Casus Kiran is Turkish for “Spy Smasher”, the international title of this 1968 action movie by Yilmaz Atadeniz. Spy Smasher was a comic hero from the 1930s and 1940s. Of course the original Spy Smasher was American (as opposed to Turkish) and fighting the Nazis (as opposed to fighting a local gang of thugs), but Turkish remakes were never known for their accuracy.
In 1942 the Spy Smasher comic was turned into a movie serial. The 12 parts were condensed to 100 minutes and rereleased in 1966, just two years before Casus Kiran saw the light. In an interview (available on the DVD) director Atadeniz confesses he was highly influenced by the serials he saw in the theatres as a kid.
Let it suffice to say that this shows: Casus Kiran plays more like a serial taped together to form a film. That doesn’t say anything about the quality of the film: it’s just that Casus Kiran often ends up trying to stop another attempt of his nemesis The Mask to rule Turkey and (by extension) the world.
The comic cover pictured on the Wikipedia page of Spy Smasher leaves no room for innuendo: “Death to spies in America!” shouts the comic’s hero. Casus Kiran was made nearly 30 years later in a year the world discovered the hippies and thus he’s less harsh, but nevertheless the voiceover announces Casus Kiran and his girlfriend Sevda as “patriots willing to die for their country”. It’s good for Casus Kiran and Sevda their opponents aren’t as fierce as the Nazis.
Atadeniz wants to make it clear that our heroes aren’t just fighting any group of local thugs. The movie’s titles and the opening sequence show you these criminals have no problem blowing things up or murdering people in cold blood. Again, some of those killings may look a bit cartoonish, but that often went together with the serial style.
Spy Smasher’s local nemeses are The Black Glove and The Mask. The former is the gang leader, the latter is the mastermind behind several criminal groups and the one who hopes to dominate the world one day. Yeah, we all have dreams. In fact, in a bit of reality kicking in, one of the good characters remarks that it is a bit curious to find all these criminal organisations in Turkey. No, our hero replies, that is often the case in countries where cultures come together. Turkey is stuck on the dividing lines between western and eastern culture and it’s lying next to a sea: it makes some sense that as locations go, it could be the wet dream of an evil mastermind.
Speaking of masterminds, if you always have problems identifying the evil characters, you won’t have too much trouble here: the Black Glove wears black gloves and The Mask… well, see for yourself on the accompanying picture. Though this evil mastermind with perhaps the tiniest budget for facial camouflage always conceals his identity successfully thanks to his mask, you won’t have trouble guessing who’s behind the mask. But then again, it’s not a giallo, eh?
The good guys in this movie are Spy Smasher, Sevda and her father (a policeman) plus Spy Smasher’s friend Badik, who’s mainly there for comic relief (if you like that sort of thing – I myself find little relief therein, only aggravation) and who’s accompanied by a tune which sounds eerily similar to a Henry Mancini tune called “Baby Elephant Walk“. What a coincidence, eh?
Sevda is a more interesting character than her boyfriend. Casus Kiran just has to be the Spy Smasher and even when he takes off his mask, his character doesn’t gain any more depth. (He’s just “guy who sometimes is Spy Smasher”.) Sevda is not only the ally of Spy Smasher, she’s also the daughter of a police detective. This man, Cahit, has no clue why Spy Smasher and his girlfriend always had over their evidence to him. (And why would he? It’s not as if Sevda only put on big sunglasses when she becomes Casus Kiran’s sidekick. Wait… that’s all she does (apart from changing into a leather costume)? Never mind then.
Sevda is more than just a sidekick. It is she who’ll save Casus Kiran and his other sidekick (not that Bedik deserves to go by that name: a gigantic log of wood would be more useful as a sidekick – and definitely less annoying) and, as far as ass-kicking sidekicks go, she doesn’t mind using her knuckles and legs. She’s more akin to Catherine Gale and Emma Peel of The Avengers than to Robin of Batman. (To be honest, Bedik is as annoying as Robin. Holy junkyard, I wouldn’t think that was possible.)
Enough about the film, what’s the DVD like? Well, as you know, Onar Films specializes in digging up Turkish movies that are almost impossible to find. Casus Kiran was not in a good state and occasionally a couple of seconds (sometimes up to a minute) were missing. One time it is absolutely not important and one wonders why Onar Films didn’t decide to chuck out that filler dialogue (now we watch a conversation start and in the middle of a sentence the print skips to the next scene). The answer is of course that Onar Films does its best to release as much of the film as possible. A second cut is a bigger shame: at one point Sevda is abducted and Casus Kiran follows them on his motorbike. There is a cut when the thugs’ car leaves the road and suddenly we see our Spy Smasher battle it out with some of the thugs while one tries to run off with Sevda. (Incidently, during the road chase Sevda does all she can so one of the thugs can’t shoot Casus Kiran who’s following closely and she can only be subdued by getting a couple of heavy punches. It’s nice to see this sort of active sidekick for a change.)
The subtitles sadly don’t have the level of perfection a later Onar Films release (Cizil Tug Cengiz Han – reviewed here two weeks ago), but the couple of mistakes aren’t that distracting.
Occasionally, the print is in an awful state (What’s that behind those scratches? Oh, a movie!) but overall the quality is acceptable enough for you to dish out some money (incidently, did you know there was a summer sale right now at the Onar Films site?).
Yilmaz Atadeniz was interviewed for the DVD extras and he tells us he had to rival Turkey’s other production companies with bigger stars and budgets by shooting low(er) budget movies with a crew that contained both actors and wrestlers (because they wouldn’t mind all the running and (fake) punching). Occasionally it shows the man was a good director: during the sea chase (yes, another chase – told you this movie was related to the serial) you don’t see the director make a mistake, even though as a scene it was probably more difficult to shoot than a scene with just two people talking (and funnily enough, that’s the sort of scene where Atadeniz does make mistakes: by mismatching the actors’ reaction shots for instance). Again, it only shows how much the director liked the action in his movies.
The long interview of Atadeniz was conducted by Metin Demirhan, who was good friends with Bill from Onar Films. Demirhan passed away shortly after the interview and that is why this DVD was especially dedicated to Demirhan. (Later releases also mention Demirhan explicitely, but here you get a final chance to listen to the man interviewing a Turkish director. In case you didn’t know, Demirhan wrote a book on Turkish Fantastic Cinema.)
The other extras are a couple of filmographies, some trailers and a mini poster.
To whom would I recommend Casus Kiran? To someone who loves superheroes when they’re accompanied by an apt sidekick. To someone who doesn’t like movies which are longer than 70 minutes (Casus Kiran clocks off after 67 minutes). And, more importantly, someone who likes the style of the American movie serials of the 1930s and 40s.It’s not a good place to start if you’ve never seen a Turkish adaptation, but it’s meatier than some of those Turkish ‘remakes’. It also has no problem with being violent from time to time, which does make a lot more credible than some superhero movies – which are far too cartoonish, but some people might be offended by the violence (e.g. like the scene where the thugs try and get some information from a couple of women – as you can tell from the picture hovering near this text).
I’d give Casus Kiran 6.5/10 and the guarantee you’ll like it if you’re in for a movie night with lots of action and violence.
CASUS KIRAN (SPY SMASHER)
Turkey, 1968 (B/W, 67 min)
Director: Yilmaz Atadeniz
Actors: Irfan Atasoy, Sevda Ferdag, Yildirim Gencer, Hüseyin Zan, Suzan Avci
* Limited Edition: 1200 numbered copies
* Turkish audio with English and Greek subtitles (Dolby Digital 2.0)
* Extra: Poster Insert
* Extra: Interview with the director (approx. 30 minutes)
* Extra: Filmographies of Atadeniz and Atasoy
* Extra: Photo Gallery
* Extra: Trailers for upcoming releases
And finally there’s just time for the trailer: