Watching a high-profile Egyptian gentleman who dyes his hair, whose name begins with M and who praises Egypt’s interior ministry is not everyone’s cup of tea, but happens to be mine where the individual in question is Captain Mamdouh Farag.
For the uninitiated: Captain Mamdouh is a full-time legend and part-time, middle-aged professional wrestler. Since hanging up his spandex, Captain M has worn various hats, including that of weight-loss guru/bully in a bonkers ad broadcast recently on satellite channels. “Very hard but very easy the Captain says of his weight-loss program, while pointing and shaking his gold bracelet-bedecked fist at the fatties in an accusatory manner against a blue-screen of poor-quality wrestling shots.
A variation on this formula – very bad but very good – is how one might describe the unexpected hit “Al’et Moot (Slap of Death), Farag’s preposterous, frenzied and brilliant first appearance in the world of cinema, in which he plays himself.
At this stage in a film review a brief summary of the plot is generally not a bad idea. Alas, “Slap of Death doesn’t burden itself with much of a plot. The series of events we are subjected to on the screen might technically be described as a plot but, as with the authenticity of the hair in Captain Mamdouh’s mullet, doubts remain.
The film’s opening credits are accompanied by what sounds like 1970s’ porn music. Its opening shot thrusts us straight back into a 1980s world of poor film quality, awful sets, former body-building champion Shehat Mabrouk and men’s bouffants; and it just gets better from there.
I had apparently gone to a screening attended by (fellow) members of the Captain Mamdouh Farag Appreciation Society, and his first appearance, in all his mulleted, tinted-spectacled, high waist-banded glory, elicited a frenzied roar from the audience. This continued throughout the film, reaching almost unbearable peaks of excitement during the Captain’s wrestling scenes, and turned the viewing into a cross between a dog fight and a Michael Jackson concert.
As far as I could tell, the film involves a confrontation between a no-good bouffanted gentleman in league with a woman called Zizi, and the fuzz.
Captain Mamdouh and two buffonish delivery men get mixed up in it somehow when the delivery men just happen to witness Zizi doing some bloke in. All this plays out against an international wrestling tournament being held in Alexandria which is stage to the film’s events.
Before expiring (in a sputtering engine comedy fashion), the dead bloke points at his shoes. My associates assured me that in 1980s Egyptian action films, people were constantly placing mysterious objects in shoes, and that these mysterious objects usually turned out to be microfilm, which I had always thought was used uniquely by librarians. Apparently microfilm was the 1980s version of weapons of mass destruction, or cocaine.
The delivery men make off with the shoes and then there’s some wrestling in a garden conducted by two huge European gentlemen. Captain M, seated behind a computer in said garden, provides his classic signature commentary which slips into the onomatopoeic. “BOOM, he says.
Eventually it all proves too much to resist and Captain Mamdouh joins in himself, using the computer to re-program his opponent’s head and generally provide extreme-levels of value for money. Captain M has a unique fighting style which borrows much from his acting i.e. it is wooden, and slightly robotic, and generally ace. It might be explained by the fact that he is a pensioner but – what with him being a legend – can’t resist a rumble.
Regarding the woodenness, it’s to do with the Captain’s hands which are of a sign-level language of demonstrativeness. The only time I have seen more information conveyed by the movement of upper limbs is by bookies at the race-track.
Midway through the film, a cinema usher suddenly and unexpectedly sprayed a floral room freshener, apparently in an attempt to disguise the insistent smell of Koshari which had inexplicably (this was the Sheraton hotel) seeped into the cinema from only God knows where. This aroma, coupled with the screaming, clapping, whistling, throng which was the audience merely added yet another rich dimension to the viewing experience.
Meanwhile, in the visual sphere, the assault of random images continued and included the obligatory car-chase and a music sequence in a nightclub led by folk singer and fellow satellite ad star Tarek Abdel Halim, who we subsequently discover is an undercover police officer. With being busy singing on stage the police officer is unable to intervene when things kick off in the club, but luckily Captain M strides in for a quick “manchette, or slap about, or whatever the technical term is actually, and the problem is resolved.
Things come to a head when Captain M’s daughter is kidnapped by the bouffant baddie. A call is made to Mamdouh informing him of this news, prompting a sudden cut to the Captain exclaiming, ‘My daughter!!’ in a dangerously extreme comedy fashion before we again return to Bouffant in an equally abrupt manner – ensuring that I got value for money, yet again.
Yet another round of wrestling ensures a happy ending and Captain Mamdouh’s immortal words to two German wrestlers on behalf of the Minister of Interior: “The boss say sankes for all sing.
I left “Slap of Death wondering whether this was an arch, knowing, tribute to 1980s Egyptian cinema, or just a really awful film. But then I had laughed so hard I almost vomited, so who cares.