RAMPAGE (1986)
Director: Çetin Ýnanç
Dark Maze Studios

One of my favorite offshoots of foreign films are the exploitation rip-offs of already established American brand names and tent pole pictures. I like to call such films, remakesploitation pictures, as their solitary goal often seems to be little more than to turn a quick buck by mimicking the major plot points and iconic characters of previously successful box office hits. India, Italy, Hong Kong and Indonesia have all been guilty of reworking recognized U.S. films, such as THE MATRIX, THE TERMINATOR and ROBOCOP, but of all the countries to dabble in remakesplotaion, one consistently rises to the top; Turkey.

Turkish remakesplotaion pictures stand in a class all on their own, if for little else than the sheer level of gusto and enthusiasm that seems to permeate from nearly every scene. Often shot in less than a week with budgets that wouldn’t cover the cost of the Craft Services table on a Troma film, several Turkish pictures have recently become viral hits thanks to YouTube. Þeytan, an almost scene for scene remake of THE EXORCIST, Badi, aka TURKISH E.T, and the most notorious of them all, Dünyayý Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves the World), better known as TURKISH STAR WARS, are now easy to find and enjoy by anyone with an internet connection. However, such films are merely the tip of a very large iceberg, as there are numerous Turkish rip-offs of American classics that have yet to reach the level of infamy that Dünyayý Kurtaran Adam has. There are Turkish incarnations of Tarzan, Zorro, Batman (referred to as Bedmen) and The Phantom, as well as remakes of CONAN (Altar), THE STING (Belalýlar) and THE WIZARD OF OZ (Ayþecik Ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde), all of which are ripe for discovery. Thanks to Dark Maze Studios, one of Turkey’s most action packed remakesplotaion epics is finally readily available stateside, dubbed into English no less, so that fans who have had to make do with murky bootlegs and choppy YouTube clips can finally know what in the hell is going on.

In Korkusuz (RAMPAGE), Serdar, a specially trained military solider is sent undercover on a mission to infiltrate and eliminate a terrorist cell hiding in the mountains of southeastern Turkey. Passing himself off as a man for hire, loyal only to his word, Serdar is able to penetrate the terrorist’s base by saving the life of Ziya’s brother. Ziya, the cell’s leader, played menacingly by Hüseyin Peyda, is skeptical of Serdar’s true intentions and as such buries his muscular visitor up to his neck in mud. Stubborn as the day is long, Serdar refuses to crack, leaving Ziya little choice but to use Serdar to his advantage, hiring him to retrieve a colleague in hiding with every intention of stabbing him in the back at the first available opportunity, unaware that it takes more than blades to make Serdar bleed. Seriously, there’s a scene in which Serdar is being tortured, in which a large hunting knife is grazed across his arm but the blade is unable to penetrate his skin -- he’s that bad ass!

Most often referred to as Turkish Rambo, Korkusuz, which translates to “Fearless”, is the brainchild of prolific director Çetin Ýnanç. Notorious for knocking out films in a matter of days and infamous for helming Dünyayý Kurtaran Adam, Çetin’s take on RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II is non-stop action from beginning to end. While the film’s logic is often ludicrous, there in lays the fun. For example, if at any point you find yourself in need of more ammunition in Turkey, you apparently need but simply run around and check behind boulders and oil drums, as ammo is randomly scattered throughout the countryside like power-ups in a video game. The film's goal was obviously to make a profit, but Çetin, probably more than any other director working in Turkey at the time, knew that in order to make a buck you have to give the audience exactly what they want, and with Korkusuz, he delivers. While the iconography of Rambo is firmly in place (the bandanna, the wifebeater, etc), the story itself is tweaked for a Turkish audience, but maintains the one man against an army archetype that made the original a success, which for Turkish audiences essentially brought together the best of both worlds, local flavor but in an exotic package.

Much in the same fashion that Nihat Yiðit was groomed to be Turkey’s answer to Bruce Lee, Serdar is best defined as the Turkish equivalent of Sylvester Stallone. To the best of my knowledge, Serdar only made four films in his career, all for Çetin Ýnanç and all rip-offs of popular American films. Serdar’s first film, Kara Þimþek is a ROCKY imitation that features Serdar as a boxer trying to make good and is scattered with familiar faces from Korkusu, as are his other two features, Asi Kabadayý and Ýntikamcý. Serdar’s screen presence is every bit as imposing and effective as Stallone’s, and while his acting ability may not reach the level of his Oscar nominated doppelganger, you have to give him credit for trying.

Constant throughout all of Serdar’s films is the inclusion of love interest Filiz Taçbaþ. Filiz plays a nameless female in Korkusu, whose only job appears to be to get in the way and whine, a lot. Trailing behind Serdar for the majority of the picture, Filiz isn’t the most striking love interest, as her mane of curly hair tends to resemble that of the cowardly lion. Still active in the Turkish television industry today, having cut and dyed her hair, Filiz is now quite fetching in her mid-forties. Hüseyin Peyda, who plays the villainous Ziya is also a stalwart of Serdar’s short lived film career. A director, producer and writer whose roots in Turkish cinema date back to the early 1950s, Hüseyin stared in over a 100 films before passing away in 1990.

There are actually several FIRST BLOOD rip offs to come out of Turkey including Silaha Yeminliydim whose hero, played by Sönmez Yýkýlmaz, is named RAMO! Both Silaha Yeminliydim and Korkusuz are however predated by Vahþi Kan, staring Turkish superstar Cüneyt Arkýn. Another one of Çetin Ýnanç's quickie masterpieces, Vahþi Kan is particularly crazy in that the film incorporates zombies for seemingly no other reason than "wouldn’t it be awesome if Rambo had to fight zombies?". Who can argue with that logic? As Turkey’s most recognizable star, Cüneyt Arkýn is himself no stranger to remakesplotaion, having stared in Ölüme Son Adým, a Turkish spin on MAD MAX, and the granddaddy of them all, Dünyayý Kurtaran Adam aka TURKISH STAR WARS.

In bringing Korkusuz, to the digital format, Dark Maze Studios were confronted by several hurdles, most directly in that the film’s soundtrack doesn’t have a single note of music that isn’t swiped from another Hollywood production, predominantly Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for the Rambo series. Unable to purchase the rights to Goldsmith’s work, composer Jake Kaufman was hired to create a completely new score from scratch, one that would stay true to the film's original spirit. The result is an inspiring soundtrack that adds volumes, and in some case a sense of production value to the picture. The same is true with the film's newly created English language dub. While it would be easy to mock the film for its many short comings, English language producer Ed Glaser made every effort to play the dialogue straight, letting the more ludicrous moments speak for themselves. The end result is akin to the many foreign action movies that were dubbed into English throughout the 1980s during the initial VHS boom. As impressive as the new audio track is, there is something to be said for the film's original audio. The lazy, yet energetic sound effects and the stolen musical scores often add volumes to the enjoyment of so many cut and paste foreign made rip-offs, but as it highly unlikely that an official release of such copyright infringing oddities are to surface anytime soon, I am more than pleased with the level of care and respect that was put into this release.

In the heyday of Yeþilçam, Turkey’s answer to Tinseltown, films were often mass produced in numbers that almost guaranteed a return in profit for investors; however the concept of film preservation was at the time, more or less nonexistent. As such, very few Turkish film prints were properly stored, if kept at all, leading to their lack of accessibility today. Naturally, very few Turkish films have found their way to DVD. Mondo Macabro released a double bill in 2005 that featured TARKAN VERSUS THE VIKINGS (Tarkan Viking Kaný) and THE DEATHLESS DEVIL (Yýlmayan Þeytan) with unbelievably strong picture quality but save for that one release, the only legitimate way to acquire a Turkish film was to have a DVD player that can convert PAL. Onar Films, a one man outfit out of Greece, has released a number of Turkish gems in the past few years, including 3 DEV ADAM, a wild picture that features Captain America and El Santo battling a villainous Spider-Man that must be seen to be believed. Onar has also released several remakesplotaion films, such as Cellat, an adaptation of DEATH WISH and Süpermen dönüyor or TURKISH SUPERMAN.

With the original print M.I.A. and possibly destroyed, Dark Maze Studios was left with only a betacam master in which to create a transfer, resulting in a less than stellar visual presentation, but one that given the rarity of the film, is altogether serviceable. Presented in its intended full frame, the print is littered with scuffs and discoloration but appears to be uncut, and in comparison to the grainy bootlegs and YouTube clips that have been the only previous means of viewing the film, this release is a considerable improvement. English Dub audio is very clear, maybe even too much so when given the scratched and beaten print that it accompanies, but the voice actors and the sound design merge well and play nicely off each other. At the very least it is just nice to finally know what is actually being said, as no previous English dubbed or subtitled prints of Korkusuz ever surfaced.

Special features include a full length audio commentary track with English Language producer Ed Glaser and composer Jack Kaufman, that is very laid back and despite a number of lulls in the conversation, gives a good deal of insight into the film's sound design, all of which had to be built from scratch. A 20-minute making-of featurette provides a brief history of Turkish cinema and its eventually downfall in the early 1980s due to the rising popularity of television, along with insight into the many obstacles of purchasing and mounting a DVD release of a foreign film. The film's original opening credit sequence is also included, alongside several posters and lobby cards as well as trailers for other Dark Maze Studios releases (PRESS START and ROBOGIRL). Packaged with a tattered and torn cover sleeve that resembles a frequently rented VHS tape, Dark Maze has obviously put a lot of love into their presentation of Korkusuz and for fans of Turkish cinema, it is much appreciated. (Jason McElreath)

For more information or to purchase a copy of RAMAGE, visit Dark Maze Studios at darkmaze.com.

It should be noted that, although my last name is mispronounced, this reviewer’s name is dropped in this releases Making-Of featurette, in reference to an article written for the Worldweird Cinema blog in 2007, titled Remakesplotaion.