There is nothing like the feeling of standing at the edge of a rabbit hole and feeling the cool breeze around your ankles as it beckons you inward. You peer into the darkness knowing that as soon as you click on Google’s little magnifying glass you will be sucked into a new and strange place that will sequester you for unknown amounts of time. Let me now relate to you the tale of the rabbit hole into which I tumbled. The rabbit hole of The Turkish Mockbuster. Brace yourself.
Did you know that during the 1970s and 80s Turkey was busy making Turkish versions of famous Hollywood films? Its true! Copyright law be damned, Turkey made their own versions of: Rambo, Jaws, The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, The Exorcist, ET, I Spit on Your Grave, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Some Like It Hot, Wuthering Heights, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Star Trek just to name a few.
Many of these films were made in just a few days with the tiniest budgets. Some saved time and money by actually stealing footage from the American originals and inserting it into the new Turkish version. I’m not kidding. Many of them felt free to mix and match soundtracks as well. The Turkish Star Wars uses the themes from Raiders of the Lost Arc as well as The Godfather.
Some of these Mockbusters tried to stay faithful to the original script. The Turkish versions of The Exorcist and The Wizard of Oz are mostly just horrible reproductions. Other films use the original movie as a jumping off point to produce something entirely new. The Turkish Et entitled Homoti and The Turkish Star Wars entitled The Man Who Saves The World use the same characters and sort of the same premise but then careen into strange new territory. In The Turkish ET, our little alien friend who looks like he is made of a mixture of foam rubber and bread, is gay. He falls in love with the man who finds him and spends the entire film whining about his unrequited love while sitting on the couch. Almost the entire film takes place on the couch.
The Star Wars plot is indecipherable. All of the space ship footage is stolen from the original. The problem is that when a shot of the Millennium Falcon or the Death Star was needed the director just randomly inserted a few clips of anything featuring outer-space. Its as if any bit of grey spaceship against a starry black background was good enough. He even included some NASA launch footage. As you might imagine it is profoundly disorienting.
The costumes are pretty disorienting as well. Mostly the aliens all look like a cross between muppets and football mascots. There is actually a second Turkish ET called Badi where the costume is terrifying. In the Turkish Spiderman, where Spiderman is the bad guy and must fight Captain America and Santo the Mexican Wrestler. Spiderman’s prodigious eyebrows can not be contained by his red cowl and so protrude majestically from inside his costume.
How could this happen you ask. How did all this wholesale ripping off evade prosecution? Well, it seems that after one too many coups the legal system in Turkey was barely holding on, and couldn’t be bothered with nonviolent crimes like copyright infringement. In fact these mockbusters were often presented as if they were the actual original. In rural areas people were lead to believe that they were seeing the real George Lucas Star Wars or the real Tim Burton Batman. I don’t think there is any research on whether or not anyone was actually fooled. Many of the films starred well known Turkish actors like Cüneyt Arkin who was in well over 200 films.
Turkey is not alone in this practice. There is an Egyptian Rocky Horror Picture Show, a Japanese Planet of The Apes, an Indian Harry Potter, as well as an Indian Nightmare on Elm Street musical, and many more. There is a big wide world of “so bad they’re good” films waiting down deep in the rabit hole. You may want to leave word with someone before you enter.
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