When last we tuned in, skeleton motif-clad fumetti anti-hero Kriminal was skyrocketing to fame, and in doing so, seeing the nasty edge that had made him so popular and controversial (so it is possible to be banned in France) softened somewhat to make him more palatable to a wider audience. But no worries, because even as Kriminal began to only kill a lot of people instead of a whole lot of people, another character in basically the same skeleton get-up arrived on the scene to make sure that critics and censors were still incensed by the make-believe actions of a grown man wearing a novelty skeleton body stocking. That hero — and by hero, I mean psychotic mass-murdering terrorist — was known appropriately enough as Killing.
Created in 1966 by Pietro Granelli, Killing was a reprehensible brute on his best days, and most of the time the things he did were extreme even by the standards raised (or lowered) by Kriminal. That Killing relied on the photonovel format — using live-action still photography of actual staged scenes rather than artwork — made the salacious nature of his sexploitative, hyper-violent adventures even more risque. Needless to say, with Killing boasting no redeeming values whatsoever, people once again lapped it up just as eagerly as critics, censorship boards, and parents despised it. Killing was a one-man 80s metal band music video, all wearin’ a skeleton suit and causing the town censor to scream, wag his finger, turn red, and finally go into cardiac arrest as the head of the PTA angrily bangs a gavel and the mousy town librarian has her top blown off by a wicked guitar riff, causing her to jump up on top of the card catalog (it was the 80s, after all) and do a sexy pole dance striptease as, all the while, this gun-toting madman in a skull mask lords over it, laughing evilly as he stands on top of an overpass with arms akimbo.
I’m not sure what legal battle ensued, though it’s pretty obvious that Killing was a blatant rip-off of Kriminal. In response, Kriminal’s creator went and created Satanik, a disfigured woman who takes a special serum to become beautiful, and then spends most of her remaining time killing people. It was made into a movie, but unlike Kriminal or other fumetti adaptations, it plays out like a chintzy Jess Franco horror movie rather than a comic book adventure. Don’t let the Diabolik-inspired outfit that shows up in all the poster artwork fool you; that’ sin the movie for like twenty seconds, as a costume during a cabaret dance. The rest is all a chick in a crazy lady wig skulking around and not doing much of anything. Anyway, the joke was once again on Kriminal creator Luciano Secchi, because as Killing got exported around the world — finding particular purchase in Argentina, for one reason or another, he got retitled with a whole host of new names, including Sadistik and, yes, Satanik. And they couldn’t stop rubbing salt in the wounds, either.
1966’s live-action feature film Kriminal was partially set and filmed on location in Istanbul. Inspired by what they saw, Turkish filmmakers decided to flex their muscle as the premiere global violators of any and all intellectual property and copyrights (this was, after all, before the rise of the Chinese piracy juggernaut). After all, if the Italians could rip off their own guy, then the Turks could rip off the rip-off, and that would just be awesome. And so Turkish producer-director Yilmaz Atadeniz commenced filming of his own Killing movie, 1967’s Kilink Istanbul’da.
Stylistically, Kilink Istanbul’da is somewhere between the early luchadore movies of Mexico and old American horror serials — which isn’t surprising, considering how big an influence the serials were on luchadore movies. The film’s opening scene, in which a mummy in a spooky room is revived and unwrapped to reveal the hideous skeleton below (oh wait, it’s just Kilink, played by Yildirim Gencer if that matters — it’s not like he ever takes off his skull mask), is straight out of a serial (The Crimson Ghost is the first to leap to mind). The spookiness ends right there, more or less, as Kilink springs out of his coffin and starts slapping asses and calling women “baby” and ranting about his need for a secret formula to complete his secret weapon that will help him rule the world. Personally, I think the prospect of the world being ruled by a dude in a novelty skeleton suit from the comfort of his swanky suburban living room is intriguing. And so the plot is pretty much straight out of the old serials as well, with Kilink trying to get the secret formula from a parade of scientists whose only contribution to the world besides creating formulas for weapons of mass destruction is uttering the line, “I’ll never tell you the location of the formula!” before being shot by a skeleton. But then, things get really weird — unless, as mentioned earlier, you are used to luchadore movies.
When the dastardly Kilink murders a scientist, the scientist’s son, Orhan (Irfan Atasoy), swears revenge, then bemoans the fact that a mere normal man could never hope to foil the mad schemes of a villain as diabolical as Kilink. And then Zeus or Odin or someone appears and bellows for a spell and gives the guy super-powers that will activate whenever he yells — get this — “Shazam!” Shouting this magic word the makers of this film made up all on their own transforms Orhan into Ucan Adam, a guy in an unconvincingly padded Superman outfit with striped underwear and what looks to be a slight variation of the Batman cowl worn by Adam West. As Ucan Adam, Orhan can throw marble slabs around, shrug off bullets, jump over stuff, and superimpose himself onto footage of clouds in order to fly. Armed with these superpowers, Orhan feels he can finally prove a match for the wicked Kilink.
I’m not terribly familiar with Italian fumetti, but as far as I can guess based purely on the film adaptations of these stories, having someone with actual superpowers was pretty rare. Most of the big stars of the 1960s — Diabolik, Kriminal, their foreign cousins Barbarella and Modesty Blaise — were cut from the Batman mold, meaning that technically they have no superpowers, but they have trained so hard that, to us regular chumps, they would almost seem capable of superhuman feats. Kilink is very much in this vein, though perhaps a little more Joker than Batman, since he doesn’t seem all that great in a fist fight. But as soon as an ancient god pops up in the cemetery and turns some guy into a superhero with pillows stuffed down his shirt, Kilink Istanbul’da starts to resemble something entirely different than the Kriminal stories that inspired it. The random supernatural aspects of the story wouldn’t be out-of-place in one of the nuttier Mexican Santo films — and it’s obvious that many Turkish cult filmmakers were very familiar with El Santo and his ilk, since a Turkish version of Santo (along with Captain America and Spider-Man) shows up in the Turkish superhero blow-out 3 Dev Adam.
We can also see that Kilink the character is considerably different from Kriminal, if not in looks than certainly in ambition. Kriminal was interested in stealing and swingin’, while Kilink is interested in swingin’ and conquering the world. He also has a gang of useless henchmen dressed like Father Guido Sarducci, whereas Kriminal works alone save for his beautiful accomplice (which Kilink was wise enough to keep in place as well). Kriminal was obviously modeled after Diabolik, and both of them grew from the old pulps. Kilink has one boney foot in the madmen of the old serials and another in the more modern (at the time) world of megalomaniacal James Bond villains. Finally, we are meant to sympathize with Diabolik and Kriminal, but Kilink offers us no such hook. He is the bad guy, pure and simple, and you’re never really tempted to root for him. Especially when his opponent is a guy in a super suit stuffed with pillows and socks.
If a gun-toting mass murderer dressed as a skeleton fighting a superhero in a poorly stuffed suit sounds like fun to you, then Kilink Istanbul’da isn’t going to let you down. It lives up to the description, and perhaps exceeds it considerably. But that’s just the main event. The undercard in Kilink Istanbul’da has so, so much to offer. For instance, there’s the stellar soundtrack, assembled from bits and pieces of You Only Live Twice (which had just come out that year — that was quick!), Our Man Flint, Horror of Dracula, and a few others I recognize but could not immediately place.
Kilink also makes sure that the screen is never devoid of hot, scantily clad Turkish babes for more than a few seconds. His accomplice is the gorgeous Suzy (Suzan Avci), and it says something that a woman who unspeakably hot is made to seem plain in comparison to some of the other women in the movie, including Pervin Par as Orhan’s fiancee Guile, Mine Soley as one of the scientist’s smokin’ secretaries and eventual Kilink hot sidekick number two, and whoever it is that plays Orhan’s younger sister. None of these women can go for more than a few minutes without their tops falling off, or their skirts being hiked up, or them just walking around in a slinky bikini. I’ve maintained for a while now that Indian films had figured out the secret formula that enables them to cram more gorgeous women into one film than any other country, but apparently Kilink stole that formula, too, because the Kilink girls are a sight to behold. And the best part is near the end, when Kilink leaves the suburbs and goes to his secret island lair. He walks into his throne room, and there are already like half a dozen hot chicks in bikinis just standing around in alluring poses. It was at this point that I decided to surrender to Kilink and let him have a hand at ruling the world for a while. I bet he’d resign anyway after just a few days, once he learned that ruling the world meant less time laughing maniacally while surrounded by half-naked women and more time reviewing zoning ordinances and sanitation plans.
To be fair and balanced, Irfan Atasoy is a fine-looking man with classic matinee idol looks. But when you’re a regular Joe, even one who turns into Shazam, surrounded by a dude in a skeleton suit and a bunch of chicks in slinky cocktail dresses, bikinis, and underwear, well, you tend to get lost in the shuffle.
Speaking of the end, Kilink Istanbul’da ends on a cliffhanger (yet more classic serial stylings) with Orhan trying to track down Kilink — who has kidnapped Guile and her scientist father — while Kilink gets it on with the traitorous secretary and unveils his super weapon — a smallish laser beam. Hmm. Good luck with that one, Kilink. Some people have nuclear weapons. Some have navies and biological weapons. Kilink has a small laser gun in a cave off the coast of Turkey. Maybe when he turns it on in the next movie, it will be more impressive. But I bet not.
Kilink suffers somewhat from a case of the Troutman Syndrome, named after colonel Troutman from the film First Blood. Troutman’s only purpose in First Blood was to hover around and annoy people by constantly reminding them what a bad-ass John Rambo was. Similar characters show up in Commando (Arnold’s version). A variation on the Troutman character is the grudgingly respective opponent,” whose sole function is to constantly say things like, “This guy’s good. Real good.” Steven Seagal movies are full of this opponent, and they appear whenever an audience needs to be reassured of how awesome a character is despite evidence to the contrary on-screen. For example, Kilink seems like a bit of a dip. He lives int he suburbs in a house with cheap wood paneling; he only has like four guys working for him, and they all suck; and anytime he has to fight someone more capable than a passed out woman, he ends up hauling ass. Plus, the super weapon this whole movie is about is a little laser cannon that looks like, at it’s most effective, it could be used to take out one guy — maybe two — at a time. Kilink can barely handle terrorizing a couple of scientists, and the only reason he ever captures anyone is because they keep coming home to the same unlocked houses even though they know Kilink is after them.
And yet some cop keeps popping up to remind us, over and over, how amazingly evil and dangerous Kilink is, even though the evidence on-screen points to something else. When Kilink does something as simple as pick the lock on a window, the inspector is there to slam his fist into his palm and proclaim Kilink the most diabolical evil genius who ever lived! I’m wondering if, once everyone is inevitably gathered in Kilink’s secret lair for the unveiling of his super weapon, everyone is going to shrug and go, “Seriously? That’s it?” as Kilink pumps his fist in the air and rants about ruling the world. Then they could drop a bomb or something on him. Does Kilink even know that in 1967 they had weapons that could obliterate entire cities? If he goes and demands a ransom of $10,000…
Despite Kilink’s dubious crowning as the King of Rogues (sort of like Justin Timberlake being the new King of Pop — because really, who else is there, and I guess Justin Timberlake is as good as anyone else who might be up for King of Pop coronation), Kilink Istanbul’da is top-notch entertainment. The episodic structure of the film keeps it from ever getting dull, and there’s usually not more than a minute or so before a skeleton is ripping off a woman’s top or a superhero is punching a villain’s car. As silly as the idea of a grown man dressing up like a skeleton and demanding to rule the world may be, it works in the fantastical context created by films like this and the luchadore movies. Kilink has a more menacing, detailed suit than Kriminal did, plus he accessorizes with a holster and pistol. he looks good in action, too. Superman…err, Superhero, is a little less spry in his action scenes, but that’s just because all the foam stuffed into his shirt means his mobility is restricted to little more than walking like a stiff-jointed bodybuilder while guys pointlessly shoot at him over and over.
If there’s any problem with the movie, it’s with the lack of a cinematic preservation culture in Turkey (as with many countries). Turks aren’t big on taking care of prints of old films, which is part of the reason so few of them are available even in ragged forms. Kilink Istanbul’da looks sort of ragged, but it’s probably the best it will ever be. Scenes are missing (most noticeable is the scene of Orhan and his sister being gassed by a henchman and escaping from the torture dungeon in Kilink’s suburban basement), and it’s hard to tell how much of the technical crudity (bad cuts, abrupt ends to music cues, etc) of the film is really a product of the filmmaking process, and how much is simply a symptom of the film being in such shoddy shape by the time Onar films unearthed a copy and did their best to restore it to a watchable condition. And it is certainly watchable, make no doubt about it. It’s pretty easy to put up with a beat up print of the film when you know: 1) that’s the best looking print of the film in existence, and 2) the film is this much unabashed fun.
Of course, there’s the whole business of the film ending right in the middle of the action. Luckily, the second Kilink film, Kilink Ucan Adama Karsi, was waiting in the wings to pick up the action immediately where the first one leaves off…
Release Year: 1967 | Country: Turkey | Starring: Yildiram Gencer, Irfan Atasoy, Pervin Par, Suzan Avci, Muzaffer Tema, Mine Soley, Ferudun Colgecen, Huseyin Zan, Mete Mert, Enver Donmez, Ergun Koknar | Screenplay: Cetin Inanc | Director: Yilmaz Atadeniz | Cinematography: Rafet Siriner | Music: John Barry and James Bernard mostly, though I bet they have no idea | Producer: Yilmaz Atadeniz