Saturday, June 5, 2010

In short: The Deathless Devil (1973)

A Professor (Yalin Tolga) has invented the most fantastic of inventions: a magicscientific lamp thing that works as a universal remote control for just about anything. The Professor wants to make this wonderful gadget a present to his beloved country, so that Turkey has an easier time controlling its military planes to slaughter minorities with, but the mysterious evil mastermind Dr. Satan (Erol Tas wearing the stolen moustache of Fu Manchu) has other plans for it, namely using the lamp to control an army of killer robots that will make him the ruler of the world (mwahahaha).

Alas, Dr. S has made the capital fault of killing the foster father of a guy named Tekin (Kunt Tulgar). Tekin had just learned that his real father was the masked do-gooder known as the Copperhead and decides to take up that mantle to right the wrong of his foster father's death by protecting the Professor and the Professor's charming daughter Sevgi (Mine Mutlu). Copperhead's job would be much easier if he wouldn't put other people's lives into the hands of his comic relief idiot friend Bitik (Erol Günayadin) - who'll spend most of the film calling himself "Bitik Holmes" and wearing a well-loved deer-stalker and cape - but what can a hero do?

At least this and the fact that Copperhead is about as effective a hero as Santo's ancestor, the Caballero Enmascarado de Plata gives Doctor Satan a chance to show his full bag of tricks, beginning with bomb belts and mind control, getting more interesting with the Professor's traitorous secretary (Tijen Doray) and a few simple death traps and culminating in an awe-inspiring/ridiculous robot that could be outrun by a snail. I promise, there will be kidnappings.

While large parts of Turkey's pop and pulp cinema of the 60s and 70s were heavily inspired by US serials of the 40s and 50s, only a few of them were actual remakes of serials. The Deathless Devil is one member of this copyright-ignoring species, and interestingly not the first one its director Yilmaz Atadeniz committed. Atadeniz had already remade (or ripped off, for those of you without a soul) the classic Spy Smasher serial with 1968's exciting Casus Kiran, and obviously had no compunction when it came to making a grab for the equally classic Mysterious Doctor Satan. Think what you will about Atadeniz, but his choice of serials to re-do shows excellent taste.

As it usually goes with Turkish cinema of this era, Deathless Devil races from one cheaply done, unconvincing looking, yet supremely fun action set piece to the next, making up for what it lacks in money and slickness with enthusiasm and the will to entertain its audience. Atadeniz follows the unwritten rule of pop cinema that no dialogue scene should take more than a minute before the next brawl starts, or before someone crashes through a window, or before a car chase begins. And really, what is there to say when there's a bad guy and good guy and a professor and short-skirted women (alas mostly without guns and completely without whips) and a cute killer robot and highly punchable henchmen (one of 'em even using deadly throwing cards like the X-Men's Gambit, automatically making him the most punchable of them all)?

The film's energy is even manic enough to help me ignore the unutterably dreadful comic relief delivered by Bitik, a creature so vile he nearly becomes charming again - an impressive feat if ever I've witnessed one.


No comments: