Tarzan in Istanbul

Granted… “Me Tarzan, you Netzia” does sound a bit odder than the original, but that never stopped the Turks from remaking Tarzan.
In fact, there isn’t much that stops them: we’ve already been treated to Turkish remakes of Superman, ET, Star Trek, Star Wars, Captain America, Santo and Spiderman… there’s always room for another famous ripoff, no?

Anyway, what sets Dracula in Istanbul and Tarzan in Istanbul apart from that lot is that both were made in the fifties and were attempts to make a decent adaptation.
One can debate as to whether that has worked in the case of Tarzan in Istanbul, but at least one can debate about that after seeing the movie.

Onar Films has released this extremely rare movie and – prepare to be surprised – it’s not that bad, really.
Time to review it then…

Granted, I’m not a big fan of Tarzan movies. However, I do own a couple of them as I am a movie collector and because some old Tarzan movies made it to the 50 movies packs we reviewed last year. I always give them a shot, but it doesn’t take too long before I start looking for the remote with that ever-so-handy fast forward button. Nevertheless, I can conclude that the 30s Tarzan movies were better than the 50s Tarzan movies.

In the meantime, the Tarzan movies had made it across the pond and were quite successful in Turkey. I can only imagine this, why else would they consider a Turkish version of these movies?

An expedition in Africa finds the remains of a Turkish man and his diary. It turns out he and his family were attacked and murdered. The expedition notifies the man’s brother in Istanbul and hands him a letter from the deceased. It turns out the letter refers to a location where a treasure can be found and the brother thinks it is time for a new expedition. Of course there is one woman on the crew: it wouldn’t be a real Tarzan movie without a Jane, wouldn’t it? And of course, not the entire family ended up killed… one boy survived and – no surprises there – became the legend that is Tarzan. Tarzan encounters the expedition crew and even manages to save them from a local tribe who are keen to feed them to the crocodiles. That’s our hero!
He also lures Netzia away from the expedition and shows her his life: the wild animals that listen to him, swimming in the river and fresh delicious fruit. Other than Jane, Netzia isn’t immediately wooed by this: no, she asks to be taken back to her friends.

One could complain that the film is full of stock footage and that a lot of scenes don’t look like they were shot in the jungle, but rather somewhere in a Turkish field, but to be honest… can’t we say the same about the original Tarzan movies? (Some stock footage seems so familiar it may have just been taken from older Tarzan movies.)

That Tarzan in Istanbul borrows so much from the 30s movies isn’t a bad thing: I recognized bits of plot from Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1935) and Tarzan’s Revenge (1938). It looks as if director Orhan Atadeniz watched the movies, took the best ideas and made a new version for the Turkish market. The result is a better film than the originals.

All in all, Tarzan in Istanbul wasn’t as silly or awful as I’d anticipated. My big criticism of the American Tarzan movies was that they often felt like one idea stretched out to end up with a feature-length film. Tarzan in Istanbul at least offers more plot in an equally long movie. Sadly, not all the characters get the attention they deserved from the screenwriters: most characters have no depth whatsoever (including the one-dimensional comedian they always seem to smuggle into this sort of movie) and the romance between Tarzan and Netzia is sadly missing from most of the movie (and thus not entirely credible in the last scenes of the film).

So who should buy this? Tarzan enthusiasts of course, but also the sort of movie collection who’d like to have at least one movie of each genre in his or her collection. If there still isn’t a Tarzan movie in your collection, Tarzan’s Revenge or Tarzan in Istanbul are the better options.

Onar Films made sure the DVD was as cleaned up as they could get it: the print looks very good for a Turkish movie that’s more than 50 years old (especially given the state most Turkish movies were kept in), but this does have one negative effect: it is now a bit more obvious to hear that the voices were recorded in a studio. This won’t bother you that much in the end though (and it’s something you’re probably used to if you like watching cheaper genre movies).

The extras should get a mention too. You’re probably used to the extras of Onar Films releases and this movie is no exception: yes, there are a couple of trailers and there is a half-an-hour long conversation with Turkish director Kunt Tulgar. But the real gem is a 30 second clip of archive footage where you can see the director set up a scene. It’s short but sweet and a nice find.

A great release from a movie that deserved to get a bit more attention: Tarzan Istanbul’da will always remain an oddity, but it will give you 90 minutes of escapism. To the Turkish jungle, that is.


P.S. You can buy the movie from Onar Films (http://www.onarfilms.com) or Xploited Cinema (http://www.xploitedcinema.com).

Oh, and let’s not forget the trailer:


One thought on “Tarzan in Istanbul

  1. Radley March 16, 2009 / 08:33

    I dont usually comment, but after reading through so much info i had to say thanks

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