Friday, April 15, 2011

Tarkan Altin Madalyon (Tarkan and the Golden Medallion)

                                                 Director: Mehmet Asian
                                         Starring: Kartal Tibet, Eva Bender

This wasn't the first Turkish film I saw (hell, it wasn't even the first Tarkan film), but it is the one that first sparked my interest in the wild and crazed world of Turkish pop cinema of the 70s. As I mentioned in my review of Battal Gazi Geliyor, I was first introduced to Turkish films roughly ten years ago thanks to Pete Tombs' absolutely essential book, Mondo Macabro. It was his chapter devoted to Turkey that really sent my head spinning. Of all the bizarre sounding films that he wrote about, it was the Tarkan films that for some reason I was most interested in seeing.

Tarkan first appeared in a local comic book. He was a medieval warrior who was raised by wolves, whom he came to regard as his family. He basically was a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hercules (or Machiste). There were plenty of supernatural elements that played well into the stories and helped establish Tarkan as a big time comic cult hero.

It only made sense that a film series should follow. There were five films made between 1969 and 1972 (though I should point out that I heard from at least one source that there may have been as many as seven) with the stories getting wilder and more intensely psychotronic with each entry. This one, 1972's Tarkan and the Golden Medallion was the fourth in the series and is probably the most extreme of the bunch.

The story (or at least as much as I'm able to make of it since it has yet to be subtitled) involves an evil, yet decidely goofy Ceaser-like king who uses an occultist to revive an ancient witch/sorceress in order to (I assume) help rule the land. To accomplish this (in the film's eyebrow raising opening scene), a nun and a topless dancer are kidnapped and brought and tied to a secret altar. They are both stabbed, with the collective bloodletting reviving the witch. Enter our ever stoic, sword wielding hero, Tarkan who along with his faithful wolf, Kurt (portrayed by a friendly looking German Sheppard, complete with obviously phony overdubbed barking) investigates the nasty goings on. On this particular adventure, he is aided by what appears to be an acrobat troup with whom he first has a somewhat playful bout (probably to initially confuse the audience as to whether they are friend or foe). The highlight here is Tarkan's first encounter with the witch. He passes out from her (genuinely scary) stare and finds himself ensnared in a giant spider web. This is probably the most memorable moment in the entire series.

Tarkan was played in all five (?) films by Kartal Tibet. Tibet was an established leading man who turned his attention toward action roles, both modern and period. This role became an iconic one for Tibet, along the lines of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name. After his acting career wound down, he turned his attention toward directing with equally successful results.

The role of the witch/sorceress went to Swedish actress Eva Bender. Bender had a twenty year career in Turkish films and had last appeared in the previous film in this series, Tarkan Viking Kani (Tarkan and the Blood of the Vikings, aka Tarkan vs the Vikings). In that film, she portrayed a "good" female viking who aids Tarkan in his battle against a legion of "bad" male vikings. In this film, she is given a larger and certainly more eye opening role. She essentially owns this film and is not shy about baring it all. One scene in particular finds our hero a captive of the baddies. Bender's witch does some sort of ritualistic dance, completely in the buff. The scene is equally arousing and... kind of awkward. In real life, she reportedly is married to Turkish filmmaker Halit Refig.

Filled with some particularly freaky imagery and punctuated with sloppily silly, yet highly energetic action and swordplay, Tarkan and the Golden Medallion makes for a true Turkish delight for those who are game.

*Rewind Alert* during the final battle in a castle, there is a subplot involving a captured child who is rescued by the acrobat troup. This is accomplished by one member tossing the hapless kid across the room to another. It appeared as though the second acrobat missed and the kid was sent head first to the ground! The scene cuts just a mili-second before his cranium makes contact with the concrete! I found myself laughing in total disbelief... and then rather ashamed of myself for doing so.

                                                          ***1/2 / ****

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