Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Turkish Werewolf in the Big Apple

The 1980s produced some very odd cinema. (As well as launching some very odd future bloggers into the world). Here are just a few, recently viewed at a sci fi convention in the Twin Cities area. Oddly, I watched them in reverse chronological order, bringing me back to my first year of high school ... sort of like Harlan Ellison's old-girlfriend horror story "All the Birds Come Home to Roost."

Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam, a.k.a. Turkish Star Wars (1982)

I was lucky to see a subtitled version; most of the DVDs available on the Internet aren't. Not that it likely makes much difference in watchability.

This film is notorious for its intercutting of shots from the original Star Wars into its otherwise unrelated spacemen-crash-on-alien-planet storyline, which bears the most fruit of hilarity in an alien cantina scene that alternates between close-ups of the famous Rick Baker-designed Star Wars aliens and obvious paper-mache masks. Also, the Death Star appears to blow up the planet several times, without it effecting the action on the planet in any way. (Someone in the viewing room suggested they were just blowing up every planet, one by one, until they found the one our hero was on).

The music is also almost totally second-hand, borrowing occasionally from Star Wars again, but mainly focusing on the Indiana Jones theme music. My favorite was an awesome training montage, set to a Meco-like disco version of the original Battlestar Galactica theme.

One of the alien menaces is obviously a guy in a furry orange suit, and the big fight scenes are rather like watching a guy dismembering a Muppet.

Highly recommended, if you ever get the chance.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

This one is, of course, a well-known film, and under normal circumstances I'd have probably left rewatching it pass unmentioned. However, after the film's climax famously segued into the doo-woppy "Blue Moon," as the credits rolled, and continued to roll, a girl sitting next to me, who was either very tired or very drunk, finally leaned over and asked incredulously, "Was that the ending?"

"Yup," I said. "That's how it ends."

She looked confused, and almost like her feelings were hurt. "Well, that wasn't satisfying."

Which made me appreciate, all these years later, just how innovative the film was, and how much it messes with the expectations of the audience. A much younger person seeing the movie for the first time today can still be surprised by things that were new about it, over twenty years ago.

Another note: I've never thought much protagonist David's Jewishness, which is debated by the two nurses, the one who "had a look," and the other (sensible heroine Jenny Agutter) who drily responds that it's "common practice now." But this time, I noticed the menorah on the mantle, during the dream sequence where his family is killed by Nazi zombies. (Hmm, prefiguring that Dead Snow movie we just saw a trailer for?)

The Apple (1980)

One-sentence review: if ever a film cried out for a director's commentary, this is it. "What were they thinking?" will pop into your head every few minutes. It's most often compared to Xanadu and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but as my husband pointed out, it's more like the former in that it was obviously taken seriously by the people who made it. It's like some earnest musical theater folks decided to make a science fiction allegory (set in the future world of 1994) based on a combo Faust/Adam and Eve/Mark of the Beast kind of thing.

Why such a notion would ever occur to anybody is best left to the imagination.

As with a lot of dated futurism (even the ones that, like this, aren't trying very hard), there are nuggets that seem retroactively prophetic. For instance, the song about how the future is all about showbiz ("We live for the moment and we die for fame.") In fact, the whole thing starts with a big televised international talent show -- American Idol, anyone? -- where the cleancut hero and the cleancut (but tempted) heroine are introduced as Carpenters-esque folk singers out of tune with their flashy age. Their sincerity starts to win over the audience, but is dismissed by the bigwigs as mere nostalgia, which is, however, potentially disruptive. An intriguing insight ... but their song about universal love is still pretty unbearable.

As Eve stand-in Bibi, future Night of the Comets star Catherine Mary Stewart not only made her film debut, but she actually did this movie before the stint on Days of Our Lives where I first saw her in the early '80s. Nowhere to go but up!

It's really hard to pick a favorite, but here's a clip:

Welcome to the apple paradise!

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