Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lionman (Kilic Aslan)

                                                 Director: Natuk Baytan
                          Starring: Cuneyt Arkin, Bahar Erdeniz, Yildirim Gencer

I only recently started taking notice of just how many period pieces Cuneyt Arkin appeard in throughout the '60s and '70s. And from the ones I've viewed, they all seem to be lensed around the same wooded area and utilize the same castle. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Afterall, I've seen countless Hong Kong Shaw Bros. films and have seen the same indoor sets I don't know how many times. This type of thing when it's visually pleasing (and in both cases, they are) can give off a feeling of comfortable familiarity. I've come to really enjoy Arkin's 70s period escapades, be it rumbling in the jungle or stormin' the castle. Of the many that I've so far seen, Lionman is the wildest and possibly the best.

The story: The King is murdered by a rival who assumes the throne himself. He also kidnaps the murdered majesty's child and unbeknownst to the kid, raises him to be his own son whilst keeping the mother locked away. A twin child however is led away to safety... into the jungle. There, he is essentially raised by lions until adulthood. Filled with superhuman beast-like strength (he literally roars) and discovering through a band of rebels his true heritage, our Lionman storms the castle and discovers his twin brother who in turn learns of HIS heritage from their captive mother (who is quickly 'silenced' permanently). The reunited brothers go after the illegitamte king (and murderer of both of their parents). During the fracas, the faux king douses the lionman's hands with acid. Barely managing to escape, our hero and his rebel friends make it back to their fort where the lionman gets a makeover from the local blacksmith; a pair of razor sharp, iron 'lion claws'. Now fully 'armed', our heroes return to the castle to settle some unfinished business with the faux king.

Veteran director Natuk Baytan keeps the way, way over the top adventure moving at a rapid (or more accurately, rabid) pace, even by normal Turk pop standards. Yet despite the blazing pacing as well as it's low budget and extreme cheeseball factor (the scenes with the our lionman both as child and grownup interacting via splitscreen with his lion kin is an absolute hoot), this film has an undeniably epic feel, no doubt due to it's authentic scenery and castle backdrop (which Baytan puts to great use here, despite the familiarity of it). The result is akin to a fever dream mishmash of period genres, served up in maniacally ridiculous fashion.

At the center of it is one of Cuneyt Arkin's most memorable roles (which is REALLY saying something). Showing no shame whatsoever and holding nothing back (as usual), he attacks the man/beast role with a crazed, over the top vigor (even by HIS standards) that must be seen to be believed. Most actors would shun doing such free spirited pantamime, but not our beloved Cuneyt. And as silly as his facial expressions tend to be, he still lends the part a level of power and authority that only he can. It's a perfomance for the ages (well, one of many from him).

Lionman is a must see for Turk Cult fans as well as action packed period cheese fest enthusiasts. It's easily one of the most entertaining from this genre that I've yet seen and may even displace Battal Gazi Geliyor as the perfect introduction to the insane joys of Turkish Pop Cinema.

                                                                   ***1/2 / ****


  1. This was released in the UK as well. As I recall, the English version is cut and they certainly changed the music, which somehow spoiled it for me

    1. Thanks for the info. It makes sense to hear that it was rescored as the cheerful music heard in the english language version always sounded out of place to me. Didn't know that it was also cut. Now I need to find the original Turkish version.

  2. Cool review!

    The English dubbed version is a different edit. The entire beginning is taken from a completely different film! The original Turkish version is out on Turkish DVD (not English friendly). Ayman Kole talked about the differences on Cinehound a while back. I'll post a link.

    The English dubbed version was also released in the United States (it's in fact the version I have). And incidentally the dubbed version uses a much better print than the one that was used for the Turkish DVD which is old and scratched. I got the DVD from a Turkish seller on eBay but I'm not sure if you can still get it.

    By the way, the Turkish title is spelt in two, KILIC ASLAN. And beware using IMDB; they have TWO entries for the film and one of them uses "Aslan Adam" as the original title. It is in fact the title of the sequel!


    1. Thanks for the info and link, Jack! Jeez, if I knew the film had THIS much of a checkered past, I might have reviewed somethimg else! :)

      I knew about Asian Adam being the title of the sequel (no thanks to to IMBD!), but wasn't aware that the opening scenes were taken from a different film as the only Battal Gazi film (Geliyor...at least I THINK that's the first one).

      Ah well, the plot thickens...

    2. er, I meant to say that Geliyor was the only Battal film I've yet seen.

  3. Checkered past, yeah! LOL. I'm glad you reviewed it and I just thought I should chime in with the few bits and pieces I had gathered in odd corners of Cyberspace. ^_^

    Apparently the sequel isn't supposed to be very good but I've never seen it.

    1. I've never seen the sequel either. I've heard nothing but bad things about it (including that Cuneyt Arkin isn't even in it!), so I can't afford to plunk down money for something like that when there's so much else I haven't seen (including more of Arkin's 70s period films). Being a completist is fine, as long as you can afford it. Right now, I'm lucky if I can afford a can of Pepsi :()