As Pompeii and Rome weren’t the only cities around over 2000 years ago, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that other countries thought: “Hey, we have history too, let’s make a movie about it.” Nevertheless, the peplum genre was mostly popular in Italy and Hollywood. Meanwhile the Germans thought it necessary to make another movie adaptation of the Nibelungen – and who should blame them? It’s a good story after all.
If you have read my reviews of other Onar Films releases, you’ll know the Turkish people never thought twice about making homegrown adaptations of hit movies. And so they noticed the success of peplum movies, thought about their history and made movies like Kizil Tug Cengiz Han. In Kizil Tug Otsukarci, a slightly boorish but brave warrior, meets three famous warriors (amongst them Genghis Khan – in case you hadn’t figured that out from the title) and manages to put up quite a good fight. A fight that becomes mean business when a small army shows up and tries to kill Khan. Khan’s life is saved by Otsukarci and so Genghis Khan gives our hero a job. Otsukarci is asked to go to a king who still ows Khan some money. And so Otsukarci ends up in a castle where the king’s son is about to defend his honour – it’s just that he’s a bit of a wussy. No prizes for guessing what happens next.
That brings me neatly to my next point: some of the fights in Kizil Tug are nicely executed and highly paced, which means the movie doesn’t get a chance to bore you (even though some of the plot is a bit convoluted – wait, who was this again?).
This isn’t helped by the fact that Onar Films only found one remaining copy of this 1952 film and had to restore the movie from that one source, which wasn’t in the best shape by the way. From time to time you’ll see a roll and a scratch and even the audio is far from perfect: sometimes a word falls off the soundtrack (good things the subtitles work just fine) and a couple of times the sound track even seems eager to start a hiphop record (if you’re not into music, that means you’ll hear some scratching). Whereas that is definitely annoying, it’s good to remind yourself you’re watching an old movie restored from one source (if you ever saw the YouTube trailer that was made before the movie was restored, you’ll see the improvement).
Kizil Tug (translated as both “The Red Plume” and “The Red Banner”) is the tenth Onar Films release, which means it’s okay to look at the progress. The DVD menu looks better and more active than big companies like Fox and Universal would use for their releases of older movies. The quality of the subtitles has increased substantially. Kizil Tug is almost flawless when it comes to the English subtitles (I’m not qualified to say anything about the Greek subtitles), which is a more than welcome change compared to the Kilink movies where I had to rewind the disc to try and understand what some of those sentences meant.
And then there’s the extras. There are trailers for upcoming releases, text biographies on two of the film’s actors and a photogallery. But that’s not all… Kizil Tug comes accompanied by part of a Turkish documentary on Turkey’s movie history. The segment about Turkish history movies can be seen on this DVD. Onar Films have bought the entire documentary (92 minutes, allegedly) and will release it in segments (so the sci-fi segment will be on a sci-fi movie release).
And if you’re a discerning viewer and a dozen minutes of documentary aren’t enough, you’re in luck! Kizil Tug also comes with a 40-page booklet on Turkish Fantastic Cinema. Onar’s very own Bill Barounis opens the booklet with a one-page foreword and then it’s cinema history time. Divided into genres, the booklet lists Turkish movies in chronological order. The director and cast are named and, if available, a short synopsis. There’s also a brief introduction for each genre (the genres are horror/mystery, fantasy/fairytales, karate, historical, western, science fiction, (general) fantasy and superheroes). Even if you’ll watch Kizil Tug only once (I know I will: it was okay, but once is enough – yeah, I’m not a big peplum fan), you’ll definitely return to the booklet.
KIZIL TUG CENGIZ HAN (1952)
R: Aydin Arakon
Cast: Turan Seyfioglu (Otarkarci), Mesihi Yelda, Atif Kaptan and Cahit Irgat.
Audio language: Turkish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles: English / Greek
Original full frame (4:3) presentation
B&W, 73 minutes
Watch out: Onar Films movies are now released on 500 copies only.
I’ll leave you with the trailer:
P.S. Definitely worth mentioning, all summer long Onar Films will be a lot cheaper. Depending on the title, you’ll get a 2 to 6 euro discount if you buy the movie straight from Onar Films. You can also buy the movie from Xploited Cinema.