Turkish Pop Cinema has become the latest cult movie craze thanks to jaw-dropping oddities like Turkish Star Wars (1982) and 3 Dev Adam (1973). Anyone curious about these colourful cocktails of comic book fantasy, sex and sadism could ask for no finer introduction than Yilmaz Atadeniz’ The Deathless Devil.
Dashing do-gooder, Tekin (Kunt Tulgar) discovers his late father was a costumed crime-fighter murdered by the maniacal Dr. Satan (Erol Tas). The moustache-twirling fiend has his sights set on Professor Dolan’s (Yalin Tolga) latest invention, a gadget that could help Dr. Satan conquer the world with an army of remote-controlled robots. Carrying on his father’s legacy, Tekin dons a shiny mask, black leotard and super-stylish rouge cravat to become - duh-duh-daaah! - Copperhead! Aided by tubby, Sherlock Holmes-attired sidekick Bitik (Erol Günaydin) and Sevgi (Mine Mutlu), the professor’s comely daughter, Copperhead foils Dr. Satan’s schemes in a series of hair-raising episodes. Saving the world involves shagging gorgeous femme fatale Ayla (Tijen Dora), battling costumed thugs, a sharp-suited Bondian assassin armed with razor-edged playing cards (prefiguring John Woo’s Once A Thief (1991)), and facing down Dr. Satan’s ultimate weapon: a clanking, cardboard-and-tinfoil-fashioned, giant robot.
The Deathless Devil (originally titled: Yilmayan Seytan) leaps out of the starting gate like a runaway horse on amphetamines and never calms down. Kunt Tulgar flings himself from one breathless fist-fight and daredevil stunt to the next. Crash zooms punctuate bursts of frantic action. Everyone bellows dialogue at the top of their lungs. Comedy relief Erol Gunaydin’s eyeballs practically pop out of their sockets every time Tijen Doray saunters past in a slinky miniskirt, while Atadeniz’ leering camera lets the audience cop an eyeful too. Some may find the cut-price comic book antics simply tiresome, but those willing to enter into the right spirit will relish the giddy highs. Inspired by the classic adventure serial, The Mysterious Dr. Satan (1940), Yilmaz Atadeniz laces his sci-fi and superhero scenario with garish gore and sexploitation thrills.
There is a typically sexist, double-standard at work in that Tekin gets to bed the bad girl and his sexy, but saintly girlfriend and still come across as a morally upstanding hero. Meanwhile, alluring Ayla is earmarked as trouble and supposedly deserving a bad end. Tijen Doray proves a winning femme fatale, memorably topless for an entire fist-fight/sex scene (!), while Mine Mutlu offers an adorably wide-eyed contrast and thankfully, does more than just simper on the sidelines. Erol Tas supplies sublime, moustache twirling villainy and though Erol Gunaydin’s comedy relief (imagine Benny Hill in a Batman movie) is an acquired taste, it’s hard not to love a movie that ends with him balanced upside down Kunt Tulgar’s head. Tulgar, a bland but athletic actor, later segued into directing and helmed the indescribably awful Süpermen Dönüyor (1978). He also had a brief career in Italian cinema (including an appearance opposite Barbara Bouchet in The Diamond Connection (1983)), aided no doubt by Yilmayan Seytan’s success on those shores under the name L’Invincible Batman. In fact, it was the Italians who re-titled it The Deathless Devil and sold it back to the Turks as an Italian movie!
The cut-and-paste musical score is sure to draw some smiles, featuring snippets of Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On”, Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” and Henry Mancini’s theme from The Pink Panther. This is one of many endearing features that reoccur throughout Yilmaz Atadeniz’ oeuvre, which includes such cult gems-in-the-making as Killing in Istanbul (1967) and Maskeli Seytan (1970). Available on Mondo Macabro’s definitive Turkish trash double-bill, paired with the excellent Tarkan versus the Vikings (1971), The Deathless Devil is as the cover blurb claims: “exotic, erotic and downright psychotic.”