Turkish cinema may not make into the annals of film history as being highly original. This site has never thought twice about ridiculing the Turkish homegrown remakes of ET, Spiderman or Rambo. If this has caused you to believe that all Turkish cinema is cause for ridicule, it’s a misconception we hope to end today with the review of Kadin Düsmani (Woman Despiser).
If you want to look for a fitting genre, Kadin Düsmani has to be classified as a giallo. Well, a Turkish giallo. Made in 1967. A time when even the Italians weren’t thinking of mass-producing films in this genre.
If I seem a bit reluctant to underscribe Kadin Düsmani as a giallo wholeheartedly, it’s because my own description of a giallo is a ‘film noir with more blood and nudity’. Judged merely on that account, Kadin Düsmani fails to deliver: you may get to see some disrobing, but nudity is not around. For that we have to refer you to Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder (the Turkish ‘remake’ of Sergio Martino‘s The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh).
Hair-splitting issues aside, not every giallo was conceived to make actresses strip as much as possible. Believe it or not, some directors went for a thing called ‘atmosphere’. And, while we’re at it, let’s also drag in Mario Bava‘s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, a 1963 case-study for the upcoming giallo genre and an ode to Hitchcock. Kadin Düsmani feels much closer to that sort of film.
There’s also a gothic horror feeling to the film, largely due to the killer’s fetish of wearing a horror mask while scaring his victims. Unlike most killers, who are content with just one hat and one pair of gloves, the maniac in Kadin Düsmani wears a different mask for each murder.
This ghoulish theme briefly works in favour of the film as you are left wondering whether the killer is a supernatural being or not. A thought you quickly shed, as you see the killer’s hands touching the freshly murdered body. The police inform us the maniac also had sex with his victims after killing them, but again, this is only suggested in the film, rather than explicitly shown. Weirdly enough, this suggestion doesn’t seem to help your conscience.
The way the killer crouches over the body (in the still shown above) brings me to another point worth mentioning. Unlike a lot of Turkish trash movies, this film has a director with a good eye. Here we don’t have just a camera pointed at the action, someone has thought deeply about the position of the camera, hence the occasional clever use of low angles, close-ups and bird’s eye angles.
Not even the murders are coincidental: the victims’ first names start with the same letter as the district they were living in. The killer is obviously trying to tell the police something, even though their idea the killer must therefore be a poet somewhat puzzled me and is one of the less good plot twists in the film.
Apart from trying to catch the maniac, one policeman has another thing on his mind. After the first murder, he finds out the late victim’s husband has an attractive sister-in-law, Oya, and he starts dating her against the will of her mother-in-law. That there’s even a scene where the older woman listens to Oya’s phone conversations on a phone she metticulously hides in a locked cupboard, shows you someone thought about this film and it’s not just some quickie people made because they had time and money.
Some scenes drag a little or are even unnecessary, but otherwise Kadin Düsmani is a good investment of your 96 minutes. As it’s an older Turkish movie, there’s a need to mention the state of the print. Well, it’s either been looked after with care or the remastering crew did an amazing job. Apart from one scene, 55 minutes into the film, where the print suddenly decides to crouch up a bit and you’re left watching headless people for twenty seconds. That scene is irritating, but anyone who’s seen the state most older Turkish movies are in won’t mind for half a minute of headless heroes.
Kadin Düsmani was released by Onar Films about a month ago. The Region 0 dvd offers you the film in Turkish with English and Greek subtitles. Extrawise there’s part of a documentary on Turkish cinema that Onar has decided to spread out over a couple of movies. In this particular segment (10 minutes) we get to hear more about science fiction and horror. Seven minutes are dedicated to sci-fi (from Turkish schlock remakes of ET and Star Wars to 21st century cgi efforts) whereas horror fans have to be content with clips from Araf, Dracula in Istanbul and Seytan (Turkish Exorcist). There’s even a tiny interview with the girl from Seytan, but pardon me if I can’t take her and the narrator’s comments seriously. No, Seytan and Badi (Turkish ET) are not high quality movies and no, they’re not scary, they’re silly. That sci-fi and horror were combined in one segment is because the Turkish cinema doesn’t really appreciate these genres. And whereas the people involved in Seytan and Badi may have overestimated their place in cinema’s history, there’s a cute little story about Dracula in Istanbul (not a remake, by the way). The budget was so minimal the crew couldn’t afford fog for one scary scene. So, as the weather didn’t seem keen on helping them out, the entire crew lit up cigarettes and blew them towards to the camera to create a foggy effect. Yet, that film is nowhere as silly as Badi.
For the record, the DVD also has a handful of trailers, two of previous Onar Films releases and two of upcoming releases… well, provide there will be a next release. This, for now, is the final release by Onar Films. The company will sit and wait till the baker’s dozen of releases they’ve produced so far will have generated enough money before they’ll invest in another remastering of an old Turkish film. It’s not just the lack of sales (though some of the releases are sold out, some will stay available till 2357), but also the lack of distributors like Xploited Cinema (who decided to stop acquiring new releases about a year ago). You can now get your Onar Films releases straight from the source. That isn’t all bad news: a new dvd now just costs you €17.50 (it used to be €23.50). So we can end on a positive note after all.