Matchbox Cine is bringing renowned author, programmer and film-maker Kier-La Janisse to the UK for a series of events to mark the 10th anniversary, expanded edition of her seminal book House of Psychotic Women (FAB Press). Starting at Matchbox Cine’s Weird Weekend festival in Glasgow on 29/10, the tour will stop in Edinburgh, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Cardiff and London, 31/10 to 05/11.
Matchbox Cine has partnered with the UK’s major genre festivals and exhibitors to co-present each stop, including Dead by Dawn, Mayhem Film Festival, Grimmfest, Abertoir and The Final Girls. At each stop, Kier-La Janisse will introduce a film featured in her book, sign books and take part in a Q&A or In-Conversation hosted by a special guest. Guest hosts include Anna Bogutskaya (The Final Girls), Christina Newland (She Found It at the Movies,) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge).
10 years ago, Kier-La Janisse published HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, subtitled an “autobiographical topography of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films”. A ground-breaking mix of keen critical analysis and clear-eyed, thoroughly compelling memoir, Janisse’s influential tome inspired a generation of critics, programmers and film-makers. The book has also played no small role in canonising a range of obscure, fringe and forgotten genre titles, many now considered essential.
Titles screened at the various stops will include new restorations of Claude D’Anna’s Tromple l’oeil (1975), Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s Identikit AKA The Driver’s Seat (1974, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol, based on Muriel Spark’s novel) and Polish vampire curio I Like Bats(1986); rare outings for Don Siegel’s Clint Eastwood starrer The Beguiled (1971), David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979) and Robert Wise’s Shirley Jackson adaptation The Haunting(1963); Alice Lowe’s Prevenge(with the director in attendance); and Andrzej Żuławski’s remarkable study in eldritch hysteria, Possession(1981).
The entire tour will feature descriptive subtitles/SDH and live captions, to ensure the events are accessible to as many people as possible.
Kier-La Janisse is a film writer, programmer, producer and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She is the author of House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (2012), A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (2007), and has been an editor on numerous books including Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive (2021), Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television (2017) and Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (2015). She was a producer on David Gregory’s Tales of the Uncanny (2020) and wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021)for Severin Films, where she is a producer and editor of supplemental features. She is currently at work on several books including a monograph about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter.
The programme is presented by Matchbox Cine as part of In Dreams Are Monsters: A Season of Horror Films, a UK-wide film season supported by the National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network.indreamsaremonsters.co.uk
After 10 years of hosting film events all around Glasgow, we’re moving to Bristol
After ten years (and a particularly busy most recent five), Matchbox Cineclub is leaving Glasgow and relocating to Bristol.
For at least the next three years, we’re going to be based in Bristol. We’ll be back every so often (we have at least one Glasgow event planned in 2021), but mostly we’ll be in Bristol, and we don’t yet know what that’ll mean for any IRL events.
This weekend (3rd-6th September, 2020), we should’ve been hosting Weird Weekend III at CCA Glasgow. 2020, cursed year, should’ve seen our cult film festival level up to a much bigger festival. Our plans and even programming for it have been underway since before last year’s festival. Those plans had to be scrapped, rethought, redeveloped, revised and the scrapped again. We accounted for postponement, downscaling, hybrid approaches and completely online versions, but it just wasn’t meant to be this year.
We will be doing more online programming, like our Tales From Winnipeg online-only season, and Weird Weekend will certainly return in some form. But we also want to take some time to rest (we’ve also subtitled 250+ films in the last two months) and regroup, for the first time in several years.
We want to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last 10(!) years in Glasgow, particularly CCA Glasgow, The Old Hairdressers, Film Hub Scotland, all our fellow exhibitors, to everyone that’s come to one of our events and, most of all, to those of you who’ve come to several.
It’s very strange to be planning to leave like this. We would’ve loved to host a farewell screening or just had some drinks in a big room, but none of that’s possible. Maybe, with no rooms to set, A/V to prep, bands to soundcheck, bookings to find, tickets to take, guests to entertain, merch to sell, last-minute social media to do, etc, etc, we’d have finally properly prepared an address for the audience, rather than busking some last-minute jibber-jabber. But then probably not. Hands up if you’ve already seen this one.
We love Glasgow and we’ll miss you very much.
Sean + Megan x
This website is full of stuff, interviews, articles, etc, and will become even more active now. You can find our archive of posters and event photographs on Flickr and our trailers and video content on Vimeo and YouTube. Zines, posters and merch are on sale in our shop, matchboxcineclub.bigcartel.com.
John Paizs is a legendary figure in Canadian cinema whose pivotal and influential cult masterpiece Crime Wave (1985) continues to entrance audiences but elude mainstream recognition. Following our UK premiere of the restored Crime Wave at Glasgow Film Festival, 2017, we are delighted to present his first major work, The Obsession of Billy Botski, on its 40th anniversary, as part of Glasgow Short Film Festival’s DIVE IN Cinema season. Watch it now here.
In The Obsession of Billy Botski, “a young man meets his obsession, a ghostly 60s Playboy-bunny styled “Connie”, and is never the same!”
The film is accompanied by The Obsession of John Paizs, a brand-new 26min video created by Matchbox Cineclub, featuring a rare and exclusive interview with Paizs himself. Our DIVE IN programme is live for only 48 hours from 10am on 18th July, and The Obsession of John Paizs will not be available anywhere afterwards. The entire programme features all-new optional English SDH/captions for D/deaf audiences, created by Matchbox Cinesub.
DIVE IN Cinemais a donation-based online season, coordinated by Glasgow Short Film Festival’s Sanne Jehoul and programmed by a cohort of Scottish independent exhibitors and film festivals.
Thanks to John Paizs, Winnipeg Film Group and VUCAVU.
The Winnipeg Film Group, founded in 1974, is an artist-run education, production, exhibition and distribution centre committed to promoting the art of cinema.
VUCAVU is an online screening platform working with independent film and video distributors from across Canada to improve access to Canadian works and to provide greater national and international awareness of Canadian filmmakers and video artists.
DIVE IN Cinema is supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and Lottery funding from the BFI.
KeanuCon 2020, our second annual Keanu Reeves film festival, was cancelled due to COVID-19 – so we made this 28-page zine instead, with contributions from the world’s foremost Keanu aficionados.
The KeanuCon 2020 zine is here! It’s free to all weekend-pass-holders-that-were and £5 from our online shop, here.
As originally intended, this publication would have accompanied our second annual Keanu Reeves film festival, KeanuCon 2020, scheduled to take place 19th-21st June at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. Although the festival was ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19, we are very happy to be able to share this celebratory collection of Keanu-themed writing and artwork with you. This first KeanuCon zine is dedicated to every scientist, doctor, nurse and front-line worker currently saving our world.
Our second annual Keanu Reeves Film Festival has been cancelled until further notice due to COVID-19 – refunds will be issued automatically, full details below
We are very sad to announce that KeanuCon will not take place as planned in 2020. Refunds will take place automatically and weekend pass holders have been informed directly. We plan to relaunch KeanuCon IRL in 2021, dates TBC. If you have any questions after reading all of the details below, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please enjoy this special memory of our Wyld Stallyns performing live at KeanuCon 2019 and Be Excellent To Each Other until further notice.
We have/had been working hard on alternative plans, including rescheduled dates for later in 2020, which is one reason why updates have been scarce as goalposts continually shifted, but it’s become clear that despite our best efforts and hopes, the festival will be impossible to deliver this year (more detail below).
We are looking at the best ways to bring everyone together to celebrate Keanu online (watch this space for those), around the original dates, and we’re happy to say weekend pass holders will all receive our KeanuCon brochure/zine, with new and exclusive content from Vero Navarro (beloved KeanuCon illustrator), Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris (For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves), Will Harris (Mixed Race Superman) and more TBC.
NB The brochure/zine will go out to all weekend pass holders, regardless of automatic refunds. If you would like to waive your refund by way of donation to support Matchbox Cineclub/KeanuCon, thank you very much and please get in touch here: email@example.com.
In more detail:
Our original dates in June are impossible to deliver due to the current circumstances (our venue, CCA Glasgow, is closed until July at the earliest). We had confirmed rescheduled dates in August, but these are now unviable since CCA will be closed until the end of July at the earliest, with no way of knowing with any certainty that it will reopen fully in August. This makes it difficult for us to plan and promote the event in good faith, or for audience members to make plans to attend.
CCA is smaller in capacity than mainstream cinemas. Even when mainstream cinemas re-open (no earlier than July 4th, and still contingent on a significant reduction in confirmed cases of COVID-19), they will have to adhere to the COVID-19 Secure guidelines, which at present involve distancing between individuals, enhanced hygiene and limiting numbers of people in any one space. This will impact events like ours even more severely again, since we have a lower capacity to begin with. Clearing and cleaning the theatre space between screening will make back-to-back screenings and day-long events next to impossible to deliver practically and safely, for audiences and staff.
Additionally, CCA’s theatre has a capacity of 150, which would potentially be reduced to 50 under these guidelines. We already have sold in excess of 50 weekend passes and we’d expect to sell out the venue in normal circumstances. The costs involved in venue hire, film licences, marketing and everything else involved couldn’t be covered with an audience of only 50 without dramatically impacting ticket prices. 50 attendees would make for an intimate and certainly fun event, but sadly wouldn’t be practical financially (NB at the best of times no other local cinemas could accomodate KeanuCon without charging an impossible fee).
Finally, while we are optimistic that more activity will be possible towards the end of the year (including our rescheduled Remakesploitation Fest), CCA has a full calendar at the best of times and even if we were 100% confident of being able to deliver KeanuCon to the standard and capacity it deserves, there simply aren’t dates available to us for the rest of the year, among events that were already booked and those that have been rescheduled since the advent of COVID-19 (assuming, of course, any of these will be able to take place anyway).
We’re very sad about it, but know that we’ll get through this and celebrate (Keanu) together before too long.
Brian Beadie interviewed director John Paizs on his cult classic debut Crime Wave, on the occasion of the tour we organised for Scalarama 2018
One of the absolute highlights of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival was Crime Wave, an unduly neglected Canadian comedy from 1985 which, despite being over 30 years old, emerged as one of the freshest and one of the funniest films to be shown at the festival. The film was programmed by Sean Welsh of Matchbox Cineclub who, after its rapturous reception at the festival, is bringing the film back for a limited engagement for Scalarama.
Crime Wave is as visually inventive and playfully pomo as an early Coen Brothers or Sam Raimi film (no, it’s not the film they collaborated on), but its director, John Paizs, would never make it big, despite being part of the innovative Winnipeg Film Group, whose other alumni include Guy Maddin. I would go so far to say that I prefer his dark comedy on the perils of scriptwriting to the Coens’ take on the same subject, Barton Fink – it’s far less pretentious, and has far more charm.
To give you an idea of the hectic invention of the film, here’s Paizs describing the film’s genesis:
“You could say it was a slight exercise in making lemonade from lemons. I was feeling pressured because I’d just written two feature length screenplays I wasn’t happy with, one of them called Crime Wave — a completely different story — and the other, Crazy Casey. Then one night at this time, sitting at my kitchen table, in front of a blank page, I just started writing ‘THE TOP!,’ and wrote out the rest of what would become the opening narration to this second go at Crime Wave. In a jokey way, it was expressing exactly my big secret dream for myself at this time with this new movie — which was to be a big success with it, bursting onto the scene — FROM THE NORTH! Ha — OK — scene one. Then, what next? Well, often when you hit the ground running like that in a story, it turns out that that opening bit was a dream, or something staged in the story, or just otherwise not ‘real’.”
“And so I thought — well, it could have been the opening scene to a movie that someone had written — like me. OK, so what next? OK — now, in Crazy Casey, I had a guy staying in an apartment over this family’s garage, and the family included a daughter, Casey, late teens, and the guy, who’s a freshman in college, has a thing for her — and next thing, that got reversed, she has a thing for him, she’s now ten, her name is Kim, and he’s a wannabe filmmaker — Steven Penny — who’s just capable of writing fun crap like we’d just seen opening this new Crime Wave. OK, so she comes on in scene two, she’s just finishing reading what we’d just seen in scene one, which is the beginning to one of Steven’s discarded screenplays, all of them called Crime Wave, and, breaking the fourth wall, she tells us about it. OK, so then what? Well, how about then she starts reading the ending to this same discarded Crime Wave, and we jump to that? More fun crap. And then — and this may have been my best idea in all of this new Crime Wave — we come back to her, in scene four, and she says that Steven’s problem is he can’t write middles! Boom. Writer’s block comedy. At that point I knew what it was I was writing. I didn’t know it until then. That’s when I found it out. And that’s what I went ahead and wrote.”
What Paizs wrote was a wildly unpredictable comedy with a shockingly high gag rate, taking potshots at everything from film form to current fads of the eighties – you can almost feel his delight in coming up with more outlandish scenarios, throwing in everything from self-help to the death of Sid Vicious into the mix.
“I never had a method for writing screenplays in those days beyond start with the title, then just jump right into it, no outline, no treatment, just make it up as I go along. And sometimes it would turn out more like a traditional dramatic narrative, and sometimes it wouldn’t, like Crime Wave. But I was never conscious of it being one way or the other at any point. I never thought hardly at all about what I was doing. I just did it. And then, when I got to the end of each script, that was it. No second draft, no revisions pretty much. I’d just apply for grant money to make the movie and that was that. So I guess it’s no wonder Crime Wave turned out the way it did, from a story standpoint. I just did what I liked, wrote scenes that I thought were original and funny, and didn’t think hardly at all about whether they advanced the plot or anything like that. Though actually there was one idea I brought to that script that I hadn’t brought to the others before it: and that was to keep the scenes short, and to keep cycling through the same like four or five types of them — a narrated scene, followed by an action scene, followed by a music scene, followed by a dialogue scene, then back to a narrated scene — that kind of thing, over and over, in a loop. I tried my best to make it that way, to keep things hopping like that, to keep the film hopefully jumping off the screen. I was determined not to repeat my huge mistake of my film just previous to Crime Wave, which was practically nonstop dialogue. Crime Wave was supposed to have learned from that one and be fun and alive.”
Indeed, most of the biggest laughs in the film come from pure sight gags, disrupting the film’s lush but highly controlled visual style, a reflection of Paizs’ background as a graphic artist.
“Because I (almost) never move the camera in the movie, it’s like a series of tableaus, or fixed comic strip panels. And I also lit it with hard light, to give it this ‘50s Technicolor look — high contrast and bright saturated colours — which was going directly counter to the prevailing look of movies at this time. So yeah, its visual aesthetic was one of the big things I was selling with it and that was going to be new and exciting about it. Out with the old, in with the new (old), kind of thing.”
Classic slapstick comedy is definitely another influence in play here – indeed, Paizs plays the lead himself, but mute, as a homage to the master of slapstick, Buster Keaton. “I had Buster’s Great Stone Face in mind for my character. It’s something I thought I could put my own spin on, and give the movie another level of originality at the same time because a non-speaking protagonist forces you to think of alternative — and sometimes very unexpected — ways to get ideas across. And also by doing it, I got to be a lead in a movie, and be good at it, with my extremely limited acting ability were I to speak.”
This device allows the film to be narrated in faux-naif style by his landlord’s daughter, who’s got a giant crush on him (a great performance by Eva Kovacs), which leads to another of the film’s influences – Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. “If Uncle Charlie had murdered prose instead of widows it would have been almost the same movie! I got the whole darkness-in-a-small-town framework from that movie, plus the two Charlies’ relationship has a definite parallel to Steven and Kim’s.”
So if Crime Wave is so good – and it really is that good – how come you’ve never heard of it, never mind seen it? Paizs explains the reason for the film’s neglect thus:
“It went down amazingly, actually, at festivals, got amazing reviews — like a few of them almost ridiculously full of praise. But what did it in was a nightmare scenario involving the film’s first distributor. The distribution agreement I’d signed with them had a clause in it saying I’d be paid my guaranteed minimum within eighteen months of the film’s first theatrical release, which they tried not to give it! Instead, they just quickly dumped it onto home video and made some quick pay TV sales, and that they hoped was that, saving them a bundle of dough they’d otherwise be paying in advertising, etcetera, never mind my money. Finally, after taking certain actions, I was able to trigger my payment — like three years later — but by this time it was too late for the film, and I was devastated.”
When I saw the film earlier this year, with Paizs in attendance, he looked slightly nervous about the film’s reception – he needn’t have been. It brought the house down. However, he confesses, “I was so worried about how it would go over in Glasgow, for a million reasons, and was so incredibly relieved and delighted about how well it did go over. But what I hope people can appreciate today, whether they like the film or not, is how new and radical it was back in the day, because it was, then. Time may have eroded the perception of that quite a bit, but it was, what can I say.”
I can attest that Crime Wave stands the test of time very well indeed – its wit and playfulness undimmed – as one of the most inventive cinematic debuts of the eighties, and one that richly deserves a wider audience.
We’ve subsequently taken the decision to postpone the debut of our Arrow Video Night screening series (including opener Why Don’t You Just Die! and the April event, scheduled for 10/04) and the connected CineWriters group meetings (ta-da, that’s a thing/will be a thing!).
NB Remakesploitation Fest 2020 (25-26/04) and KeanuCon 2020 (19-21/06) are still currently going ahead as planned. We will continue to monitor the recommendations of the Scottish Government, the NHS and our partner venue, CCA Glasgow. We hope to relaunch the Arrow Video Night on Saturday 30th May.
We’ll be in touch with ticket holders for Why Don’t You Just Die! directly, and generally appreciate your patience and forbearance with this whole thing, which is obviously still unfolding and that we’re trying to navigate with the greater good in mind.
We have to balance our own decisions as a small, independent operation (with currently no guaranteed funding support) against taking an abundance of caution. While events at CCA (theatre capacity 150, cinema capacity 74) fall below the threshold of 500 for proscribed gatherings, and our first instinct is the show must go on, we need to take responsibility and prioritise public health and safety and truthfully, it doesn’t feel right to be going ahead with events while this whole thing is expanding and still unfolding.
This missive from our friend and respected fellow programmer Herb Shellenberger has informed our decision:
On a related note, we rely on funding support, ticket sales and the revenue we make from subtitling for film events to keep going. With all of those things currently unsure, it’s going to be a tricky time for us. If you’d like to support us in another way, we have t-shirts, posters/prints, books and zines on sale in our online shop: matchboxcineclub.bigcartel.com/category/merch.
If you have any questions regarding upcoming Matchbox Cineclub events please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the second year, we’ve worked with Glasgow Short Film Festival, this time expanding coverage to nine feature-length programmes of shorts, including the entirety of their Scotttish Competition and our own Girl in the Picture: The Youth Films of Nobuhiko Obayashi programme. The latter celebrates the early, experimental work of the House director and includes films subtitled in English for the first time. We’ve worked with translator Moe Shoji to produce SDH for these films, and they represent the start of a bigger project we’re very excited about – watch this space!
Find all the captioned films screening at GSFF20 here.
Why Don’t You Just Die! (Kirill Sokolov, 2020) is the first in our new, monthly screening series Arrow Video Night, in collaboration with Arrow Video. Arrow produces SDH for all their home releases, but we’ll guarantee them either way, since some of the programme will be sneak previews and descriptive subtitles may not be ready in time for our screenings. Why Don’t You Just Die! is a prime slice of Russian splatterpunk comedy, lots of fun and an advance screening ahead of its Blu-ray release in April.
Remakesploitation Fest is our collaboration with Iain Robert Smith (King’s College London/Remakesploitation Film Club) and the result of a long, long infatuation with the weird world of Turkish fantastic cinema – particularly the era which featured countless unauthorised remakes of Hollywood films. Following our sold-out premiere screening of the 2K restoration of Turkish Star Wars (Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam) last year, we’re bringing a whole day of Turkish remakes to CCA Glasgow, all with exclusive, brand-new translations, screening for the first time in the world with English SDH. Thanks to King’s College London and Film Hub Scotland for making this possible!
This April, we’ll be screening restored and newly-subtitled classics of Turkish fantastic cinema for the first time. Ahead of Remakesploitation Fest 2020, read our primer on the weirdest film scene in world cinema, originally published in 2011…
Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam AKA The Man Who Saved The World (Çetin Inanç, 1982) doesn’t make it too far past the endearingly handmade titles before it demonstrates the elements that gave it its better-known title, “Turkish Star Wars”. Edited into new Turkish scenes are newsreel clips of NASA rocket launches, instantly recognisable shots from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (chopped from a print in a different aspect ratio from the rest of the Inanç‘s film – making the Death Star an odd shape), and identifiable footage from Sodom and Gomorrah (Robert Aldrich,1962) and The Seven Curses of Lodac (Bert I Gordon, 1962). The roguish leads, Cüneyt Arkin (Murat) and Aytekin Akkaya (Ali) are shown in space battle, their commitment to their performance overriding the viewer’s disbelief as projected footage from Star Wars cuts haphazardly between scenes behind them. Nobody in Lucas’ Rebellion ever had to deal with their spaceship appearing and disappearing around them, and even Luke Skywalker probably wouldn’t have dared flying backwards down the trench in the Death Star, even if it was oblong. But then daredevil Ali reckons the enemy are too sour-faced and he’d prefer “if some chicks with mini-skirts were coming”.
While the provenance of the visual effects is immediately and jarringly obvious, the soundtrack is equally dubious. The music not sourced from library stock is bastardised from an impressive array of high-profile soundtracks, including John William’s score for Raiders of the Lost Ark (The Raiders March and Chase Suite), Giorgio Moroder’s disco cover of the Battlestar Galactica theme, Ennio Morricone’s theme for the TV mini-series Moses the Lawgiver (Gianfranco De Bosio & James H Hill, 1974), music from Planet of the Apes, Moonraker and Silent Running, and then Queen’s score for Flash Gordon – a film which also provides key sound effects. Even JS Bach’s Toccata gets a showing. Such audacious theft cannot help but overshadow the homemade costumes, mannered stunt work (particularly Arkin’s trademark trampolining) and lunatic storytelling that the film otherwise consists of, but Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is still more entertaining than The Phantom Menace.
Such pithy comparisons have revived international interest in a peculiar sub-section of Turkish film that thrived domestically in the late 1970s and early 1980s, of which Turkish Star Wars is only one among many. There are now countless blogs and webpages dedicated to lists of bizarre and poorly-made foreign versions, some official, some not, of Hollywood films. Usually light on context and high on derision, these articles have nevertheless brought to light a whole spectacular genre that may be described as Turkish Remakesploitation.
Most of these films were made during a particularly tumultuous period for the Republic of Turkey that saw the country experience the third coup d’etat since its formation in 1923. The 1980 military coup followed coups in 1960 and 1971 and brought a temporary end to violence but also ongoing political instability that has continued to the present day, with the country engaged in a long struggle towards multi-party democracy. Contrary to some reports, there was no general ban on American films in Turkey, even during the period of the military coup (from September 1980 to November 1983) beyond the individual bans on Midnight Express (Alan Parker, 1978) and A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1973). The more serious censorship affected domestic films and directors, most famously Yılmaz Güney who, in the middle of this period, orchestrated the production of Yol AKA The Way (Serif Gören, 1982) from a Turkish prison cell. One of the biggest movie stars in Turkey (of a rough and roguish type similar to Arkin), Güney was also one of the most politicised, first jailed in 1961 (for publishing an allegedly ‘communist’ novel) then again in 1972 and 1974. Escaping prison in 1981, he completed Yol in Switzerland and it went on to win the Palme D’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Exiled in Paris, Güney died of cancer in 1984 and he is now internationally renowned as a key figure in modern Turkish cultural history.
However, the kind of low budget oddities that decades later would become known as Turkish Jaws, Turkish Dirty Harry or Turkish Exorcist, among many others, belong in a world parallel to the politically and socially conscious filmmaking of the likes of Yılmaz Güney. Even filmmakers sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Güney took part in the Remakesploitation trend. Memduh Ün, who garnered early international notice for his film Kırık Çanaklar (The Broken Pots, 1960), also directed the Turkish James Bond rip off Altin Çocuk (Golden Boy, 1966) and, much later, Turkish Death Wish AKA Cellat (The Executioner, 1975). With the spotlight on the highly entertaining, low-budget escapism of Turkish Star Wars, it’s easy to overlook that Turkey, even in such adverse conditions, had no shortage of “respectable” films and, after a wilderness period from the early 1980s through into the 1990s, has resumed producing world-class films.
Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is probably the most famous of the Turkish Remakesploitation films, by dint of having Star Wars as its template and because it so blatantly ripped off whole special effects shots and sequences. Truth be told, even though it cribs some broad ideas along with a bucket-load of special effects, it tells a distinctly different story than Star Wars and it is not even close to being the most thorough Rip-Off in this genre. Nor is Süpermen Dönüyor, even though Kunt Tulgar’s movie makes liberal use of stolen music cues and copyrighted characters. There are far more explicit offenders in this category, films that are practically shot-for-shot remakes of the originals. Crucially, none of them are authorised adaptations of the source material, distinguishing them from the standard and continuous back-and-forth nature of movie remaking across national borders.
Films belonging to the genre take a variety of forms, from those shot-for-shot remakes (Sevimli Frankeştayn AKA Turkish Young Frankenstein (Nejat Saydam, 1975)), to straight retellings adapted for a Turkish audience (Süpermen Dönüyor, Kunt Tulgar, 1979), to films that took elements of foreign films and incorporated them into ‘reimagined’ versions of the originals (Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam). All three types regularly feature in Top Ten Terrible Foreign Rip-Offs lists, their puny budgets, brazen appropriation and lunatic energy frequently compared ironically to their muscular Hollywood forebears. The common links between them are the international fame and success of their source material and a focus on any combination of action, sex, adventure and violence – the key constituents of any so-called B-movie and bread and butter for their contemporary domestic audience. The films were broad, easy to comprehend and entertaining to a fault – so no Turkish Chinatown, but Turkish Young Frankenstein was a no-brainer.
The films that can be described as part of the classic wave of Turkish Remakesploitation also belong to a larger genre of Turkish Fantastic Cinema. This term encompasses many kinds of genre films, from horror and science fiction to the hugely popular masked hero film. B-movies by any description and obscure to say the least, these films are not widely available even in Turkey, where the original prints have long since been sold off to television stations or simply disappeared entirely. Often the best sources for viewing them are VHS copies of pre-digital Turkish television broadcasts and/or German rental copies, ripped for the internet. Luckily and somewhat miraculously, a decade ago MTV Turkey began screening many of these films, previously believed to be lost altogether, in a weekly Fantastic Cinema slot. Otherwise, tiny independent companies like Onar Films, based in Greece, distributed DVD versions sourced from original prints. While these were lovingly packaged, carefully cleaned and prepared for release and much better quality than YouTube uploads, they were hampered by the extremely poor quality of the existing prints, which had never been high priorities for preservation or digital remastering.
From a modern, western perspective, cataloguing and delineating these films is a nightmare, due to a number of factors. First and foremost, the lack of an international audience even at the time means that the films and filmmakers have very little status in the west. Awareness of them now is really due to some hard work by fans of the genre(s) and a whole lot of wry internet ‘appreciation’. Even now, the documentation and availability of these films is very limited, automatically granting canonical status to a handful of high-visibility Rip-Offs – Turkish Star Wars, Turkish Superman and Turkish ET (Badi, Zafer Par, 1983) among them. The films that are available, one way or another, often have sub-standard English subtitles (with no disrespect to the efforts made, for which we have to be very thankful) and most have no English subtitles at all. Additionally, there seems to be very little behind-the-scenes information available and attempts to frame these films in any kind of context are very rare. Bill Barounis of Onar Films produced a helpful Turkish Fantastic Cinema Guide and while there are surely more scholarly tomes on the history of Turkish cinema, Fantastic or otherwise, they are, by and large, written in Turkish and in any case not widely available.
Fortunately, as the films of particular interest here have benefited from the widest modern audience, it’s still possible to discuss them in context and to trace their origins somewhat. While the key period for these films is the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, their roots go much further back. Prior to World War II, the Turkish film industry was dominated by a handful of companies importing foreign product into the major cities of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. After 1948, when the municipal tax on exhibition was reduced from 75% to 25% (leaving the tax on imported films at 70%), there was an explosion in domestically produced Turkish cinema. By the mid 1960s, Turkish cinema had expanded rapidly to become one of the biggest film making economies in the world, centred around Yesilçam (literally ‘Green Pine’ and named for a street in Istanbul that housed many production companies), which became a by-word for Turkish cinema in the same sense Hollywood is for classic American film.
However, while there were over 1,000 cinemas in Turkey at the peak of this wave, Hollywood product was still limited to theatres in the major cities and the coasts, leaving the huge Anatolian population in the south at a disadvantage – which is to say, there was a huge demand for the kind of westernised product epitomised in the Western and Action genres which was not being fully catered for. Starting around 1962, the Turkish Western became a hugely popular genre with 15 films a year being produced at the peak of the genre’s popularity in the 1970s and an audience happy to consume up to three films a day. In this period, the power of the regional distributors was paramount as they could and would demand films to their own specification, according to the discriminations of their local audiences. Unfortunately, due in part to the decentralisation of the system (with hundreds of companies making films), the general tilt was towards private enterprise, meaning that profits from films were not directed back into future film production, but removed for private gain. This was essentially a cash-flow business, with the success of one film providing the budget for the next, and one that could not sustain itself under any adversity. Eventually, Yesilçam’s output became dominated by soft-core porn productions.The encroachment of television and VHS meant that cinema revenue took a dive in the late 1970s and 1980s, which, in combination with that still thirsty-for-action Southern audience, created the perfect environment for Turkish Remakesploitation to thrive, albeit briefly.
Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam speaks to the audacity of some Turkish filmmakers, but the copyright situation in Turkey then is extremely vague from a modern perspective and it seems clear that there was no pertinent law of any kind in Turkey at that point. Indeed, there was a similar approach taken to the recording of foreign songs, at least up until the 1990s. At any rate, most of the films to be made in this golden age were well under Hollywood’s radar, probably more so than even Tarzan Istanbul’da (which had attracted the attention of Hollywood lawyers), and catered to an audience that had very little access to Hollywood product. Up until this point, it was standard practice in Yesilcam to freely adapt English-language novels, scripts and movie serials. There had been numerous Turkish bootlegs of Hollywood properties like The Lone Ranger, Zorro and Flash Gordon as well as oddities like Tosun and Yosun, the Turkish Laurel and Hardy clones, and innumerable Turkish Westerns. The spirit of the classic Turkish Remakesploitation can be traced in some of those Westerns, in their enthusiastic appropriation of American Western tropes and types (in similar fashion to the Italian Spaghetti Westerns), and their giddy disregard for international copyright concerns.
Una Pistola Per Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965), the now-classic Spaghetti Western, spawned many unauthorised spin-offs and unofficial sequels (as indeed it did in homeland of Italy). Similarly, Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966) soon inspired the likes of Cango Olum Suvarisi (Django Rider Of Death, Remzi Conturk, 1967). Then came Çeko (Çetin Inanç, 1970), featuring a Turkish analogue of the Spaghetti Western anti-hero. Çeko opens with music stolen from Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966) and goes on to utilise his Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) score and Riz Ortolani’s music for Day Of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967). Even with the relatively low budget director Inanç had at his disposal, and the hasty production schedule – which would rapidly earn him the sobriquet “Regisör Jet”, the Jet Director – it was yet more economical to plagiarise pre-existing music. There were, of course, composers at work at the industry, but they would have cost too much, even in the form of the library music that they were most frequently employed to produce. With the materials at hand in the form of worn American prints and with impatient theatre owners on the phone, representing a waiting audience, directors like Inanç could churn out cheap copies quickly and to demand.
All of which begs the uncomfortable question of why filmmakers did not simply manufacture and distribute bootleg prints. The answer is in the question, and it is because these were filmmakers and not criminals. It seems clear that these films could not exist without a certain level of raw enthusiasm for the source material, the genres they represent and the filmmaking process itself. In any case, such blatant theft could easily be considered too likely to provoke the attention of litigious Hollywood studios that, after all, were still screening their product in the major cities, though they would not have a presence in the country as distributors until the 1990s. Equally probable is that the audience responded more enthusiastically to representations of these stories through a Turkish prism, which the filmmakers were only too eager to provide. It’s presumptuous and perhaps condescending to consider that the language barrier when screening original American films was an important element, but it likely would play a part. What is more than likely is that the significant delay between the initial American release and the widespread distribution of American films – even to the extent that they reached – provided a window ripe for exploitation.
Inanç is the most prominent behind-the-scenes character in the story of Turkish Remakesploitation. Weaned on the same comic books and serials that inspired his contemporaries Lucas and Spielberg, his first notable work was writing the screenplay for Kilink Istanbul’da (Yilmaz Atadeniz, 1967), a rip-off of Italian comic strip Killing, itself a rip-off of another called Kriminal, which was again a rip-off of Diabolik – making Kilink Istanbul’da a kind of bastard cousin to Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968). His first film as director, Çelik Bilek (1967), was a Rip-Off of another Italian comic series, this time Il Grande Blek. After Çeko, he churned out carbon copies of Bonnie and Clyde, Dirty Harry, Mad Max, Jaws, First Blood, Rocky and Rambo II, making him by far the most prolific of the Remakesploitation directors. Those films, however, are only a sampling of the 136 films he made before moving into television in the mid 1980s. His transition then was emblematic of the general refocusing of the industry around television and its revenues in the 1980s and 1990s.
The key to understanding the films of Turkish Remakesploitation is to see them in context, not as part of a bungling criminal enterprise, but as the work of inventive, cash-strapped pragmatists. They were opportunists, certainly, but no more than Roger Corman or, indeed, any other Hollywood producer. The films were, after all, made for and enjoyed by an audience that could be described as undiscerning, but is more properly seen as enthusiastic, extremely receptive and, ultimately, forgiving, if the entertainment was worth the price of admission. There are comparisons to be drawn between Turkish Remakesplotiation and some Blaxsploitation (eg “The Black Exorcist” – Abby, William Girdler, 1974) in the way that mainstream (white, American) content is recreated but transformed to reflect the appearance and cultural specificity of the ‘niche’ audience. They’re also a worthy example of the hijacking and détournement of the Hollywood juggernaut to produce films for local consumption and, to a very limited extent, local profit. It’s hardly Robin Hood and it doesn’t beat a genuinely creative original and non-derivative industry, but it’s a lot more attractive, culturally, than simply swallowing what America doles out wholesale.
But their worth is not merely academic. And it’s not simply found in their superficial comic value, or even in their oddball energy, strange logic and generally singular approach to genre filmmaking. It’s in the spirit they were made in, the sheer will to make films overwhelming the paucity of available resources. It’s about making films of a certain kind when logic perhaps should tell you that you are not able to and not being constrained by your material limitations – certainly not when there is the prospect of expanding your material wealth. Fundamentally, Turkish Remakesploitation survives because it’s still doing what it was created to do – entertaining, even if that enjoyment sometimes takes the shape of snarky, ill-informed criticism.
Comparing the intent of Çetin Inanç and his contemporaries to their Hollywood counterparts is perhaps the most instructive measure. The cultural influences they share, taking for granted the international success of American comics and movie serials of the 1930s and 40s, seem as important as their distinct national identities. How different would the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies look if they were made with a fraction of the budget, talent pool, shooting schedule and basic infrastructure that they found in Hollywood? And though posterity has not been kind to the films of Turkish Remakesploitation, the smiles they engender and the basic thrills they offer are undiminished. As Kunt Tulgar has said, “Action and adventure never die in our culture.”
Remakesploitation Fest 2020 takes place 25-26/04/2020 at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. Tickets available from our online shop here.Keep up-to-date with the Facebook event page here.
NB This article was originally published in 2011 at physicalimpossibility.com.Thanks to Gokay Gelgec of the Sinematik website and the sadly departed Bill Barounis of Onar Films for invaluable background information on these films and the culture they were made in. Wherever possible, we’ve referred to the best-presented and ‘official’ versions of these films available.
Very different events, but both a pleasure to work on. One is a showcase of the absurd, political and queer musical films of John Greyson, the other a new restoration of a 1988 documentary on Leith and its changing socio-economic landscape.
Sing and Fight! is an event showcasing the absurd, political and queer musical films of John Greyson. Produced by Edinburgh Artists’ Moving Image Festival, in collaboration with HIV Scotland and Pollyanna queer cabaret, it takes place at Glasgow’s The Deep End. Alongside rarely shown musical short films from the 1980s, the event centres on clips from Zero Patience (John Greyson, 1993). Greyson’s film uses the unlikely form of song and dance to tell the story of the unfairly stigmatised, supposed ‘patient zero’ of the AIDS epidemic in North America.
Leithers (Alistair Scott, 1988) documents the people who lived and worked in Leith during the ’80s and examines the changing socio-economic landscape of Leith at that time. The film screening will be introduced by film-maker Alistair Scott, Associate Professor of Film & TV at Edinburgh Napier University. The screening will also be accompanied by a short compilation of archive footage of Leith from the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive and will be followed by a short panel discussion about Leith’s past, present and future.