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THE DEATHLESS DEVIL (1972)/TARKAN VERSUS THE VIKINGS (1971)
Directors: Yilmaz Atadeniz and Mehmet Aslan
Mondo Macabro

Of all the kooky international cult cinema that fans of the bizarre crave, one country’s films are talked about more than most, yet rarely seen by too many. That land is Turkey. Torn between Asia and Europe, Turkish cinema is a brand of trash with no equal, unique in its approach to outrageous subject matter and ripping off countless American films with no regard for copyright. After spending an extended vacation in Europe, Mondo Macabro returns to its roots in the wild cinema of Turkey with this incredible double feature disc that will leave viewers craving more wild Turkish delights.

After witnessing a knife-throwing assassination on the streets of Istanbul, secret agent Tekin is told by his government superior father Yilmaz that he is in fact the son of the late masked superhero Copperhead, who was killed by supervillain Dr. Satan. Yilmaz happens to have Copperhead’s mask and snake insignia in his desk! Soon after this startling news, Yilmaz and his female secretary are stabbed to death by a robotic assistant who indulges in the best non-choreographed fight scene ever filmed with Tekin, which switches locations from an office to the roof of a building and back in a matter of seconds! In the process of confessing the truth behind the double homicide, the assassin is exterminated through a radio-controlled device attached to his stomach, in a fury of smoke and writhing. Realizing his true destiny, Tekin decides to take on the wily Dr. Satan with the help of irritating comic relief agent Bitik (who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes). Satan plans to steal the inventions of an American professor for his diabolical means, and reveals his secret weapon: a giant killer robot that makes Torg from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS look like the work of CGI!

Light on plot and heavy on cheesy action and low-budget thrills, DEATHLESS DEVIL is like an old 1940s Republic serial shot in Istanbul! Dr. Satan is obviously based on the serials’ villains of Fu Manchu and Ming the Merciless, with his droopy moustache, robot assassins, and various henchmen and inventions to do his bidding. The hero, Copperhead Jr., seems to be influenced by the success of Italian superheroes like Superargo and Diabolik while also definitely taking a cue from popular Turkish comic book hero Kilink. In fact, the entire film plays like a comic book; all that is missing are dialogue balloons. There are some pretty amazing stunts, with a fight occurring inches from a moving train and a man crawling on the outside of a gas truck, as well as an exciting horn-driven theme, a giant-haired heroine who resembles a Turkish Edwige Fenech, a flame-haired femme fatale, lots of fists-flyin’ fights, with Tekin vaulting into the air to attack the bad guys, the “Pink Panther” theme, scenes from a b&w Hollywood film demonstrating an air stunt, a topless sex scene, and so much more!

If it’s possible, TARKAN VERSUS THE VIKINGS is more entertaining than DEATHLESS DEVIL. Tarkan is a Turkish folk hero made popular through a series of comic books and films that showed him as a Conan-type of sword-swinging savior to the nation’s people. In this film, like some of the Italian HERCULES films, he is uprooted and thrust into the time of the Viking invasions throughout Europe and placed on the side of the Hun people. After a lengthy opening sequence showing the Vikings on a beautiful ship with whipped slaves and providing a mini-history lesson, the Hun princess Yonca rides into an unprotected fort with her protector, Tarkan, accompanied by his two warrior dogs (shades of THE BEASTMASTER). The fort is soon invaded by Viking warlord Toro, who has joined forces with Lotus, a Chinese Dragon Lady, to take control of the region. Following a ridiculously violent battle, with babies and women axed in the head, sword slices, and a spear thrown through Tarkan’s dog Kurt, Yonca and the female warriors of the fort are kidnapped. Our hero vows to avenge the death of his beloved dog…but probably should get around to rescuing the princess he was supposed to be protecting, too!

This exciting historical adventure is one of the best non-stop action films viewers are likely to see; the pacing is very strong, the violence eye-popping and frequent, and there is some surprising nudity in this film which seems aimed at a kiddie matinee. TARKAN is also quite well photographed, in beautiful outdoor locations and picturesque sets. Captive women have their tops ripped off and one is tortured by hanging over a pit of snakes by her braided hair (!), swords are thrown through bad guys and axes split their heads open, a cheap-looking giant octopus eats Viking commander Goro, then Toro drinks from his skull, Tarkan takes out an entire Viking squad in an inn single-handedly, Lotus and Tarkan have a color-tinted love scene, a falcon rips out a man’s eyes, a gang of rebel Viking women joins forces with Tarkan, and there’s plenty of double-crossing, exciting violent fight scenes, and crazy plot twists to keep things rolling! It’s all so incredible that one can only hope more TARKAN films pop up on Mondo Macabro discs in the future.

A disclaimer appears before both films, explaining that Turkish film negatives are rarely, if ever, stored properly, resulting in less-than-stellar presentations on this disc. DEATHLESS DEVIL does indeed look pretty muddy, probably from a lone surviving tape master, with some tape tracking lines and image ghosting, but TARKAN looks a lot better with a clearer image, stronger colors and minimal debris and print jumps. Considering the history of the film industry in Turkey and their disregard for film preservation, it’s a miracle that any suitable elements remain to be used for this DVD, so complaints about how these two look would just be silly. They’re head and shoulders above the many VCD’s and grey market tapes circulating through collector’s circles and the films themselves are so much fun that the prints could be stained brown and they’d still be a welcome viewing experience.

The extras on the disc are limited, but the primary feature is the documentary “Turkish Pop Cinema”, showing more mouth-watering clips from other Turkish exploitation classics, as well as numerous posters and interviews with moviemakers from the Golden Age of the Turkish film industry. One thing is for sure: Turkish pop cinema gives the films of Indonesia, South America and Hong Kong a run for their money as the weirdest films in the world! Pete Tombs contributes his typically excellent essays discussing the origins, backgrounds, and makers of both films and their place in Turkish cinema history. And what would a Mondo Macabro disc be without the trusty promo reel for other wild platters from this one-of-a-kind company?

Inferior elements be damned, give us more Turkish pop cinema, Mondo Macabro! This is without a doubt their best disc of the year and hopefully we can expect more like it in the near future. (Casey Scott)

Check out the Mondo Macabro website by clicking HERE.

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