Why would you want to watch a movie if you could also watch the Turkish remake? There are two sorts of Turkish remakes: on the one hand you have films like Turkish Spiderman or Badi (Turkish E.T.), which were inspired by Hollywood blockbusters and were overdosed with bad effects, silly plots and sillier costumes. The result is often more hilarious than thrilling, Son of Rambow for adults.
But let’s investigate the other hand today… Seytan is nicknamed the “Turkish Exorcist” because it’s an almost scene by scene remake of The Exorcist. Sure, the movie is hilariously bad (the levitation scene is performed on a giant trampoline and no, I’m not making that up), but Seytan was made because the original film was forbidden in Turkey. That’s the other hand: homegrown movies of originals thought too dark for the local audience.
I don’t know if Death Wish was forbidden or not in Turkey, but the Turks could see something that somewhat resembled the film in the form of Cellat, which was recently released by Onar Films.
In Cellat (which translates as ‘The Executioner’) things start off wonderfully when a man (Serdar Gökhan) and beloved wife are enjoying the company of his sister and her future husband during a well-deserved vacation. The holiday over, the man, goes back to work (he’s an architect) and learns that a group of thugs have been terrorizing the city. Their rampage continues when they spot the architect’s wife and sister coming home. They raid the place, kill the wife and rape the sister. It’s enough to make the girl hysterical and eventually she ends up in a mental ward.
The architect, unhappy that the police haven’t found the criminals (pretty hard though, given that noone has given them a description of the criminals), fills a sock with coins and has a pleasant walk down the streets, enjoying the fresh air and the chance to beat up a thug. The law isn’t too happy with this vigilante and soon they’re also looking for the architect as well as the criminals.
Sounds familiar? Well, the plot of Death Wish is faithfully copied (here’s the synopsis of that movie) by director Memduh Ün, apart from a couple of details. In Cellat the raped girl is not the architect’s daughter but his younger sister and, unlike Death Wish, the Turkish version allows our hero to find the thugs before being discovered by the police. Of course, it’s nice that the man was able to satisfy his quest for vengeance, but this does leave a weird aftertaste in your mouth: it’s almost as if it’s good to take the law in your own hands here.
Other things were copied with much detail: from Bronson’s haircut to the film’s soundtrack (though it looks as if they only found part of it and played it over and over again).
Cellat may have its Bronson, but it doesn’t have a Jeff Goldblum. One of the major setbacks in the film is that the criminals didn’t look scary to me. Even when they’re raping the architect’s sister, they still looked like the comical sidekicks you see in movies like Captain Swing.
That and, of course, the noticable cheaper budget Cellat had to work with. The scene where one of the culprit is electrified becames unwillingly hilarious because of this.
This makes Cellat an odd entry: on the one hand its budget and talent lets it down and turns the film into the laughing stock of revenge movies. On the other hand, some scenes are quite good (sometimes because they’re blatantly copied, but also because not everyone in this film was hopeless). And I don’t think most of us have a third hand, but a lot of Turkish films don’t bother with continuity either, so on the third hand there’s the movie’s historian view of the film. It’s interesting to see what was copied and what was changed to make it easier for the Turkish audience. It’s not an excellent film and some of the new stuff is downright silly (yes, the wounded architect manages to hide in the house of the only person who could steer him towards the three thugs, fancy that), but watching Cellat is an odd combination of interesting vs. entertaining.
Which brings us to the main extra of the dvd release: there’s a documentary on Turkish revenge films that was especially made for this release. It’s made by someone who clearly loves the genre and owns a lot of relevant material. Sadly, he doesn’t really manage to show that love and instead narrates the documentary rather monotonously. I also found his attitude towards female revenge movies quite irritating: he blabs on for minutes about the main three male heroes but discards the two most important actresses of this subgenre by saying there weren’t a lot of revenge movies with women as protagonists and then he moves on to directors. The bit about the male protagonists lasts over fifteen minutes, the section about female heroines just over a minute. It struck me as rather denigrating and I needed some effort to keep focused on the final part of the documentary (the directors), also because the narrator was unable to pass his enthusiasm onto me.
Nevertheless, the documentaryis quite interesting because it features a lot of clips (although not every clip was found in dvd quality and some were clearly copied from tv broadcasts).
Cellat is a unique Onar Films release in as much as it’s not a barrel of laughs like some films (e.g. Turkish Superman) or genuinely good films (e.g. Karanlik Sular and Kadin Dusmani). That it falls in between those two chairs but still manages to entertain and be interesting for cultural reasons is weirdly enough a plus for this release.
Onar Films can be purchased straight from the source or Xploited Cinema. Cellat was released as a Region 0 DVD in a limited edition of 500 copies. It’s definitely worth your money as the dvd transfer went extremely well and it’s one of Onar’s best looking films so far.
And now it’s time for the trailer of… damn, I’ve forgotten the title of the film. Let’s hope the movie announcer will mention it 487 times…