugh ominously on each given occasion – so perhaps the dead laugh may have been a better title.

Yalinkiliç wastes no time setting the tone, creepy music and sinister laughter echo over the opening credits – and that’s pretty much the tone that you will get throughout the film, light hearted Goth horror not to different to the A.I.P films of the US, European flicks from Spain, France Italy and obviously the Hammer films of the UK produced during the sixties and seventies.

Melih [Aytekin Akkaya – one of the greatest Turkish genre stars along with Cünyet Arkin], and Oya, have been invited up to the mansion of the late Mr. Adem, presumably on business. It’s the 15th night of the month, and their coach driver makes sure to point this out to the youngsters before dropping them off outside the mansion and taking off like a bat out of hell. Melih and Oya enter the mansion only to find it empty, but strangely enough, the table in the dining room is set for two. The enigmatic servant Hassan [Giray Alpan – who actually looks like Vincent Price!] makes an entrance and greets them with phrases like Mr. Adem’s soul will be pleased. Later on Hassan lures away Oya to a living room sporting an executioners block and a portrait of a woman. He breaks down in tears in front of the photograph bawling on about how the woman, just like all beauties, leave him to wander the halls of the mansion alone. Later that night as Oya sleeps, Melih investigates the strange sounds he hears from downstairs and encounters the ghoul! The ghoul [Jirayir Ciracki] laughs as Melih empties his gun into the entity and stomps menacingly forth.

With some splendid in camera trick cinematography and the use of mirrors the ghoul seems to be indestructible as Melih shoot’s into a mirror. But the ghost can’t be stopped and both Melih and Oya lose their lives to the hands of the ghoul. Now we have had a pretty long set up of the ghost, the mansion and the curse of the fifteenth day, when the ghoul rises from his tomb.

Time to bring on the second batch, the new schoolteacher Sema [Sema Yaprak] arrives with the coach from the opening scene. She rides past two herdsmen, Kerem and Hodja. Meeting up the Director (the headmaster) Mr. Nuri, she installs herself in the mansion of Mr. Adem. Pretty soon the laughing ghost is up and about again, Hassan pulls his “woe poor me” shtick again and we see that everything is heading towards the same results as the first segment. But a rather unexplored relationship that has developed between Kerem and Sema has Kerem and his two friends Hodja Imam and Remzi make it their mission to put an end to the ghoul that walks the night.

After the ghoul knocks on Sema’s window late at night begging her to let him in, Sema flees and tries to hide at the home of Mr. Nuri. This leads her to the conclusion that Mr. Nuri is possessed or possibly housing the soul of the ghoul! Using herself as bait, Sema, Kerem, Remzi and Mr Imam go up against the ghoul in a final battle that has the ghoul begging for mercy as they taunt him with Holy Scripture and sacred artefacts. He melts before their very eyes leaving Sema and Kerem to walk off together into the sunrise.

I was quite worried as I started to watch Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki, as the first few minutes give a somewhat wrong impression of the movie. After the initial sequence and the introduction of Sema the movie really picks up and finds a decent Goth horror style in it’s own quirky way. There’s some classy cinematography, like the mentioned mirror scene, which is used for both parts of the movie, and some fabulous wide shots that really use the location wonderfully to bring some real atmosphere to the film.

If you frequently read the stuff I put up here you know how much I cherish a sceptic protagonist as it makes the transition into the world of horror from the ordinary word so much easier for us. Several times there are referents to this world, which in 1970 obviously was making huge progress, only a few years earlier the space race had started, technology was arriving and within a couple of years the video boom, cell phones and internet would be common household items. In the first sequence Melih states “superstitions are a thing of the past”, later Kerem say’s “In this century when people go to the moon, why do these ghost stories still exist?”

It could possibly be that Yalinkiliç’s wanted to make the statement that even though technology and progress prevails, it’s of out most importance that we don’t forget our history and cultural heritage. Even if it means believing in scary stories and laughing ghouls.

In the first sequence of the film you will see Aytekin Akkaya in a very early role. Later Akkaya would hold parts in Antonio Margheritti’s Ark of the Sun God and Yor both 1983, and was also in Çetin Inanc’s Dünyayi kurtan adam (The Man who Saves the World), the one you probably know better as Turkish Star Wars 1973 which saw him act against Cünyet Arkin, and T. Rikret Uçak’s hillarious 3 dev adam (The Three Mighty Men) 1973 where he was Captain America.

Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder
Original Title: Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet
Directed by: Mehmet Aslan
Turkey 1972
Giallo, 58 min.
Distributed by: Onar Films

Next up a movie completely different in tone – Mehmet Aslan’s Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet (Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder) 1972, made only two years after Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki. As cinema started loosing ticket sales to the modern thrills of TV entertainment, movie producers started looking for other tricks and delights to lure the audiences back into the darkness of the cinemas – and what better than graphic death, violence and sex! Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet is definitely not your average Goth horror but a fast moving shitkicker that brings all of the classic Giallo traits right into the heart of Istanbul. And it leaves an impression that will leave you craving more.

This one starts off just as you would have thought, with an initial attack to set up the masked, gloved antagonist, when he picks up a hitchhiker only to abuse, rape and slash her to bits with a straight razor a few minutes later. Hot crumpet Mine [Meral Zeren] on the way home with her husband, Metin [Nihat Ziylalan] learns of the violent death of the young woman and instantly has flashbacks to a terrifying experience she had herself as a younger woman. Her then abusive boy friend Tarik [Yildrim Gencer – who played the masked Kilink in Yilmaz Atadeniz’s Kilink Istanbul’da 1967] raped, slashed and beat her to a pulp and left her for dead in the muddy terrain at the end of their turbulent relationship. The scar that Mine after the last assault left him with is the only thing that the cops can identify the killer by, as hat was the last thing the murder victim remarked on before dying. Being Giallo territory the pace is rapid and during a cocktail party we are introduced to the rest of the key characters; Mine’s best friend Oya [Eva Bender who starred in many of Aslan’s Tarkan films] Yilmaz [Kadir Inanir] who soon will become Mine’s love interest, and lurking in the background - Mine’s ex and our prime suspect for the initial attack, the sadistic Tarik!

After Yilmaz makes his suave introduction and sets his line of seduction in motion, Mine spots Tarik, who follows her out of the party and threatens her with a broken bottle to the face. Luckily her husband Metin arrives in the nick of time, and Tarik flees from the party.

Here starts the classic Giallo cat and mouse chase that we have come to love, as we try to keep up and figure out what is going on the plot shifts back and forth between several of the leading characters as we figure out who the killer is and what he wants’. And just as we would expect, as soon as we make a presumption, the whole thing skids off the rails and takes a new destination, and once again Mine is at the centre of attention again, but just whom can she trust? Her best friend, her husband, her new lover? We will never know until Aslan wraps it all up with the final twist, and lets us in on the secret of the plot that he’s been hiding behind his back all along, and it’s worth the wait.

I love the way this movie just get’s the formula, and nails the atmosphere of Gialli cinema straight off from the start. There’s none of the trying to be a Giallo like many other Gialli influenced movies that where made outside of Italy, often disappointing and confusing films that you won’t think twice about. Instead Mehmet Aslan hits the spot and proves that you don’t have to be an Italian to make an interesting piece of Gialli cinema.

Lies, depraved sexual appetites, sinister characters, black mail, red herrings and double crossing back stabbers, it sure is a Giallo in every sense. The soundtrack with it’s eclectic fuzzy guitar and gentle piano swirls, subjective camera, masked, gloved killer and there’s even a fabulous little scene where the lighting is very reminiscent of Mario Bava’s vivid colours of Blood and Black Lace [Sei donne per l'assassino] 1964. Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder does satisfy that thirst and definitely delivers! It utilises the classic twist, turn, and surprise ending of many a great Giall and it's possible that Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh 1970 may have influenced the plot, but I'd say that also Henri-George’s Clouzout’s Les Diabolique 1955 had a part in the plot as it plays off the same platform - the murder for inheritance plot. But don’t think for a second that Mehmet Aslan stops there as he definitely isn’t pulling a cheap copy of what he’s seen before, and pushes it a few steps further than you may have foreseen.

It’s a great movie that fans of Giallo cinema definitely should check out, and together the two films on Onar Films Turkish Horror Double Bill make up for a terrific night of genre cinema exploration. And if you still want more, just watch the almost two hours of supplemental features and you will be in Turkish genre cinema heaven.

Both films are presented in 4:3 Full screen.
Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki - Black/White
Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet - Colour.

Mono 2.0 Turkish Dialogue with English or Greek subtitles optional.

It’s not a genuine Onar Films release without the fantastic amount of extras that these discs bring with them. This time there’s interviews with the late Metin Demirhan – who passed away two years ago, way to young – one of the most insightful Turkish film experts ever, who puts both films into their correct context and historical time frame. Giovanni Scognamillo – a Turkish actor, writer and cinema historian, who also discusses Turkish cinema, and finally an extensive interview with actor and Turkish star Aytekin Akkaya, who also talks about his career and the movies of Turkish genre cinema. All in all there’s almost two hours of interviews and you will walk away a lot wiser on the subject than before. And have a complete new set of movies you want to see. There’s a photo gallery of sills and posters from Turkish Horror films, a gallery of Aytekin Akkaya stills, and a series of trailers for other titles released by Onar Films.

So once again. Get online and pick yourself up a copy of the Onar Films Turkish Horror Double Bill as they are on limited release of 1200 pieces only and once they are gone these films will once again return to the land of the lost, but this time not forgotten.

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