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DVD Review: ALTIN COCUK (Onar Films)

International spy films have often used Istanbul as a stock location to give a feeling of mystery and intrigue. Its unique architecture and deep history lend this easily, and it doesn’t hurt that during the 60s and 70s there was a film industry based there which actively sought out international co-productions. Istanbul was cheap and exotic, two very big plusses when it comes to the b-movie industry. So why wouldn’t the Turks want to take advantage of this themselves and not just leave it to the Italians or the Brits? They did so starting in ‘66 with a series of amiable James Bond knockoffs filmed under the banner ALTIN COCUK. Onar’s latest DVD is a presentation of the first film in that series, and while it probably isn’t going to blow your mind or change your life it is terrific fun nonetheless. Featuring romantic leading man Goksel Arsoy as the Bondish Altin Cocuck (or “Golden Boy”) a super-suave, super-deadly superagent out to protect Turkey from Cold War-era nogoodniks and to get as many lovely and scantily clad Anatolian chicks into bed as possible. There are a lot of double crossings, disguises, torture, gunfights, near-naked girls, underwater hi-jinks and love on the sly as our hero prevents mega-Turk-baddie Altan Gunbay from blowing up all Istanbul in an event which Gunbay predicts will be “more fun than Hiroshima”. One girl is whipped nearly out of her dress and another is strung up while in a bikini and slowly hung as the ice she’s made to stand on melts away under a heat lamp and the diabolical glare of Gunbay. The movie spits out one fast-paced scene after the next in the best Yesilcam cheap-but-entertaining tradition and is never, ever boring. But if you’re looking for the weirdest or wackiest or bloodiest or sexiest Turkish film, this one ain’t it. Not by a long shot. But it’s wild enough and rare enough to hold a bright spot in your heart and your DVD collection if you’re just willing to let it in and do its thing.

More in the movie’s favor than its plot or action are its relatively great cinematic qualities. Director Memduh Un enriches each frame with a wonderfully expressionist, almost noir-ish eye. Dutch angles and moody lighting give it an atmosphere beyond the simple and action and poverty of plot. ALTIN COCUK looks great, better than it should, and is a shining testament to the often unheralded talents that were behind these disposable pop films. The acting isn’t anything that you wouldn’t find in any other Turkish film (or Spanish or Greek or Egyptian for that matter), but the cheap charisma of Goksel Arsoy holds things together nicely for the brief duration of the flick. And of course Altan Gunbay, in one of his earliest roles is typically great as the bald bad-ass out to betray his brethren. But really, it’s the endless parade of beautiful ladies that keeps your attention in scenes not featuring gunfire or torture. Sevda Nur plays the main girl, and while she hasn’t much to do, her dark and ethereal beauty are mesmerizing and after awhile you don’t really remember that she not really all that great as an actor. There’s quite a bit to be excited about in this movie, especially if you enjoy 60s spy flicks. Honestly, it’s never really been my cup of tea, I don’t even care for the Bond movies, but one thing I do like is Turkish pop cinema, in any shape or genre, and so ATLIN COCUK gives me just enough of that thrill that it will keep me coming back as long as it remains in on my DVD shelf.

Onar’s discs just keep getting better. This is one of the best looking yet. On par with many of Something Weird Video’s transfers of American 60s low budgets epics, you get a lovely, clear b&w 4:3 fullscreen image. Considering the sometimes awful state of the prints Onar often has to deal with, ALTIN’s fine presentation is a minor miracle. Extras soar as well. The best is the first ever filmed interview with longtime Turkfilm villain Altan Gunbay. It’s full of great and illuminating info concerning his career and the Turkish film industry in general. On the downside, the video is appallingly edited, with no rhyme or reason to the structure of the interview. Valuable stuff, nonetheless. The usual, terrific and informed bios and filmographies are here as well as some trailers for other Onar things. The exciting bits here concern two mysterious upcoming releases. One is a formerly lost KILINK movie, whose title is still unknown at press time: the scene included is wonderfully sadistic and certainly whets the appetite for more. Perhaps even more mindblowing is RINGO GESTAPO’YA KARSI, a feverish looking adventure pitting cowboys against Nazis in the wilds of Anatolia. I need this one as soon as possible, OK Bill? All in all, another great time provided by Onar Films of Athens, Greece. Fans of 60s international spy films will want to waste no time in picking this one up and the usual Worldweirders, if they don’t already have it, are heartily recommended to pick it up at their earliest convenience.