With their plush monsters, tin robots and space heroes wielding plywood swords, Turkish B-movies dating back decades ago have found a new audience on the web, seduced by naivety and technical failure in the extreme.
The most-derided examples of the genre have attracted hundreds of thousands on video-sharing sites like YouTube to win global fame for the bizarre Turkish versions of Superman, Spiderman, Star Wars and Tarzan, produced mostly between 1965 and 1985.
For Regis Brochier, a French specialist on B-movies, Turkey has offered the world a whole new genre – very naive and absolutely uninhibited – with a careless attitude to technical challenge, weak continuity, aberrant sound-mixing and a complete disregard of intellectual property.
Some international festivals have also began to take interest in those low-budget productions that entertained generations at a time when Turkey was largely a closed economy and Western technology was hard to access.
The Paris Cinema Festival last year dedicated a night to those movies, featuring them along with the pride of today s Turkish cinema – directors Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Semih Kaplanoglu, winners of top awards at Cannes and Berlin.
The genre s undisputed masterpiece is The Man Who Saved the World, often branded by pundits as the worst movie in the world along with Plan 9 From Outer Space by US director Ed Wood.
Scores of clips from the 1982 film – known also as Turkish Star Wars – are on display on YouTube, with the most popular having received 440,000 hits. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia features an article in seven languages on the movie.
Its makers blatantly lifted footage from Star Wars and soundtrack from Indiana Jones, used images of Egyptian pyramids to depict another planet and appeared to have relied heavily on household items to equip their space fighters.
As the plot advances amid countless continuity flops, the main hero makes an unlimited use of an out-of-frame trampoline – jumping with rocks tied to his ankles in one scene – as he fights enemies including red monsters reminiscent of Muppet Show characters and cave mummies made of white paper.
Lead actor and scriptwriter Cuneyt Arkin – one of Turkey s top heart-throbs at the time, now 73 – conceded years later the film was one of the greatest examples of trash cinema but insisted it carried great warmth and sincerity.
The genre had its peak in the 70s when television emerged as a competitor to cinema, then a flourishing sector in Turkey.
Families left the movie theaters to sit in front of television sets. So a new audience had to be found, and this became possible thanks to this genre as well as erotic films, explained Giovanni Scognamillo, an author of Turkish cinema anthologies.
Most of those films were shown in neighborhood theaters… They were rarely a huge success but earned enough to break even, he said.
Budget was one of the biggest problems for Yilmaz Atadeniz, a pioneer of the Turkish science-fiction film with his trilogy Kilink (1967) which chronicles the cruelties of an evil character clad in a skeleton costume.
How could we have special effects? We needed money for that and we never had it, exclaimed the director, who invested also in the realm of Western and soft porn.
In Kilink Against the Flying Man , he recalled, we had a scene where the actor had to fly, but we couldn t shoot it… It s not funny. We couldn t make him fly… But still the Turkish audience enjoyed our films.
Ironically, these movies today attract a larger audience than decent Turkish productions, many of which remain unseen outside the country, said Brochier.
They finally made a place for themselves – even though a small one – in the cinema heritage, he said. What is certain today is that they will not disappear and we will remember them.