Yeke Bezan (Review)
aka یکه بزن aka Little Hero aka Yekeh Bezan
Written and directed by Reza Safai
Three Iranian Supermen (including a Superwoman!) Now that got your attention, let me deflate your joy for a bit by explaining that three characters dress up as Superman and fly around for a few minutes in the middle of the film, powered by a magic wand that also turns them into Tarzan characters and gunfighters out of an Old West movie. But, still, Iranian people running around dressed as Superman is not something you expect to see. The global image of Iranian cinema is a bunch of art house films all banned in their home country, but readers of TarsTarkas.NET know that Iranian cinema is much more than that. As we saw with Shab Neshini Dar Jahanam/A Party In Hell, pre-Revolution Iran put out a wide degree of cinema, including fantasy elements. There is even a term for these silly films, Filmfarsi, coined by Iranian film critic Houshang Kavoosi. Filmfarsi movies are low-budget populist fare that takes tropes and queues from other countries’ movies, particularly Indian cinema. The genre still continues today, though now the stories are worked around the censors, requiring directors to either tow the line or be very creative in their subversion.
Our focus is on 1967’s Yeke Bezan (The internet tells me that translates to Little Hero, but there is no giant octopi firing babies at genderbending kung fu starlets!) It is a goofy comedic fantasy film with roots all over. The long sequences of characters punching and shooting at each other seems lifted from Hollywood’s serials, giving it a common feel to the Turkish Super Hero movies that also feature large-scale “borrowing” of American pop culture. The characters break out into song, with beats that fit right in with Indian film. They even follow the Indian character breakdowns: A Handsome Hero, a Behrouz as his sidekick, a good girl who the hero ends up loving, and a bad girl who hangs out with the villains. Both the Handsome Hero and Behrouz spend time chasing after the bad girl, who we know is bad because she wears towels while talking to the men!
In fact, there is a large amount of attractive women who shuffle through the film. 1960s Iran must have been a swinging place. Like several countries, the cinematography when women are on screen focuses on specific parts of their bodies, here it is either their bare backs (in the case of the bad girl in towels mentioned above), or more often, their legs, with the women almost exclusively wearing short shorts.
Overall, Yeke Bezan is interesting to watch because it’s unlike what you think films from Iran would be like, but it’s similarities to other genre cinemas of the time will also preview how much you will enjoy it. If you like the midstream Turkish Superhero movies that spend more time punching and goofing than superheroing, then Yeke Bezan will be up your alley. Otherwise, you’ll probably be bored for half an hour, entertained for 20 minutes, then bored for the conclusion of the film.
Writer/Director Reza Safai is hard to find information on, partially because he shares a name with an up and coming actor/director named Reza Sixo Safai. I don’t know if they are related, all I can definitively find out about Reza Safai is he directed a string of fifty‐two Filmfarsi movies from 1961 to 1978, but his career cratered out after the Revolution. He wrote, produced, and even acted in many of those films. There was a brief attempt at a revival post-Revolution, but he ran into censorship problems. He was efficient with resources (aka cheap), would extend filming hours to cut down on the number of days on location, made promotional material out of outtakes, and often had one film shooting while another was processing in the lab. Reza Safai at one point dated starlet Mercedeh Kamyab, a fact that was more important than mentioning his actual career in at least one book about Iranian cinema.
Despite the goofy Filmfarsi cinema getting critical disdain, Yeke Bezan is a cinema classic in Iran. So much so that it was even remade in 2004 as Sharlatan (Charlatan), which follows the original plot rather closely, including the magic wand turning them into Superman scenes! So that’s two Iranian Superman movies! The film follows the original close enough I stole some of the character names from it to use for characters here. If anyone who has seen Yeke Bekan can help out, that would be great. I fully expect someone to stop by 7 years after an internet hero fansubs Yeke Bekan, outraged that I got a character’s name wrong. Sharlatan is released on DVD with English subtitles, unlike Yeke Bezan, which was taken from an internet rip of a vcd rip of a VHS tape that is probably second generation of a degraded negative that has two obvious missing scenes. With no subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
The fun part of doing research on Yeke Bezan was that even though I drew a blank on a lot of things I tried to discover about this film, I stumbled across several other exciting things. Needless to say, expect a whole pack of obscure Iranian fantasy films to appear in the next few months, and hopefully more once I identify what movies are on a few mystery posters. I did get a few of the cast, but some of them are mysteries. Frank Myrqhary and Hassan Rezaei are listed in the credits, I’m not sure who is who.
But for now it’s time to get farsi, filmfarsi, with Yeke Bekan!
Our heroes are the handsome Hasan, and his funny sidekick, Behrouz. They help people and wander around singing, like all true heroes do. At one point they see a lady named Mahshid and her older Uncle going to their car, which is driven by one of their friend. They help open the doors, and Hasan is smitten at first sight with Mahshid, but all he gets is a tip and forlorned looks as the car leaves.
Their car is later set upon by goons lead by a bald goon with an eyepatch and big mustache, who rob them. The target is a specific necklace that the Rich Gal owns, a necklace important enough that one of the goons tries to rob it from the robbers! But he’s beaten up himself, and Homayoun takes Mahshid hostage along with the necklace. It’s rather obvious that this is an inside job, and your choice of who the traitor is will be either the Uncle, who escapes without a scratch, or the Driver that the goons beat senseless. Hmmmm…
Our Heroes are watching a belly dancing performance at a club. Hasan gets the wink and the nod from her after the show, which arouses jealously from a guy with a knife. Next thing you know Hasan is brawling with a whole pack of angry drunk guys, at least until the Driver arrives with a job offer.
They head to the estate where Mahshid and her Uncle live, and are greeted by a hot babe in a towel. This Bad Gal is Maryam, and she also gives the wink to Hasan (Hasan either is really attractive, or women always get dust in their eye when they stand near him!) and takes him back behind closed doors for some leg massaging and kissing. Behrouz can peep through the keyhole, because let’s just make this more ridiculous and creepy! But before anything too terrible happens, the Uncle comes out to hire them to track down Mahshid.
Bad guys are already on the case, a swarm of them attacking the two heroes as soon as they leave. Five goons drag Hasan into their car, while Behrouz manages to hide in their trunk, then sneaking into the compound after they drive to the lair of Homayoun. Behrouz sneaks in, and we get to the first point where a scene must be missing, because it suddenly jumps to the pair escaping on a motorcycle while a carload of goons are chasing them.
Both vehicles end up driving into a lake and it turns into a foot chase, with the heroes hiding in a theater. Hasan hides in a lady’s dressing room, she covers for him, but then she accidentally murders a guy who tries to assault her! The guy she killed was the magician whose act she’s in, and their act is on next. Never fear, because his magic is real, and he has a magic wand that turns Hasan into the dead magician, and he performs a disappearing trick on stage. Behrouz spends part of the scene almost getting swords stabbed into him, then reappears making out with the magician’s assistant. The goons attack the stage, but our heroes then escape by bus.
Yes, bus. Hooray for public transportation?
Hasan returns home to find Maryam is waiting for him in his bed, and even follows him into the shower (though she stands outside the shower while he’s inside.) But before things get too racy for even 1960s Iran, the heroes leave so they can break into the villains’ compound to rescue Mahshid. They easily get inside and untie her, pulling a gun on the villains.
Once again a scene is missing, because now suddenly Hasan, Behrouz, and Mahshid are wearing Superman costumes and flying through the sky as the villains are chasing in a car and shooting at them! D’oh! They used the magic wand from the magic act to make the Superman costumes, and now they transform into Tarzan outfits. Well, the very brief Superman escape was cool while it lasted, sadly shorter than it should be due to missing chunks. After the heroes became Tarzans, they turn the goons chasing them into racist African tribesmen stereotypes! Painted faces, grass skirts, bone necklaces, spears and knifes. Iranian Blackface was also a thing I didn’t know existed, but here it is!
The heroes run around and hide in the forest as tribalish music plays with heavy drum beats. The villains tie up Behrouz and Mahshid to a tree and dance around it, so Hasan pops in and starts singing and freezes the bad guys still while dancing around them and freeing his pals.
The heroes run a bit more and soon change themselves into old west cowboys. And the villains too. Hasan and the Homayoun head out to meet each other for a dual as Western-ish music plays. Hasan shoots him…and his pants fall down! Everyone laughs, even Homayoun’s own men. Homayoun yells at them, but then Hasan shoots off all their hats and they run away. Let that be a lesson to you!
The heroes change back to normal and return home, but they need to find out just what is going on with the kidnappings. So they dress up in suits and hats with fake mustaches to meet some other people with real suits and mustaches and hats in a club. Hasan, Behrouz, Mahshid, and Maryam are all dressed in the suits and hats and mustaches, making friends with shady people. They even have Mahshid sing along as a performer does a bellydance, singing in a pretend bass men’s voice that still has the ring of a well-tuned female’s voice underneath.
These baddies are meeting with Homayoun later with a suitcase of money to be exchanged for the necklace stolen off of Mahshid in the beginning. Hasan holds them up, but is interrupted by that betraying goon from earlier returning with a gun to try to get the necklace himself. Things soon turn into another big chase sequence that then turns into a musical number, with Hasan again freezing the villains in place with his magic wand, and even forcing Homayoun to do some bellydancing of his own!
Despite this victory, the villains manage to capture Mahshid and demand the necklace in exchange. How? Because Maryam is in cahoots with the villains! The heroes pass off a fake necklace and things devolve into another running chase that involves a second escape by bus!
The villains have learned that you can follow a bus, so the heroes switch to riding a water tanker truck, and spray the villain’s car with water (at least I think it’s water, as no one blows up!) Basically the last twenty minutes are a collection of chases, fights, slapstick, and water being tossed on people. At one point Behrouz aggressively scrubs Homayoun and another goon after dumping dishpans on them. The obvious traitor from the beginning is obvious, and things get solved through violence, because violence solves everything.
Rated 6/10 (Driver, goon, bellydancing!, magician assistant, cigarette burn, featured bartender)
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