Saturday, December 29, 2012

El Professore Movie Reviews: Tarkan Viking Kani (Tarkan and the Blood of the Vikings) (aka Tarkan vs. the Vikings)

Director: Mehmet Aslan
Starring: Kartal Tibet, Eva Bender, Seher Seniz
* * * *
Turkish Pop Cinema of the '70s is like junk food for the brain. It has no nutritional value whatsoever and if watched in bulk, could leave damaging long term fatty deposits. Regardless, I've binged on this stuff ever since I first found out of it's existence about a dozen years ago. Watching these films are a unique experience as most display little in the way of a budget and apparently even less in filmmaking knowledge. Some of the shots, special effects and editing would make even Ed Wood blush. They are probably some of the most incompetently made movies in world cinema. Yet what they lack in technical knowhow, they make up for (and then some) in sheer entertainment value and in your face, go for broke bravada. I have never in my life seen such manic and intensely crazed films anywhere. The best of these I find endlessly rewatchable and and a total riot. One of the first I ever saw (thanks to a wonderful 'Mondo Macabro' dvd release) was 'Tarkan and the Blood of the Vikings' which they saw fit shorten to 'Tarkan vs. the Vikings'.

Full review after the jump.

Tarkan first appeared in a local comic book. He was a medieval warrior who was raised by wolves, whom he came to regard as his family. He basically was a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hercules (or Machiste). There were plenty of supernatural elements that played well into the stories and helped establish Tarkan as a big time comic cult hero.

It only made sense that a film series should follow. There were five films made between 1969 and 1972 (though I should point out that I heard from at least one source that there may have been as many as seven) with the stories getting wilder and more intensely psychotronic with each entry. The one I'm reviewing is the third entry of the five (or possibly the fifth of seven) and it is probably my favorite of the ones I've so far seen.

As the film opens, Tarkan (played by long time genre actor, Kartal Tibet) and his father and son wolf companions (both named Kurt and both appear to be rather cheerful German Sheppards overdubbed with wolf barks and howls) is charged with esorting Attila the Hun's daughter, Princess Yonka. Arriving at their Turkish fortress destination, they immediately find themselves under siege by a horde of nasty vikings (more skinny Turks ridiculously attired in cartoon colored, oversized armor and giant red wigs and 'stashes) who proceed to capture Yonka and slaughter every man, woman and child around. They also slay the older Kurt and knock out Tarkan. The Viking leader, Toro is in the employ of the villainous Lotus (the extremely sexy, Seher Seniz) daughter of the Chinese Empereor who wants Yonka captured for leverage (so we have a Chinese Emperor hiring Nordic Vikings to capture Atilla the Hun's daughter... sure, why not?) Awakening, Tarkan and Kurt jr. grieve over the fallen wolf with our Turk warrior swearing revenge... and of course, he needs to rescue the princess too. Meanwhile, Toro and Lotus are having a field day sleeping with each other and betraying each other (Lotus seemingly has a favorite hobby in drugging her lovers after sex as she does the same with Tarkan later) offing the Viking King and attempting to feed his fierce daughter, Ursala (played by Swedish bombshell Eva Bender) to a giant octopus (the most laughably underinflated one you will ever see). Tarkan finally shows up and teams up with Ursala and her gang of female Vikings to destroy Toro and set things straight.

If the plot rundown sounds like some wild, convoluted mess, it's because it is. But it's non-linear storytelling makes for ninety minutes of nearly non-stop, lightning paced insanity. There is so much going on here that Tarkan (for perhaps the only time in the series) becomes almost a supporting player in his own film. The action, nudity and gore are so awkward and so over the top that you'll be left shaking your head at the sheer nerve of it all. In fact, films like this served both to boost Turkey's national pride (which had been delt a major blow since WW1) as well as offering cheap thrills to the young population (who could not be seen holding hands in public).

Lifting ideas from the 1958 Kirk Douglas starred, 'The Vikings' and using music cues from '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'Once Upon a Time in the West', 'Tarkan vs. the Vikings' is a giddy pleasure supreme and still one of my two or three favorite Turkish Pop Cinema flicks. Recommended!

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