Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vahsi Kan (1983)

aka Wild Blood

aka Turkish First Blood (and it's even true this time)

An evil rich guy named Hasmet rules a Turkish village and its surroundings with an iron hand. But his reign of smirking evilness is threatened by a middle-aged man, his daughter (Emel Tümer), and her little brother who are driving to a trial regarding one or more of Hasmet's evil deeds. Obviously, the easiest way to get rid of them is to have a bunch of henchpeople pretend to be a heap of corpses lying in the road and kill the family once they stop their car. Thanks to the surprising not-zombies, the man and his son die unpleasant deaths, but the daughter escapes.

She's soon not the only one stumbling through this particular part of the countryside anymore. Ex-commando Riza (Cüneyt Arkin) has an unpleasant run-in with some of Hasmet's men, and begins to repeatedly go Rambo on the bad guy's henchmen's asses, utilizing the awesome power of being filmed in undercranked shots when running, transforming not into a manikin like normal movie heroes do but into a ragdoll when falling from any heights, classic Arkin fu, an affinity for traps and monologue-ing  about blood, and a very big knife. When the two Hasmet-haters meet up, Riza tailors his new partner an awesome ripped red disco jungle woman outfit, proving he's a man with talents for every situation, and the sort of eye for women's clothing that would make him a reality show mainstay today.

A little later, we'll also learn that Riza is an old acquaintance of Hasmet too, and that the old evildoer is holding him responsible for his son losing both of his arms and the use of his legs. Obviously, this being a First Blood rip-off, Riza's former commanding officer will make an appearance too. But mostly, there will be ranting into the camera and killing.

Whenever Turkish exploitation master director Cetin Inanc and Turkish exploitation acting god Cüneyt Arkin made a film together, fantastic, explosive and very special things happened. And I don't just mean especially egregious cases of needle-dropped music like the cues from First Blood on the soundtrack here.

Inanc's permanently excited style of direction - heated even by the hyperactive standards of Turkish popular cinema - and Arkin's talent for steely staring into cameras, as well as the latter's ability to look ridiculous and awesome at the same time during weirdly choreographed fight scenes usually turned the films these two made together into viewing experiences even more exhausting than was the already quite exhausting standard of Turkish cinema of the time. Neither Inanc nor Arkin had much believe in standing still (or at least shutting up) for even a single second, and so their united works turn into a whirlwind of very Turkish kung fu, wild shouting, wide-eyed ranting by the film's bad guys (the wheelchair bound son - only complete with his own explosive trap - doing his thing with special enthusiasm), extreme close-ups, crotch shots, and thigh shots, all filmed with copious use of the most aggressive, probably manhandled, handheld camera and edited during an all-night cocaine binge.

It's all as ridiculous as it is intense, but Vahsi Kan is not the sort of film that leaves its viewers room or breath to contemplate its rather perfunctory script or said ridiculousness. There's only time for the most manly manliness of Cüneyt Arkin when he's really angry (you wouldn't like him when he's angry, unless he's angry at your enemies, then you'd think he's awesome when he's angry), some leering in the direction of Emel Tümer (though the leering in Turkey of 1982 was a lot tamer than it would have been ten years earlier, "thanks" to the new censorship regime), explosions, and shouting about blood and vengeance.

I have to admit that I like this version of First Blood a lot more than the original. Vahsi Kan has no time for that other film's less than believable attempts at being anti-war that were quite at odds with its obvious love for violence; there's some talk about Arkin's character's love for peace, but Inanc is nothing if not an economic director fully conscious of the fact that nobody watching his movies cares about being morally enlightened by them, and isn't ashamed to revel in the silly violence. I also suspect that Turkey's military regime of the time wouldn't have liked a film that was too clearly critical of war or the military itself.

However, if a viewer doesn't ask the film about its morals, it's certainly not going to talk about them (except for some mumbling about "blood, vengeance, wild blood, blood" while cackling insanely), and will instead merrily demonstrate everything Inanc and Arkin know about making an action film, Turkish pop cinema style, which is everything you can know about that particular aspect of the art of filmmaking without selling your soul to a godhood of your choice.


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