R.I.P. (Bill of) Onar Films

The promised regular updates in April didn’t happen and you don’t have to expect them to return this month either. The Avenue will have to update whenever I have a free moment. I don’t mind the busier life as much as I hate the fact of missing important news. Like the death of Bill Barounis in October. Bill was the man behind Onar Films, a small Greek company releasing Turkish cult movies from the 60s and 70s. I say “releasing”, but Bill liked to call it “saving them from obscurity”. Bill’s real name was Vassilis, but he preferred using the American-sounding name Bill to his international customers (he also sold videos on eBay as “deathland”) and correspondents, so in his honour, I’ll stick to Bill throughout this article.
The last I’d heard (from the man himself) was that he’d ended up in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke (caused by a brain tumor). Even that didn’t stop the man from dreaming about a next release.

In his short life, Bill gave 13 dvd releases to the world under the name of Onar Films. He was the mastermind behind the company and got the help from three other people. Bill outlived Metin Demirhan and now, the two remaining men, Turkish director Kunt Tulgar and film journalist Ali Murat Guven, do their best of sell the remaining stock of the Onar Films releases. All the money earned from this will go to Julia, Bill’s widow and their child.

Regular releases cost 25 Turkish lira (approx. 11 euro/14 dollar) and double bills are available for 30 lira (13 euro/17 dollar). You can contact Ali at onarfilms.lastfilms@yahoo.com if you’re interested in a title.
All the movies are down to their last 90 copies or less, apart from Cellat which is finally sold out. If you’ve always wanted to get your hands on dvd releases of Turkish Spiderman (3 Dev Adam), Turkish Superman, Tarzan in Istanbul, Turkish James Bond (Altin Cocuk) or Turkish giallo movies, it’s thanks to Bill that this became possible.

The website to go to is in Turkish, but you can mail them for further information and you’ll get a reply in English (including an estimate of the shipping costs to your country). The link is here, and if you can’t see the list of movies, click on “Filmler” in the tab under the introduction.
I have contacted Ali and he told me they’re trying to get all the stock from Greece to Turkey, but they can only take as many as Customs control allows them. That’s why three of Onar releases will only become available in May. They are Kadin Dusmani (a Turkish giallo), Karanlik Sular (an odd one out for Onar as it was a 90s release) and Demir Pence Korsan Adam (with a Turkish Fantomas as evil mastermind).

Throughout my time as a DV reviewer, I occasionally got my hands on a book or movie to review. I can honestly say that I’ve never corresponded by anyone as passionate about his releases as Bill. This becomes evident in the releases: the first suffered from bad English subtitles and Bill didn’t rest until he found better translators. There is a world of difference between the first and final release of Onar Films. That in itself is enough proof that Onar Films was a labour of love. If you can spare some money, this may be a good way to spend it on. The movies will not be pristine (Bill often worked with the only available prints in order to get something on dvd that was as decent as it could get), but it’s impossible not to watch a dvd of Onar Films and feel the dedication put into this project. If you’re unsure about the films, “Onar Films” is a tag at the Avenue now, so you can get some further information on the movies.

In one of the mails Ali wrote about Bill (which I found on a forum), he wrote: “If you don’t have a deep love for the trash genre, you cannot be a second Bill.”

Bill Barounis will be missed.

Superhero Schlock: Turkish Flash Gordon

I think we’ll make this holiday season even more festive by introducing you to Turkish Flash Gordon or Bay Tekin Fezada Carpisanlar. Two scenes on offer today and they’re equally mindblowing… just the right recipe for a Christmas bonus treat.

First up this scene where the evil minions perform a most dastardly chant. Then the spaceship flies away in terrifyingly realistic special effects and our hero wakes up. Now we learn that Gaultier’s creations for Madonna weren’t that original.

But fear not, for there is more… in scene number two we learn that the spaceship’s driver is also the victim of the same tailor and Flash has to look at a most tyrannic distruction of, erm, some things… we reckon it must have taken the special effects crew a full ten minutes to create these scenes. Provided their coffee break was just in the middle of those ten minutes of course. Enjoy…

Turkish Star Wars

Odd, isn’t it, that the best known Turkish adaptation hasn’t been mentioned here? It’s Turkish Star Wars of course (or: The Man Who Saved The World). Perhaps we thought it had already been mentioned? Because there’s no reason one can forget this one. In fact, it’s so inept a trailer or a scene won’t do it justice. Luckily someone had a brilliant idea: putting a couple of clips under the Beastie Boys track “Intergalactic”. So there you go, four minutes of superb cinema history. Fluffy monsters will be decapitated and – thanks to state of the art special effects – you’ll almost believe a man is cut in half. Almost.

Turkish Star Trek

Yes, Turkish Star Trek exists too. Though we would like to clarify it was released as part of a series of films with the character Ömer (Tourist Ömer) who apparently dreamt weird stories. Never mind that, it’s just a crappy version of Star Trek, which (to be fair) didn’t always have great effects itself. But all will be forgiven after seeing this: Kirk and Spock battle it out against a fearsome fire-breathing monster. Who’ll throw the heaviest rock and who’ll win? Oh, the excitement…

Seytan (Turkish Exorcist)

Today’s piece of schlock cinema does not contain a superhero, but an exorcist. The Exorcist was forbidden in Turkey and so they reshot it (almost scene by scene) as Seytan. The only thing they didn’t have… a budget and talented actors. Which is where we come in… drooling, I might add. Because Seytan sure is a mind-boggling experience.

Some of the YouTube clips have been pulled off YouTube (copyright violation??), so I’ve put this movie as the second entry. (At least, now you can still enjoy some of the clips.) Next time we’ll go back to superhero madness!

The story is… well, I guess you’ve seen or heard about The Exorcist. All you need to know here is that the girl’s name is Gül in this movie.

As for the best scene in the movie… you know how in The Exorcist the little girl is suddenly hovering over her bed? Well, the same happens here… only they didn’t have a budget and so they’d put a trampoline (!) under the bed. Which makes it hilarious to watch, especially when the mother sees Gül and jumps on top of her and both jump up and down. (Watch this one minute into this video that compares both versions.)

Okay, so the “your mother sucks cock in hell” scene is one they couldn’t film… but watch how Seytan overcomes this problem (55 seconds into the clip): dazzling special effects. Also, the exorcist (2.20 into the clip) gets ready for his Oscar by showing Gul is trying to put a spell on him. Or maybe he just has cramps…

The Wave Magazine also wrote a review and you can find it here. There used to be a dvd out, but this is unavailable (not sure if this is due to being sold out or because it was pulled for copyright reasons). My two cents? Seytan is a movie that shouldn’t be forbidden, mainly because it shows how wrong a movie can be. Every second makes The Exorcist look more like a classic and you don’t have to be Mark Kermode to think that.

Badi (Turkish E.T.)

Meet Badi, he’s just like E.T.
Really, they stole several plot ideas from E.T. to make this movie. (Guess on which vehicle they will help Badi escape at the end of the movie.)
The only thing they didn’t manage to steal was talented people who could make a decent costume. As it is, the actor who has to play Badi is clad in something that looks like it was made by a 5-year-old without any sign of talent. The head cannot be moved and the costume is evidently two sizes too large for the dwarf inside the costume.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were also looking for a way to show Badi when he’s angry. As the head was not an option, they chose to let steam come from underneath Badi. Several friends of mine have remarked: “So this is what alien porn looks like.”

Please give one minute of your time to this historic moment in cinema entertainment… here’s Badi.


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…