Still better than the remake
Robocop gets remade by Bangla cinema, and the result is far from the worst Robocop film. Shoktir Lorai (শক্তির লড়াই) takes the basic premise of a murdered man being rebuilt into a robot who fights for justice, adds an evil counterpoint built by the villains, and throws in as many other Bangla tropes as they can to bring about a movie that is amazing and ridiculous while still being as Bangla as possible.
Bangla cinema is full of over the top characters and over the top action films, and it’s amazing just how naturally science fiction fits right in. We’ve seen a prior example of Bangla robots battling it out with Machine Man, and that film even stole some of the same parts of Robocop that Shoktir Lorai did! (though it was mostly stealing from Terminator franchise!)
As usual with these rarities, the review is a longform synopsis with commentary and we’ve included plenty of pictures and animated gifs. Thanks to Bangla cinema being so rarely written about in English, the cast and character names are partial guesses, and there are no subtitles to speak of. But at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! I can’t seem to tell if this film was originally made for television or if it had a theatrical run, but television is where it first caught my attention as someone uploaded a clip to YouTube, and after that it was only a matter of two years of searching before I located a copy. Basically, any rare film you can’t find in less than an hour will probably take years to locate, that’s the disparity of rare cinema. So if people can fill in the blanks on who Shahin Alam and Notun are as well as all the actresses/actors who are nameless, it would be a great help!
Cazadores de Espías
Still more exciting than whenever Mantaur wrestled!
In 1969, Mexico had noticed the whole secret agents thing has gotten a little ridiculous and thus ripe for parody. Enter Cazadores de Espías, a comedic film filled with secret agents, double crosses, identical twins, a carnivorous plant, a masked villain, a seductive villainess, a luchador, a mad scientist, and even a robot. There is plenty of goofy action across the board, lending Cazadores de Espías the power to potentially be something bigger than it is. Unfortunately, there is no subtitled version at all, and the first half of the film leans heavily on verbal jokes, leaving people like me to be forced to lean on their rusty Spanish. At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles, but they probably would have come in handy here! Despite the lack of clear understanding of a few plot points, the general gist was easy to get, and no one needs subtitles when a robot is running around! Cazadores de Espías is fun, but thanks to the language veil it isn’t as fun as it should have been.
Cazadores de Espías was filmed around the same time as Muñecas Peligrosas and Con Licencia Para Matar, which is pretty obvious. It features familiar sets and cast members, and all are directed by Rafael Baledón (though this time the original story is by Adolfo Torres Portillo). The sets usually used at the villain’s lair is now a hotel, a control room is now a villain lair, and the familiar nightclub returns, though there is now a big wrestling ring in part of it. The goons of the mysterious Mr. X were big X’s on their uniforms (instead of G’s or K’s!) Mexican villains are all sponsored by the same letters that sponsor Sesame Street!
As the film is rather obscure, please enjoy the longer film synopsis review. But as the film is hard to follow at parts, please forgive any errors that creep in due to confusion or language barriers. As usual, I blame those nefarious Spider Gnomes of Jupiter, who cause me no end of troubles. I will defeat you one day, Spider Gnomes of Jupiter! Fans of random Mexican song interludes will enjoy the performances by Los Rockyn Devil’s, The Shadow of the Beast, Manolo Muñoz, Rubin “Penjamo” Mendez, and Jose Antonio Zevala. Non-fans will find a convenient time to go to the bathroom. Now on with the show!
Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly Tags: Adolfo Torres Portillo, Carlos East, cool robots, Eleazar García "Chelelo", Héctor Andremar, Julián de Meriche, Leonorilda Ochoa, luchadores, Maura Monti, Mexico, Nathanael "Frankenstein" León, plants eating dudes, Rafael Baledón, Spies, We don't need no stinking subtitles
Return of Mr. Superman
Written and directed by Manmohan Sabir
In 1960, India would release not just one, but two movies featuring the American super hero Superman. Neither film was authorized by DC Comics, and both films starred famed actor P. Jairaj as Superman. Yet weirdly enough, the two films were produced by competing production companies. Both films were originally going to be called Superman, but producers from Mukul Pictures wrote a letter to Manmohan Films (ran by writer/director Manmohan Sabir), which resulted in Manmohan changing the name of their production to Return of Mr. Superman. At least, that’s how the story goes, though the oft-repeated story doesn’t seem to have an actual origin beyond people repeating it. The 1960 Superman film is not available to watch, though some songs from the soundtrack still exist. The only listings I have seen of out of print VCDs or VHS tapes all seem to be about Return of Mr. Superman, so the chances of actually locating the missing Indian Superman film might be a lot closer to zero than I want. If the past few years of lost films arising from the ashes has taught me one thing, it’s to never give up hope. Superman may still be out there, but until he returns to Earth, let’s make do with Return of Mr. Superman!
India would return to Superman a few more times. There is a well-known Hindi version of Superman that has become a common grey-market trading item. There is also a Telugu-language Superman film starring NTR called Superman, which we’ve covered before. Superman’s costume has appeared in musical numbers as well. Let us not forget about the documentary Supermen of Malegaon, which covered the making of a micro-budget Superman bootleg film. Nor is India alone in their bootleg Supermen, he’s popped up in films from Turkey, Bangladesh, and Italy, with suspiciously similar characters appearing in dozens of films from many origins. Superman just has that universal appeal that everyone strives for.
Superman here isn’t the classic Superman costume we all know and love (nor is it the awful red and blue costumes from that forgetable story arc) Superman (or Mr. Superman if you’re nasty) looks like Commando Cody, complete with a crazy space goggles, mask, and cap over his head. He’s got a jumpsuit and a big cape, but still manages to not look like any other incarnation of the hero. My favorite aspect isn’t the goggles, but is his face mask that still has a hole cut for the mouth so he can smugly grin at his opponents as they land punch after useless punch against his chest, before he defeats them by lightly tossing them aside.
Superman gets involved in a complicated smuggling plot, dealing with criminals who continue to operate despite some super-powered guy running around foiling all their plans. It’s not a real mystery as to why that is, the cops in the film are so incompetent at catching these criminals that they often don’t catch them despite Superman phoning them with specific instructions. The only one with any competence is the guy who keeps answering Superman’s calls, and the cops only get effective when he’s leading them in the final battle.
Despite the print being in relatively good condition for a 1960 Indian film, there are obviously some missing segments. At one point two women are captured and Superman goes to attack the villains, but there is no actual rescue of the women. In addition, the main villain who sports a beret suddenly has a black eye for reasons unknown, possibly due to said missing rescue. Another thin is the sudden appearance of a Random Hero Dog, who may not be so random if he is from another part of the film, but as that part does not seem to have made it to the VCD releases, who knows. Finally, Helen is featured in the credits, but does not appear in the film as far as I could determine. She is also listed in the credits for the other 1960 Superman film, so maybe something shady was going on, or maybe her big number has been lost to the sands of time.
As interesting as this movie sounds, it’s actually pretty close to terrible serials in quality. The chunks missing probably help the pacing a bit, though it looks like a few of those sequences were action parts, so maybe not. Definitely something to seek out for fans of obscure stuff, but Return of Mr. Superman isn’t going to make anyone’s bootleg super hero movie must-see list. It’s interesting for the obvious serial influences, but if you aren’t a fan of serials, you will get really annoyed really quickly.
As this film is obscure as heck, please enjoy the overly long film synopsis review. And there are no subtitles for Return of Mr. Superman, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
P. Jairaj was a Bollywood actor who dated back to the silent era, his first film being 1929’s Jagmugti Jawani. Born Paidypathy Jairula Naidu, Jairaj was the son of an accountant in a well-to-do family in Hyderabad which set up a life for him to follow, but Jairaj dropped out of college to find his own fortune in Bombay. A friend who worked for Mahavir Photoplays figured he would make a good screen actor, and gave him a supporting role. This was quickly followed by the lead in 1930’s Raseeli Rani, and a string of films followed. When sound was introduced to Indian film, Jairaj had an advantage of speaking Hindi and Urdu (Jairaj also spoke Telugu, but I don’t believe he starred in any Telugu language pictures), but had the disadvantage of not being able to sing. Luckily, the playback system saved his bacon, and he continued being an in-demand lead actor through the 1950s. By the 1960s, his star had faded a bit, and he was relegated to character roles, though managing appearances in classic cinema like Sholay, Toofan, and Don. Through the 1980s and 90s he made less and less frequent appearances. He died in relative obscurity in 2000. Jairaj had some directorial credits, was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award in 1980, and is even in the Guinness World Records for having the longest-spanning career of an actor at 70 years.
Sheila Ramani was a swinging leading lady in the 1950s, her best known role might be in 1954’s Taxi Driver. She was the niece of Pakistani producer Sheikh Latif (Lachchu), who not only got her some roles in Indian cinema, but some Pakistani films as well (such as Anokhi (1956)). By the end of the 50s, her star was on decline and she appeared in B pictures such as this one and 1959’s Tarzan-inspired Jungle King. She retired from film after getting married.
Filling the supporting/comic relief role here is Majnu. He was born Harold Lewis, a Punjabi actor who debuted in 1935’s Majnu, an action comedy that satirized the story of Layla and Majnun (and provided him with the nickname he’s use for the rest of his career!) Though he started in lead roles, he did a lot of supporting/comedic roles through his long career.
So here’s the full scale Roll Call:
Only Desi Spiderman can get your whites white!
Desi Spiderman is ridiculous, but it knows it is ridiculous, and some of the things that are crazy are intentionally done so for comedic effect. Other things are just weird and who knows why they are that way. That’s what you get when you get a film that is a very localized production that blurs the line between fan film and local production. Desi Spiderman was made in Ghaziabad, India, and brings to mind the Superman film from Supermen of Malegaon. So in that spirit we are happy to watch Desi Spiderman and the ridiculousness there in. Because it is ridiculous.
Desi Spiderman’s costume makes him look like a luchador by way of Dr. Seuss. He wears a red turtleneck sweatshirt, white gloves, gold spider mask with eye holes cut out, black pants and brown belt, gold shoes, and white circle with text in the middle of the red sweatshirt. The text is “Kanha Milk”, which I think had a sponsorship deal to help fund the film. But I’m not 100% sure, because there isn’t a lot of information about Desi Spiderman in English.
Surendra Hinabar is the name I found listed for writer/director/song lyrics, so hopefully that’s correct because I’m running with it. I don’t have any other names for the cast list, but whoever plays the Desi Mary Jane does a hilarious job of ridiculous faces during the fantasy musical and wistful daydreaming sequences. PAL Films is generic enough I can’t find anything about it. If it wasn’t for YouTube, this would pass one without being known by the outside world, which would have been a shame. What I think is the director’s YouTube Channel (labeled Navneet Singh) promises another film, but hasn’t been updated in two years. Maybe someday…. But until then, Desi Spiderman!
aka Shaani aka Shani
Written by Agha Nazir Kawish
Directed by Saeed Rizvi
Pakistan goes science fiction for this take on 1984’s Starman movie, Shanee! Of course, it has to get Pakistani cinemaed up first, which means it is full of lots and lots of violence! Shani, Shaani, Shanee, however you want to spell it, is billed as Pakistan’s first science fiction film (and actually is, as far as I can tell) The entire film was a result of Saeed Rizvi, who directed, photographed, and did many of the visual effects. Rizvi started doing effects when he was directing commercials, This was the first of three effects heavy films Saeed Rizvi completed, followed by Beheaded Man/Sarkata Insaan and Mysterious Island/Talismi Jazeera (a Russian coproduction).
Shanee is the first big budget science fiction effects film for Pakistan, and was designed to rival the bit 1980s US effects films like ET, Close Encounters, and Star Wars. It doesn’t quite live up to the hype. There are practical models, glowy aliens, video toaster effects, cartoon lasers and beams and glowy eyes, animated bats, animated crocodiles, a guy with a retractable knife arm, and fakey skeletons. Plus real owls and cobras, and lots and lots of explosions. Even the credits are designed to look like the ones from Superman
Whenever anything interesting is happening, the Shanee theme will blare, the refrain becoming annoying very quickly and unintentionally ridiculous soon after. Now the damn song is stuck in my head and has a good chance of being my last words when slipping from the mortal coil. Damn you, Shanee… There is a limited amount of songs in Shani, but not the no songs that the director claims in interviews. Shanee won a couple of Nigar awards (the Pakistani equivalent to the Oscars) including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Asif Khan.
Shanee is an Urdu language film Thus we’re forced to dive in without subtitles. But this is TarsTarkas.NET, and we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Luckily, the film is easy to follow without subtitles, and the few points that were confusing were easily cleared up by the review at the sadly now defunct TheHotSpotOnline.com, accessed through Archive.org. Also because it is Urdu, there isn’t a straight translation of the title, so for opening credits sake we’re calling the film Shanee, but the main character Shani, to avoid confusion by only being a little confusing. Got it? Good! Now let’s get Shaneed!