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Turkish Pulp Cinema - An Interview with Onar Films' Bill Barounis

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2007

Quick Links

Abbott & Costello

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Black Emanuelle

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Bowery Boys

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Captain America

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Frankie & Annette Beach Party movies

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Quatermass

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Schoolgirl Report

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Superman

Tarzan

Three Mesquiteers

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Winnetou

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Wolf Man

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Yojimbo

Zatoichi

Zorro

Only comparatively recently has Turkish pulp cinema come to the attention of an international audience of pulp- and trashfilm lovers, and many Turkish cinematic treasures have become available on DVD in watchable form and with English subtitles only due to the efforts of a little Greek company, Onar Films (http://www.onarfilms.com), which have picked up operation about two and a half years ago, and whose efforts regarding Turkish pulp cinema just cannot be overstated.

(re)Search my Trash has now taken some time to talk with Bill Barounis, founder and head of Onar Films, about his company, his releases and Turkish pulp cinema in general. Enjoy ...

 

First of all, could you give us a historic breakdown on Turkish pulp cinema, when did production of these movies start (approximately), when did it peak, which were some of the key movies and key actors and directors, and what were the main influences ?

 

Turkish cinema is said to have started in the beginning of the 20th century but unfortunately no samples have survived. The first historical title, according to my knowledge is BIR KAVUK DEVRILDI from 1938. In 1949 we have the first (?) horror/mystery film, CIGLIK (The Scream). Sadly, as far as I know no films of the 40's- let alone 30's- have survived! Statistically speaking maybe there are a few ones left.
During the 50's things improved in many ways. More titles per year, more expensive productions and more films that managed to survive. TARZAN ISTANBUL'DA (1952) was a genuine Tarzan film that had nothing to envy from the western productions. DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA (1953) was a serious and effective version of Stoker's book. Lots of other films used the ISTANBUL'DA (IN ISTANBUL) addition, giving an air of local nationalism to the relevant movie. They didn't say IN ANKARA or IN TURKEY but IN ISTANBUL.
The collectors claim that this Tarzan movie was the first Superhero film and paved the way for the later established TURKISH FANTASTIC CINEMA genre.
Whether a movie is a key movie depends on whether it has ever been viewed.
I would assume that UCAN DAIRELER ISTANBUL'DA (FLYING SAUCERS IN ISTANBUL) (1955) would be a key movie if only I or anybody else had seen it.
So, we have to base our opinions on the movies we or some esteemed reviewer has seen.
According to facts, regardless of whether people have or have not seen these movies, 1967 is considered a real key year with lots of key titles.
For many movie scholars, the most cult and best movies were released that year:
KILINK ISTANBUL'DA, KILINK UCAN ADAM KARSI, about 5 more Kilink films, FANTOMA ISTANBUL'DA BULUSALIM, ALTIN COCUK BEYRUT'TA, KARA ATMACA etc.
Yilmaz Atadeniz was the expert of the Superhero and action genre, with the first 3 Kilink films, CASUS KIRAN, MASKELI SEYTAN etc. He even made a Jules Verne movie in  1964, IKI SENE MEKTEP TATILI (TWO WEEKS' VACATION).
T. Fikret Ucak with 3 DEV ADAM and Kunt Tulgar with SÜPERMEN DÖNÜYOR are considered masters of this genre as well.
As for actors, the best superhero persona is Irfan Atasoy who must have played with a mask on in dozens of films.
Cuneyt Arkin, Aytekin Akkaya, Kadir Inanir, Yildirim Gencer, Altan Gunbay, Huseyin Zan etc are the most well- known action and superhero names.
Turkish Cinema had an enrormous range of influences and there was no genre that they didn't try their hand on.
We have come to know many films by their nicknames, not their real titles: DUNYAYI KURTARAN ADAM (MAN WHO SAVES THE WORLD) is known as TURKISH STAR WARS for example. ALTIN COCUK BEYRUT'TA (GOLDEN BOY IN BEYRUT) is known as TURKISH JAMES BOND, even though almost nobody has ever actually seen it! Looks like the Turks themselves gave birth to those nicknames.

 

What in your opinion makes these movies, despite their often obvious shortcomings, so fascinating ?

 

These movies were made by true FANS. If you check the interviews on my DVDs you'll see how enthusiastic those people are about those films. They had no money to make a decent production in art terms but they sure had imagination and PASSION on what they did. Besides, they are unrepeatable. There was a specific chemistry on each and every film, with actors, directors, plot, stunts, women, f/x, that gives out a romantic and charming frenzy.

 

Some of your favourite Turkish films ?

 

Most of them are films that I have NOT seen and probably never will as they are considered lost. From the ones I have seen I love Cuneyt Arkin  flicks, like KOROGLU, KUSCU, DESTAN, BABALIK, OLUM SAVASCISI etc. Also, KARANLIK SULAR, KILINK ISTANBUL'DA, TARZAN ISTANBUL'DA, 3 DEV ADAM, D@BBE etc

 

Quite often, Turkish films are just local versions popular characters from (copyrighted) comicbooks and movies from the West, like Kriminal, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America or El Santo. Why is that ?

 

Like I said above, those guys were true FANS of comics and superhero films. They wanted to express their admiration and love for them by trying their hand on producing local versions. Besides, people should NOT think they only shot ripoffs and nothing else. During the 60's and 70's they had a colossal production of about 500 movies per year, beating Hollywood! Only a tiny portion of them were actually ripoffs.

 

What exactly made you start your company, and how easy/difficult is it to get your hand on the films you are releasing ?

 

I am a big collector of old ex rental videos and I love tracking down lost treasures. 3 years ago I thought it was time to get involved in an endless quest for the most obscure films on earth. Many fans out there must have thought of doing the same but what with our over-busy life and money shortage almost nobody actually goes all the way. Maybe it was a coincidence. I have come close to doing many other things in my life. I have always been hesitant and indecisive and daunted by circumstances and risks. Ok, I thought "enough of this loser shit! Time to escape my pathetic self!".
I assure you, I pass through hell to get the films I get!

 

The DVDs you put out usually feature quite a few specials, including interviews with those involved in the films. How difficult is it to track these people down nowadays, often decades after the original release of the film, or do you get the interviews from somewhere else ?

 

The only interviews I got from somewhere else were the ones for the 3 DEV ADAM DVD. I got them from MONDO MACABRO. All the others were taken for me, personally, with questions I specified. It is totally hard to find those people. I always depend on someone who knows someone who knows someone etc.
Mind you, I have never travelled to Turkey! I pull all the strings from Athens, over the phone and the PC. I can't afford to travel abroad like some independent companies who hire a bunch of guys to travel around the world for some interview.

 


Flix.com

Let's move on to the films you have already released (in reverse order of release dates): Your newest one is Casus Kiran/Spy Smasher (1968), directed by Yilmaz Atadeniz, a film like so much of Atadeniz output based on an American serial (Spy Smasher [1942, William Witney] - which was actually also a comicbook). What can you tell us about this one ?

 

Besides the Spy Smasher comic there was also a 60's movie called MISTER X that inspired Casus Kiran. Casus Kiran was till recently considered a lost film and nobody has ever seen it, at least in the last 35 years. I am very proud that I unearthed this one! It was such a brilliant film that a sequel came out 2 years later, CASUS KIRAN YEDI CANLI ADAM (SPY SMASHER MAN OF 7 LIVES). This one is even rarer than the other but I'm currently having my Turkish hounds searching for it, although they are telling me it's useless!

[Click here to buy it directly from Onar Films]

 


Buy from
Onar Films

Tarzan Istanbul'da/Tarzan in Istanbul (1952, Orhan Atadeniz), the first Turkish Tarzan film, has been lost in obscurity simply for decades before you unearthed it. Your thoughts on this one.

 

If it was dubbed in English you would think it's an American film. One of the best Tarzan films ever.

[Click here to buy it directly from Onar Films]

 


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Onar Films

Karanlik Sular/The Serpent's Tale (1993, E Kutlug Ataman) is the most recent film you have in your program. What makes the film special ?

 

I read about this film in the Mondo Macabro book many years ago and I was really intrigued. I liked it a lot and found it a unique film that couldn't be imitated by anyone. Although I have decided to stick to older than 80's movies I made an exception on this gem.

[Click here to buy it directly from Onar Films]

 


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Before that you released the Superman Double Feature, consisting of Süpermen Dönüyor/Superman Returns (1979, Kunt Tulgar) and Demir Yumruk: Devler Geliyor/Iron Fist: The Giants are Coming (1973, Tunc Basaran).

The Superman-film is actually a quick cash in on Richard Donner's Superman from the previous year, made on the super-cheap. What made you choose exactly this film for release (which I'm absolutely grateful you did by the way) ?

 

I liked it and I knew it had a cult following. It was one of the films that nobody thought anybody would dare release. I accepted the challenge and that's all.

 

Of the two films in this double feature, Iron Fist: The Giants are Coming is actually the much better (and wilder) film ...

 

Exactly as I said above! Key films may be the ones we haven't seen yet. This one was the outsider and nobody knew anything about it.
Now, I can clearly see it was a mistake to release both films on the same DVD. That's why I'll never do double-bills again.

[Click here to buy the two films directly from Onar Films]

 


Buy from
Onar Films

Before the Superman Double Feature you released the Horror Double Feature, consisting of Ölüler Konusmaz Ki/The Dead Don't Talk (1970, Yavuz Yalinkilic) and Aska Susayanlar Seks ve Cinayet/Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder (1972, Mehmet Aslan).

The Dead Don't Talk is a very crude shocker, wouldn't you agree ?

 

Indeed, but we must see it from the perspective of the Turkish viewers of that time. Maybe they were really scared. Besides, this is a pure Islamic film with Muslim exorcisms and local superstitions etc. Anyway, at least it's not a ripoff. On the contrary, there's something unique about it.

In comparison, Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder is quite an accomplished production with roots in the Italian giallo-genre ...

 

Sure, talk about giallo fans! The producers had a great taste.

[Click here to buy the two films directly from Onar Films]

 


Buy from
Onar Films

The superhero-allstar film Uc Dev Adam/Three Mighty Men (1973, T.Fikret Ucak) is something of a fanboy's dreams come true, featuring not only Captain America but also El Santo (only the character not the actual actor) and Spiderman in a rare villain appearance. Tell us about this one ?

 

This is probably the epitome of Turkish superhero genre. 3 cult Superheroes in 1 film. The interviews on the DVd are very enlightening on the choices of the heroes and why Spidey had to be a child-minded maniac.  I only wish there was a sequel! Well, I almost decided to cancel that release because the producers lamented they had absolutely no materials left. They found a beta at some tv studio but someone had recorded another film on it! So, I found an old german vhs and a greek one and managed to make a composit and improved the quality and voi-la!

[Click here to buy it directly from Onar Films]

 


Buy from
Onar Films


Buy from
Onar Films

Way back in 2005, you started your company with the release of the Kilink-films from 1967, all directed by Yilmaz Atadeniz and based not only on the Italian comicstrip Kriminal and the photonovel Killing but also the American Adventures of Captain Marvel-serial (1941, John English, William Witney). In my view these films are a great introduction to Turkish pulp cinema, but what made you choose them as your first releases ?

 

There were 11 Kilink films in Turkey, making them the most cult superhero series. Too bad only the 3 ones that I released have survived. Actually, KILINK UCAN ADAM KARSI was a lost film too and nobody had ever seen it. I'll never stop chasing shadows, looking for the other 8 lost ones, that is.

[Click here to buy Kilink in Istanbul directly from Onar Films]

[Click here to buy Kilink vs Superman and Kilink Strip and Kill directly from Onar Films]

 

Are there any concrete plans about which films you want to release next ?

 


Flix.com


Flix.com

I have already bought a bunch and some of them are: TARZAN KORKUSUZ ADAM, MASKELI SEYTAN, KIZIL TUG CENGIZ HAN, DEMIR PENCE KORSAN ADAM etc. These days I'm in the middle of negotiations for some other titles too. In a few days I hope I'll be able to make announcements on my site http://www.onarfilms.com.

 

Which films would you absolutely love to release (no matter if it's possible or not) ?

 

The films I'm totally obsessed with are ZAGOR KARA BELA and ZAGOR KARAKORSA'NIN HAZINELERI, based on the Italian fumetti hero who happens to be my most favourite comic hero ever. After 3 years of furious search everybody insists I will never find them! I'd also love to find GORUNMEYEN ADAM ISTANBUL'DA/THE INVISIBLE MAN IN ISTANBUL (1955), UCAN DAIRELER ISTANBUL'DA/FLYING SAUCERS IN ISTANBUL (1955), KILINK FRANKENSTEYN'A KARSI and any action movie from the 30's!

 

Turkey is still producing the occasinal genre film (some of which are available from your website http://www.onarfilms.com). What do you think about contemporary Turkish genre and horror cinema ?

 

I have seen most of the new productions and I can say they are incredibly well made and effective even though they have some obsessions with Japanese horror cinema (RING, KAIRO etc) - which is a good thing after all. D@BBE is my most favourite. GEN is also a superior gory giallo that will make western audience change their mind about Turkish modern cinema. BEYZA'NIN KADINLARI is the most talked about one and it's actually a riveting original gem. People can view trailers if they visit my site http://www.onarfilms.com and check the trailers link.

 

What are some of your favourite non-Turkish films and directors, and what are your favourite genres ?

 

Lucio Fulci of course [Lucio Fulci biography - click here] ! I love Italian films but I can say classic Japanese movies have won my heart. JIGOKU (by Nakagawa) and KWAIDAN seem to be my best movies, of any genre, ever. So, Nobuo Nakagawa, Masaki Kobayashi, Kenji Mizoguchi, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Fukasaku are my best directors.
Of course, I'm crazy with old HK 70's kung fu and horror flicks. And I sure dig modern action packed movies from Thailand, HK and Korea, like Shiri, Ong Bak etc.

 

Any interests aside from (Turkish) cinema ?

 

I used to be a hunter in my village. Now, I'm hunting down movies. I have a huge collection of old videos. I also have a big collection of old comic magazines. I have all Greek Zagor issues. I can't live without trips. If I stop taking even an hour's trip somewhere I will die. I love Greek nature. My dream is to get some cash aside and travel to some faraway countries like Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, Siberia etc.

 

Anything else you want to mention and I simply forgot to ask ?

 

I'd like to urge people visit my site blog onarfilms.blogspot.com and participate in my decisions and plans. People's opinions do count and do matter when it comes to Onar Films!

 

Thank you so much for the interview,

and the best of luck with your company, may you release many many more Turkish films ...

 

I am obliged and grateful!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

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