Turkish First Blood (1983)

6.5 out of 10
If there is one feature film that fans of oddball cinema should see, at least once, then Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is probably it! Internationally released as The Man Who Saved the World, it would probably be better known by its nickname: Turkish Star Wars. Re-using a ton of footage from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, this widely loved science fiction mockbuster also manages to recycle the soundtrack of Flash Gordon, Indiana Jones, Planet of the Apes, Battlestar Galactaca and so on. Hyperactive to its very core, Turkish Star Wars is as entertaining as it is shameless and as wild as it is inept. It is brilliant. Maybe brilliant for all the wrong reasons. But, brilliant nonetheless. Indeed, if ever there was a film that deserved to be a cult classic then Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam was surely it. However, Turkish Star Wars presented something of a problem for director Çetin Inanç. Because there was surely no way that he could top this: his magnum opus. Nobody could! However, if there was one man who could give it a bloody good go, then Çetin would be that man! Thus we have, drumroll please, TURKISH FIRST BLOOD!!!!! He would then, in time, even follow this up, for good measure, with a Turkish Rambo a number of years later! However that would be a different story... The "Rambo" of Turkish First Blood is called Riza. He is played by Cüneyt Arkin, the Father Ted haired action hero from Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam. He isn't simply like Rambo though. For the purpose of this film he IS Rambo. You see, originally titled Vahsi kan, Turkish First Blood is not simply similar to First Blood in the way that, say, Blastfighter is. No! This is more of a rip-off. A clone even. More so than Thunder Warrior! Indeed, it copies scene after scene. You know that bit where John J is stuck on top of cliff? Well, that happens here too! A dummy is tossed into some trees hundreds of feet below. That scene where Rambo has to stitch his wounds? That happens too. Sort of! Rambo gets stuck in cave? Yup, you've guessed it. It would probably be fair to describe this as a remake. Albeit an unofficial one. In fact our Turkish Rambo does all the things that Ted Kotcheff's Rambo does. Funnily enough, though, Turkish First Blood starts out on a different course altogether. As the film opens, and with the credits still rolling, we witness a party being attacked by a band of thugs. The action then moves to a car. This contains a man, his young son and is driven by his grown daughter. She is played by the Lilli Carati-esque Emel Tümer and thanks to some particularly leery camerawork, is viewed upskirt. The car is forced to grind to a halt as they are confronted by the sight of a pile of bloody bodies lying in the road. However, it turns out these are not dead at all. They stand and claw at the car like the undead from Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground. So is this a zombie film? Well, no! It is something else altogether. The "zombies" turn out to be desperate criminals. They are the henchmen of a local thug who is played by Hüseyin Peyda. They attack the people occupying the car and kill the father and son. Then, in a scene reminiscent of Fernando Di Leo's, Avere vent'anni, the bloodthirsty mob pursue the woman into the woods. She manages to stab one, but is overpowered. They hold her down, tear at her clothes and bizarrely, like a band of over-enthusiastic grunting puppies, slobber all over her. Aha, so this must be a revenge movie! Something like I Spit on Your Grave? Right? Nope! It's not! It's not one of those! Because, from the moment that Cüneyt Arkin's Riza indicates that he is intent on walking into the nearby town, we are in First Blood mode. This is what it is all about! For at least ninety percent of the time this is a scene by scene, erm, homage to all things John J. Our hero, armed with a knife, wearing a makeshift sackcloth smock and headband, stalks the mountain while his former officer Kemal attempts to talk him down via a radio. It's all sooooo familiar! There are some differences though. For example, now recovered from her ordeal, Emel Tümer reappears at the midway point. Just like our Rambo, she too has a headband. It co-ordinates with her knickers and, later on, the cavegirl fur-kini style outfit that she manages to fashion from God knows what. Her role here, however, consists of nothing more than bathing while looking seductively at Riza and doing a host of general woman in peril stuff. For example running away, scrambling over obstacles, falling over or screaming. Her impact is such that even the maudlin music that accompanies her demise is cut short! Then again, there is little time for sentimentality when there are action type things to be getting on with. Anyhow, despite the fact that the whole spiky man-trap thing gets done to death in this film what we have here is a decent enough action film. It is gritty and, at times, pretty gory. The martial arts are brutal and bloody. Indeed, for the ulrta-violence alone, the film really is worth a look. But were the film to consist of none of this, the conclusion alone would be worth the price of admission! Indeed it represents what it is probably one of the greatest WTF moments in the history of explotation cinema. You see, when Riza finally confronts his nemesis it turns out to be a bloke with no arms or legs. So, who he? Well that obvious question gets explained, with the aid of a handy flashback, in the final minutes. So, with all context finally taken care of, what we notice is that this arch super-villain is sitting on a trigger. This, in turn attaches to a wire that leads to a wooden box in the middle of the floor. So what, dare I ask, is this? Could this possibly be a bomb? You gotta be shittin' me!!!!! I mean, like, who'd fall for that?

Narcotic (1933)

6.0 out of 10
Narcotic is the story of Dr. William G. Davis. This pre-code movie traces his life from student to snakoil salesman. However, rather than focus upon his career, as one would expect, it places a particular emphasis upon his extracurricular activities. Especially his dalliance with opiates. William is played by Harry Cording. His career would largely consist of a number of minor supporting roles. These include a number of bit part roles in Universal's wartime Sherlock Holmes series. The ones with Basil Rathbone. But, here in Narcotic, he is there star. We are introduced to Cording's Dr.Davis during his college days. From the outset, the film is keen to portray the future doctor as young, fit and healthy. So, we see him armwrestle. We see him remove his shirt. We are invited to admire his physique. However, in reality, Cording is a little podgy around the ridriff. So, we must suspend disbelief. We have to, instead, imagine a little more muscle where the puppy fat resides. This, of course, is for us to recognise his transformation and subsequent failing health. It is during the doctor's college days that his friend, Gee Wu, brings up the subject of opium. Wu is supposed to be Chinese. In order to underscore this he speaks, in ever so cryptic terms, of British foreign policy. While this is not spelled out explicitly, it still proves useful in helping to establish the nationality of Wu. Especially given that J. Stuart Blackton Jr's eyeliner and "Hans Brix" style faux-eastern delivery is somewhat generic. As is his references to his home in The Orient. While Wu maybe somewhat inauthentic, there are also what appear to be some real Chinese performers in this. During the early scenes they populate a fairly convincing opium den. Fuck knows what they would have made of Blackton's whole "Dottor Wirriam" type spiel. It's pretty offensive. Anyhow, the doctor fails to heed the advice of his friend. He doesn't, as warned, only ride the magic dragon in moderation. He goes back, time and again. So, his spiral into addiction begins. It is during this period that, in terms of future marriage and career, the seeds of destruction are sewn. You see, as the preamble promises, we get to witness the pernicious power of heroin. It's certainly not pretty. Not here. Indeed, what we get, is a heartbreaking character transformation, ruination and degradation. Throughout all this, Esper clearly wants to shock. So, he treats us to some graphic and grimly fascinating documentary style footage. There are scenes of one snake swallowing another. We also get to share in a caesarean birth. There are shots of needles piercing flesh and of freaks performing in a carnival sideshow. If this film that intends to be all about mood, then the mood is one that is pretty downbeat. You see, it is obvious that Narcotic, rather than simply telling a story, intends to be an experience. It tries to evoke a particular feeling. In this, the film works. Incredibly well! Indeed, Narcotic is probably a far more effective effort than so many other cautionary tales over the years. Especially those insincere morality tales of the Hays Code era that, in truth, existed purely as transgressive Trojan Horses. Dwain Esper only directed a couple of films. Yet this handful of features would prove to be more than enough to secure his place in the exploitation hall of fame. After all, he had a filmography that included the likes of How to Undress in Front of Your Husband, Maniac, Marihuana and Sex Madness. Even within era that was characterised by ever slightly naughty films, Narcotic stands out. After all, while some, such as Thunder Below, would deal with minor indiscretions, other early talkie titles would be far darker. The brutal gang-rape themed Story of Temple Drake for example. Or, even, Todd Browning's Freaks. Both pack a real punch! But, wthout doubt, few films of the time will get under the skin to the extent of Narcotic. Even in such a disreputable mileu, this is something else altogether! By way of illustration it is probably worth drawing a comparison with Louis J. Gasnier's genre entry. After all, both titles mine a similar rich vein. Both use scenes of a drug party in order to make its case. However, despite purporting to caution against the temptations of drug use, Reefer Madness, with its wild,gesticulating, piano player, is likely to provoke only guffaws. On the other hand, a comparible segment in Narcotic, will probably leave viewers with a genereal feeling of unease. There is just something a little disquieting about watching a broken doctor and his band of hedonistic friends picking over a smörgåsbord of heroin, weed and coke before spinning out, giggling maniacally or getting paranoid. Fun? Not much! However, all this is probably an essential for exploitaiton fans. Especially for those who inhabit the darker corners of psychotronic cinema. For it is, on the whole, a rather grotty place. Nevertheless, people who can find a flicker of joy in The Sinful Dwarf, Jungle Holocaust, Combat Shock or Nightmare in a Damaged Brain may rate Narcotic pretty low on the scuzz scale. Despite this, Narcotic is still a very grim film. Think Christiane F. or even Hanna D. - La ragazza del Vondel Park. Think Trainspotting or even Requiem For a Dream. However do not look here expecting to find something like Roger Corman's The Trip. Because Narcotic is not some wild psychedelic ride. It is no head movie. Far from it.

Test Tube Babies (1948)

3.0 out of 10
W. Merle Connell is a man who feels your pain. Honestly, he really does! After all, Connell knows that the world can be a scary place. So, through the magic of the flickering image, he takes all that stress, fear and angst upon his own shoulders. Like some kindly, caring, big uncle, he makes it feel as though the world is a far safer place. Nah! I jest of course! Because, you see, W. Merle Connell does precisely the opposite. Connell directs films that, outwardly at least, appear to fret about the little things. Especially those that provide a bit of scandal. He directs the sort of B movies that furrow a figurative brow at the state of the world. So, come conservatives, one and all. For now ye have a champion. That champion is Merle. At least this would be the case were it possible to take W. Merle Connell's films at face value. However, they really shouldn't be accepted as such. Not with Connell! After all, the man has form you know! Take The Flesh Merchant for example. This was a one of his later films. In this one he pretends to identify with those who fear that their children may become victims of the Hollywood sex traffickers. Of course it is all terribly insincere. He may begin with the idea of evil, shadowy figures, who use art classes to lure unsuspecting models. But any concern here is bullshit. Nevertheless, it provided the director with the opportunity to show some knickers during a catfight. There is also a sexy dance and, for those who are skilled in the art of the pause button, a brief tantalising glimpse of nudity. In short, The Flesh Merchant is a film that simply repeats a formula that Connell had already tried, and tested. It is the formula for Test Tube Babies. In this faux-cautionary drama, from 1948, we meet George and Cathy. These are two young lovers. The doting couple are played by William Thomason and Dorothy Duke. Both, it seems, are as inexperienced in love as they are in the craft of acting. In both cases, this really shows. Their performances are poor. Painfully so. Yet, despite their lack of talent we still get invited to experience their joy and wordy bliss. We also share the tender moments that come in the form of seaside courtship montages. Indeed, this is pretty much how the film plays out for the first third. Until, eventually, our couple are ready to take things to the next level. Then, our sweet, monotonous lovebirds decide to marry. However, sadly, the course of true love seldom runs smoothly. So, like so many couples before and since, they hit a bit of a bump in the road. You see, with George working long hours, and an ever present local gigalo looming large in the background, Cathy gives in, briefly, to the embrace of another. But this, just like the rest of her dull domestic life, provides no answer to that which troubles her. This is because Cathy is bored and broody. Indeed, all that she wants is a baby. Mostly, it seems, in order to keep her occupied around the house. Sadly, despite the occasional trip upstairs, this doesn't work out too well either. George, you see, is not firing on all cylinders. But, thankfully, help is at hand. Indeed, were it not for a certain Dr. Wright, played by Timothy Farrell from such exploitation fare as Jail Bait and Glen or Glenda, the couple would remain childless. Instead, with the aid of a convenient chart and an extended speech about how sperm is supposed to function with "normal people", he convinces them of the merits of artificial insemination. It is at this juncture that we get to the main point of Test Tube Babies. You see this film, despite an earnest prologue and epilogue concerning fertility, cares little about childless couples. For all the extended sex education monologues from Dr Wright and the fretting of George, as he jabs the air with his pipe, the film just wants to show us scandal. The whole movie just serves as a prelude to some nudity. So we see the swinger parties, the tryst, the catfight, the drunken cuckold. But the film has more to offer the thrill seeker. It goes way beyond the humdrum, drawing room chatter, of poverty row melodrama. Because, this is a film that doesn't simply want to tell. No! It wants to show too. For, it wants to give a little of what is promised to the thrill seeker. Test Tube Babies is more than a sensational theme and gaudy poster. If viewers expect flesh, then flesh they will get! So, in order to do this, Test Tube Babies adopts a formula that would be repeated, with similar results, in The Flesh Merchant. This, in practice, means that a former stripper gets to demonstrate her craft. She then has a catfight with another former stripper. Clothes, unsurprisingly, come off. Even the star, Dorothy Duke, get in on the act too. Those who are familiar with The Flesh Merchant will recall how there is the briefest glimpses of flesh when a towel is whipped away. W. M. Connell tries a similar trick here. By way of climax, Ms Duke steps behind some screens. She undresses. She then informs us that she is naked. Then, as the excitement builds to a sexually charged crescendo, she steps into her gown. At this point the viewer is treated to a glimpse of naked flesh. The scene lasts for little over a second. So, it turns out that all the stuff about babies is incidental. It was about the skin all along!