Yeke Bezan (Review)

Yeke Bezan

aka یکه بزن aka Little Hero aka Yekeh Bezan
Yeke Bezan
Written and directed by Reza Safai
Yeke Bezan
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!
Yeke Bezan
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.
Yeke Bezan
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.
Yeke Bezan
But for now it’s time to get farsi, filmfarsi, with Yeke Bekan!

Hasan (Reza Beyk Imanverdi) – Our intrepid hero, who spends the day doing good things and being a free spirit floater. And occasional hero for hire. Defeats the villains, gains a magic wand and the girl. Reza Beyk Imanverdi was an Iranian theater actor whose big break came when he met director Samuel Khachikian at a car accident, and Khachikian cast him in one of his films. That ballooned to a huge career that not only headlined many Iranian films, but gained him international stardom and roles in films in Turkey and Italy. He was forced out of Iran after the Revolution and eventually settled in America, becoming a truck driver. He died in 2003 of lung cancer.
Behrouz (Dariush Asadzadeh) – Hasan’s goofy sidekick who is usually sporting a sideways hat. He’s the comic relief, though manages to be a little less annoying than the traditional comic relief guy. Actor Dariush Asadzadeh is still performing on Iranian dramas into his 90s, but beyond that there is little biographical information about him in English.
Mahshid (Mina) – Rich lady under the care of her uncle, though all her wealth seems consecrated in a necklace that everyone wants. Hasan crushes on her. I was unable to find anything out about Mina.
Maryam (???) – Maryam is the bad gal who gives the heroes someone to perv on while maintaining Mashid’s chaste nature. Because she’s a sultry seductress she has to be evil, thus she’s allied with the villain, Homayoun. I don’t know who played her.
Homayoun (???) – The Bald Eyepatch Villain who menaces Mahshid in pursuit of her necklace that’s worth tons of money. Is repeatedly foiled by Hasan and Behrouz. Not sure who played him.

Yeke Bezan
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The Ghost Breakers

The Ghost Breakers

Ghost Breakers
Written by Walter DeLeon
Based on a play by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard
Directed by George Marshall

Ghost Breakers
I am a big fan of Bob Hope comedies, from the Road movies to the My Favorite movies to just the random wacky situations that are send ups of popular genres. Hope regularly brings the entertainment, sometimes just enlivening dull scripts and sometimes making classic cinema.

The Ghost Breakers is a murder mystery and a haunted house movie, but much of that is just setting for events to happen that Bob Hope and Willie Best can react to. A huge mansion in Cuba is gifted to a distant relative, and she returns in the midst of murder and deception. Featuring a Scooby-Doo-style plot by the villains to scare the owner away to seize the treasure in the house for themselves.
Ghost Breakers

“You look like a blackout in a blackout” – Bob Hope to Willie Best

The Ghost Breakers is a product of it’s time, with Willie Best as Larry’s black man servant Alex. Alex isn’t really Shuckin’ and jivin’, but he plays up being the scared character during the haunted house scenes. His character is not a moron, he continually saves Larry and Bob Hope has spoken very highly of Willie Best. It is hardly as embarrassing as other black roles from the 1940s, but not the kind of role you’d hold up as a good example.

A bit more disturbing is the portrayal of the housekeeper at the mansion, the old black woman (who is a blackfaced Virginia Brissac) and her son the zombie. Not the brain eating zombies, but old school voodoo zombies. Sure, this is Cuba and not Haiti, but we’re in the era when no one bothered to keep track of which Afro-Caribbean country was which.

Noble Johnson plays the zombie. He’s another black entertainer of old Hollywood who had quite his own storied career. As we briefly mentioned when we covered the Oscar Micheaux film The Girl From Chicago, Noble Johnson and his brother George Perry Johnson founded their own studio in 1916 to produce black films for black audiences. The Lincoln Motion Picture Company created films where blacks were depicted as actual people and not the racist caricatures found in mainstream cinema. Though not the first black owned film company, it is among the first. Their first picture was the now lost 1916 short The Realization of a Negro’s Ambition, and the company lasted until 1921 (Johnson resigned a year earlier to focus on his acting career.) Johnson had parts in the classic films The Mummy, King Kong, and Son of Kong.
Ghost Breakers
Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard teamed up once prior in The Cat and the Canary (1939), and would reteam again in Nothing But the Truth (1941), along with Willie Best. Paulette Goddard not afraid to show some skin, constantly stripping to her nightie, and later wearing a swimsuit. She even has part of her dress rip off when being chased by the zombie. At this time she was married to Charlie Chaplin.

This is the third (of four) film adaptations of the play “The Ghost Breaker” by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard. The first two – 1914 (by Cecil B. DeMille) and 1922 – were both silent productions and are considered lost. The fourth was George Marshall directing again in 1953’s Scared Stiff with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (Bob Hope made a cameo appearance!) Bob Hope liked this role (which was heroic instead of his usual cowardly roles) and reprised it in two separate radio versions of the play, both on Screen Director’s Playhouse (a 30 minute version in 1949, and a 60 minute version in 1951)

Larry Lawrence (Bob Hope) – Lawrence Lawrence Lawrence goes by the name Larry Lawrence because it’s easier to remember. A radio personality who has made his fame by exposing dirt on criminals (thanks to getting tipped off), those same mob stories get him and trouble and soon he’s on the run. Which involves him in the actual plot, about a haunted house. Because the mob and haunted house goes together, as the mob kills people, thus making houses haunted.
Mary Carter (Paulette Goddard) – Just your average woman who inherits a mansion called Castile Mardido on Black Island in Cuba that her Great-great-grandfather built not long before Castro comes to power and she’s forced to flee. But that would be in the never-made sequel…
Alex (Willie Best) – Larry’s faithful driver who is really an assistant and friend. But because this is the 1940s he’s just a driver despite obviously filling those other roles.
Geoff Montgomery (Richard Carlson) – A Cuban native that Mary knows, oddly enough returning to Cuba just as she is. Hm…. He also begins bumbling around the haunted mansion. Hm…
Ramon Mederos / Francisco Mederos (Anthony Quinn) – Anthony Quinn plays both the murdered Ramon Mederos and his non-murdered twin brother Francisco, who wants answers.

Ghost Breakers
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Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde (Review)

Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde

aka Kilink vs Mandrake

Written by Vecdi Uygun
Directed by Oksal Pekmezoglu

Kilink vs Mandrake
The smoke breaks never stop when you’re Kilink. Until the cancer comes…

It’s time once again for TarsTarkas.NET and Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill to hit you with a double dose of long-lost film action! This time, we travel all the way to the wild shores of Turkey to dig up a buried treasure featuring a guy in a skeleton suit and a magician battling it out for the heart (and money!) of a Princess from India. Yes, it is the lost classic, Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde (aka Kilink vs. Mandrake!)

Kilink finds his origin with Killing, and Italian photo comic anti-hero who dressed in a skeleton costume and did evil things and evil women. The series was published in many countries, including France where it was known as Satanik. Killing became Kilink in Turkey, and Kiling in Argentina, which continued to make their own photo comics far after the originals stopped production.

Kilink vs Mandrake
The Tony Stark of the Magician world…

Killing was the type of character that became very popular in Turkey because he was a type of ultimate male, and it was natural that they would make their own home-grown version. And thanks to the way the Turkish alphabet is structured, Killing became Kilink. Kilink Istanbul’da was originally reviewed here based off of a vcd, since then DVD releases have given us the first three films (including one film partially recreated from surviving stills.) After the Original Trilogy of Kilink films, Turkish cinema went wild (well, wilder) and a who batch of Kilink films were made from various companies, most of which were not connected to each other in any way, and they couldn’t even keep their spellings straight!

Director Yılmaz Atadeniz brought us four films – Kilink Istanbul’da (1967 – reviewed off of vcd, film is missing a steambath scene), Kilink uçan adama karsi (1967 – largely lost and restored on DVD by Onar films largely through surviving stills), Kilink Soy ve Öldür (1967), and Kilink Caniler Krali (Kilink King of Criminals – 1967 – believed lost). Yavuz Figenli gave us Kilink Oluler Konusmaz (Kilink The Dead Don’t Talk – 1967 – believed lost) and Kiling Sarışın Tehlike (Killing Blond Danger – 1967 – believed lost and possibly just a retitle of Kilink The Dead Don’t Talk).

Oksal Pekmezoğlu’s sole entry was this film, Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde (1967). Nuri Akıncı gave us the long-wanted to be seen Kilink Frankestayn ve Dr no’ya karsi (Kilink vs. Frankenstein – 1967 – believed lost). Natuk Baytan directed Saskin Hafiye Kilink’e karsi (Silly Detective vs Kilink – 1967 – believed lost). Çetin İnanç gave us Kilink Canilere Karşı (1967 – believed lost). Aram Gülyüz directed the only known female Kilink film – Dişi Kilink (1967 – believed lost)! That rounds out the 1960s.

The first 1970s Kilink was Birsen Kaya’s Kilink Olum Saciyor (Kilink Spreads Death – 1971 – believed lost). We then jump ahead a few years for Müjdat Saylav’s Killing Kolsuz Kahraman’a Karsi (Kilink vs. the One-Armed Warrior – 1975 – believed lost). And finally, the Kilink legacy continues with 2008’s tv movie Kilink-Kayıp Altınlar! I am pretty sure this is a comedy and has now entered my top ten list of movies to get.

Kilink vs Mandrake
Not racist!

As you just saw, so many were considered lost…until suddenly Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde was found! Crazy how that works. Originally, a copy was given to Onar films for an eventual DVD release, but Bill Barounis fell ill, and as he was Onar films, the film was never released and sadly Bill passed on. But you can never keep a cult film down, and Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde found its way into another person’s hands, who both subtitled the film and released a copy to the public via the usual method for lost rare films – carrier pigeon! And now it’s being force-fed to your brain thanks to this review!

One theory for the scant availability for Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling’in Peşinde is that it was made for only a smaller region of Turkey, the city of Adana and the surrounding area. That would also explain some of the Kilink and other pop cinema films that are hard to find beyond the usually used explanations about the Turkish military destroying prints and the destruction of prints to get the silver iodide.

Director Oksal Pekmezoğlu was trained as an illustrator, began making opening credit sequences in films, and then moved from that to directing. He continued to make films until his death in 2004, though his output had slowed considerably by the end of the 80s.

Lee Falk’s Mandrake premiered in newspapers in 1934, and predates his creation of The Phantom (which also got Turkey films such as Kizil Maske and Kizil Maske!) Mandrake is a magician who specializes in hypnotism, and has all sorts of adventures you would expect magicians to have. Aside from a Mandrake serial in 1939, there are no Mandrake films. Mandrake did have a pilot filmed for an unproduced tv series in 1954, and showed up in several cartoons, most notably Defenders of the Earth. This film is the only actual Mandrake movie, even if it isn’t authorized. Turkey is like that, putting out the only known or first film version of many properties, even if they didn’t bother to get anyone’s permission.

Kilink vs Mandrake
The Amazing Jonathan’s done a few drive-bys…

Mandrake (Güven Erte) – The magician man with the plan, and that plan is to tease Indian Princesses until they like him. Those plans usually work.
Lothar (Mustafa Dik) – Holy Blackface, Batman! Mandrake’s partner is Lothar (though called Abdullah in the subtitles!) He is an African Prince who follows Mandrake around on his adventures. I am guessing that the actor is Mustafa Dik based on the title billing.
Kilink (Sadettin Düzgün) – Kilink is once again up to no good, being evil and doing evil things, like owning a brothel and whipping people. Including himself, as he has whipping scars all down his back. All his goons have scars, from the K’s carved into them to whipping scars of their own, giving a weird S&M feel. I bet his nickname is Special K!
Princess Neslihan (Mine Mutlu) – A Princess from India who spends her time hanging out in hotels in Turkey. And Mandrake puts the moves on her! But Kilink is eager to steal her crown and her money and her body!
Mustapha (???) – Blonde Kilink goon with a big K scar on his face. He kinda looks like an albino Joaquim Phoenix! I am not sure who played him.
Salma (Tansu Sayın) – Kilink’s blonde girl who wants to be his lady. Doesn’t she know there is no future in that? Tansu Sayın is in some other Turkish Pop Cinema classics like Demir Pençe Casuslar Savaşı, Zorro Dişi Fantoma’ya Karşı, and Zorro’nun Kara Kamçısı.
Kilink vs Mandrake
I got my jam-jams on!

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A Day at the Races

A Day at the Races

Groucho Marx as Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush
Harpo Marx as Stuffy
Chico Marx as Tony
Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Upjohn

Classic Marx Brothers fare, this is the second film after the brothers went to MGM, a follow up to A Night at the Opera. The funny flies fast and furious here, though there are a few slow spots (most noticeably during the ballet number in the middle of the film). Has the classic “Toostie Frootsie” Ice Cream skit and the examination scene.
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