• Film reviews

    #546 – Three Supermen Against the Orient (1973)

    Three Supermen Against the Orient (1973)

    Film review #546

    Director: Bitto Albertini

    SYNOPSIS: FBI agent Robert Wallace is once again summoned on a mission just as he is about to get married: this time, he must find six agents who have gone missing in Taiwan. While there, he meets up with his old acquaintances Max and Jerry, the international thieves “The supermen,” and the three reluctantly team up once again to accomplish their goals: Robert to rescue the agents, and Max and jerry to rob the U.S. embassy…

    THOUGHTS/ANSLYSIS: Three Supermen Against the Orient is a 1973 martial arts/comedy, and the fifth film in the Three Supermen series, released the same year as the previous Three Supermen of the West. The film follows the typical premise of these films, with an FBI agent teaming up with his old acquaintances the two international thieves, this time to save a group of six agents who have been kidnapped and are being held in the far east. The most notable thing about the film is, if you’ve seen the other films in the series, is that is completely incompatible with them in terms of continuity. For example, the three main characters know each other, which means their previous antics in the other films probably still happened, but the main issue is that the supermen don’t have their bulletproof suits, which is their main selling point. They get them about half way through the film when FBI agent Robert Wallace manages to persuade the American ambassador to hand them over, and the supermen are surprised by them being bulletproof. Adding this up, it seems that the previous films happened, but also didn’t happen at the same time? As far as I am aware, this is the first Three Supermen film to get an English dub, so maybe they wanted to reintroduce the suits for first-time audiences, but then why have the characters know each other prior to the film? It’s very confusing. On the one hand, there’s not too much continuity between the films, as they are self-contained adventures, but at least they didn’t contradict each other.

    Apart from the continuity issues, the film feels very much like a typical martial arts film. The supermen don’t even appear until thirty minutes into the runtime, and all this time is spent Wallace wandering around the wrong city before he finally goes to Hong Kong. In some respects, it just feels like a standard martial arts film with the Three Superman shoehorned in, but the director of some of the previous films directs this one, so there is come continuity behind the scenes. There’s still the comedy elements of the franchise and a little bit of slapstick, but it doesn’t go so far as to spoof martial arts films, like it spoofed some other genres in the previous films.

    As with some of the other films, the actors have been swapped around: this time, only Sal Borgese, who plays the mute Jerry, returns, with the other two being new actors. In fact, there names are different too, but they are supposed to be the same characters, which again makes the continuity even more confusing. The other characters don’t add too much, but fill their parts just fine. The typical acrobatics that the series is known for is put aside in favour of martial arts, and it’s a shame we don’t get a mixture of the two (the new actors probably don’t have the expertise too). The martial arts was choreographed by a young Jackie Chan, and on the whole it’s well executed and polished, but nothing overly special in the larger context of the huge volume of martial arts films from the seventies.

    Overall, Three Supermen in the Orient combines the silliness of the franchise with yet another genre in the form of the martial arts films. However, it sidesteps the spoof and satire in favour of simply making a competent martial arts film with some slapstick western comedy thrown in from time to time. The plot makes no sense in the continuity of the series, but they’re all mostly standalone films anyway, so it can be overlooked. The film doesn’t really add anything to the series, or distinguish itself as a martial arts film, but it’s a decent balance of western comedy and eastern martial arts, backed by competent choreography that might appeal to a broader audience. however, fans of the series may not be too impressed with the riding roughshod over the continuity of the series, and having the main characters rake a backseat.

  • Film reviews

    #545 – Three Supermen and Mad Girl (1973)

    Three Supermen and Mad Girl (1973)

    Film review #545

    Director: Cavit Yürüklü

    SYNOPSIS: An evil organisation led by Mad Girl and a guy in a devil costume are trying to take over the world. The only people that can stop them are the three supermen, with their bulletproof suits…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Three Supermen and Mad Girl is a 1973 Turkish sci-fi film, and a unauthorised of the Three Supermen characters. The plot is about as simple as you can get it: an evil organisation consisting of Mad Girl, a man in a devil mask, and a bunch of men in green hoods and cloaks, are attempting to take over the world. The only people that stand in their way are the three supermen, who get to stopping them. There are no subtitles for this film that I could find, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss anything, as there’s nothing beyond the surface to really get into: if you know who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are, you’re pretty much set. The structure of the film consists in the cast going from one fight scene to another, and you can more or less follow what is happening in them as their really isn’t much to get beyond some chasing and fighting.

    This film comes from a whole market of Turkish knock-off films that take characters (and sometimes actual footage) from other franchises without permission and make their own film. As I’ve mentioned before, this is maybe the sort of thing you could get away with in the 60′s and 70′s, but nowadays, with the internet and such, there’s no way you’d get close to releasing such a film without being found out and sued into oblivion. This is one of the only examples I’ve seen which uses a non-U.S/U.K. based franchise, which leads me to think the Three Supermen was a bigger deal than I believed. With regards to the three supermen themselves, their characters are in keeping with the actual films, with one being mute, and one being a government agent of some description. The costumes as well are accurate, even though they are pretty easy to emulate. The only difference is that the costumes in this film have a big “S” emblem on the chest, which is obviously meant to be the actual “Superman” logo that he wears on his costume. The villains are just typical villains and there’s nothing to really say on that point, apart from they have a robot which is perhaps the best/worst b-movie robot I have ever seen: it really just looks like someone wearing a few cardboard boxes.

    Three Superman and Mad Girl is obviously a low budget rip-off of an already low-budget franchise, but I suppose credit should be given to the film for having a good amount of extras in costume, and that it doesn’t bloat the storyline with unnecessary plot and just sticks to a variety of fights and chases. There’s a fair amount of locations too, so it’s at least not all being shot in someone’s basement. Overall though, Three Supermen and Mad Girl is a very low-budget affair that isn’t particularly noteworthy, but is at least short with a sixty-five minute runtime, and focuses no the things which are entertaining and action-oriented. Also probably also worth watching just for one of the cheapest looking robots ever seen on film.

  • Film reviews

    #544 – Three Supermen of the West (1973)

    Three Supermen of the West (1973)

    Film review #544

    Director: Italo Martinenghi

    SYNOPSIS: The three supermen are once again apprehended for a mission by the government, this time to destroy a time machine built by two scientists. The supermen manage to find the scientists and the time machine, but are accidentally transported back in time to the Old West, where the they meet a beautiful woman, and decide it might be alright to stop for a little while…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Three Supermen of the West is a 1973 sci-fi film and the fourth film in the Three Supermen series. The film starts in the way in which you should be accustomed if you’re following the series, as the government (of some country, or the CIA…it changes), again calls for agent George Martin to team up with the international thieves known as “the supermen,” in order to destroy a time machine invented by a pair of mad scientists. As always, the supermen are up to their old tricks, this time in Rome, where they’re scamming an American tourist into buying the colosseum in Rome off of them. Eventually, George chases them down after plenty of running and fighting, and the three head to stop the scientist, who has already finished the invention and travelled through time. They track him down, but accidentally end up activating the time machine themselves, transporting them to the Old West. There, they meet a young woman, and decide to stay a while. While the story in the second and third films was more grounded in the sense it was a spoof of typical spy films, this one just decides to loosen its grip on reality and go full sci-fi. It is reminiscent of the first film, which had cloning and a machine that could turn people into jewels as part of it’s story. Anyway, there’s not much direction or purpose in the story: the supermen travel back in time and just decide to stop a while because of a woman, leading to some typical Western genre hijinks. It’s a good opportunity for the film series to spoof a different genre this time (Westerns instead of spy films), but there’s nothing deeper to the story than that. Fortunately, the action and fighting is still full of energy, so it’s entertaining enough, even if it doesn’t go anywhere.

    The three supermen are the same characters you will know from the previous films, but as always, some of the actors have changed between films. This time, it’s just the one, with the role of Brad being recast. The rest of the supporting characters are fairly forgettable, but they play typical, but necessary parts well, as they are fairly expressive and over-the-top caricatures. In fact, a lot of the film has a much more slapstick feel than its predecessors, with the fights becoming increasingly silly: at one point they even throw a cream pie at someone’s face, just to hammer the point home. It definitely captures that “Old West” feel despite being filmed in Milan, so credit should be given there. Also, to the silly sequence of the two scientists travelling through time, which shows them falling through various periods of history, made possible with stock footage of other movies, although some of the footage is in black and white, which is a silly little goof. Overall, Three Supermen of the West is more of the same mindless entertainment you got from the previous films, maybe even moreso, as the lack of direction in the story, and the more sci-fi elements and slapstick humour make the film more detached from reality than its predecessors. Still, it’s a little bit of fun so if you got through the previous ones, you can get through this one too.

  • Film reviews

    #509 – Godmonster of Indian Flats

    Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)

    Film review #509

    Director: Fredric Hobbs

    SYNOPSIS: Following a big gambling win and passing out in a drunken stupor, rancher Eddie finds a strange, large embryo on his ranch. Professor Clemens takes the embryo to his laboratory for study. meanwhile, a businessman attempts to buy property in the town for mining development, but the mayor and the secret society of the town have other ideas, as they wish to preserve the legacy of their town as an “old west” place for tourism…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Godmonster of Indian Flats is a 1973 western horror film. In the opening, we see rancher Eddie winning big on the slots and getting taken for a ride by some of the townsfolk. He is taken back home and awakens the next morning to find a large embryo. Local anthropologist Professor Clemens and his research assistant Mariposa take the embryo to incubate it, where they believe it to be the monster that has been talked about in local legends. Meanwhile, a wealthy businessman named Barnstable is trying to buy land in town to get the mines operational again, coming up against the mayor who wants to preserve the “old west” feel of the town to keep tourists coming in. These two main threads of the story are the main issue of the film, mainly because they develop almost separately from each other, only really crossing over at the end. If you want to see a “weird west” type of film consisting of a Western combined with other genres, you don’t really get that because the genres stay very separate for the vast majority of the film. It’s really difficult to figure out what is going on in the story or what the motivations for the characters are when there are all these unconnected things going on. The film sets itself out as some kind of western horror (judging by the title), but most of the film sees the monster stuck in a laboratory, and instead focuses on the goings on of this dusty town. There’s definitely a lot of effort put into creating the atmosphere of an old west frontier town in the Southern U.S., and it does set it up fairly well in the beginning, but when it comes to building a set-up and characters around it, there’s very little cohesion and direction to drive the film.

    There’s plenty of characters that are laid out and the setting is constantly built-up through the expansive shots of the landscape, and the dusty, isolated town. There’s definitely a vision in that regard, but there’s so many strange decisions with respect to the story that it becomes a series of bizarre events that are consistently inconsistent. The scene with the funeral of a dog whose death was staged to make Barnstaple look bad is just so absurd I don’t know how you’re supposed to take it seriously. The acting is also pretty dire so as to alienate the viewer from the story even further. The monster itself we see in bits and pieces until the end of the film, where we are treated to the form of a deformed, mutant sheep of some sort. Trying to make a sheep look threatening seems like a fruitless endeavour, but they certainly tried regardless. It always, however, looks like a sheep, and so isn’t that scary or horrifying.

    There’s definitely some arguments for it being a “so bad it’s good” film, with the pure weirdness in the story and it’s random jumps in tone that come out of nowhere. In this way, it is certainly entertaining and not boring, but you will be constantly wondering how all this fits together. I feel like there’s definitely a vision that grounded the production of this film, specifically in brining this old west town and it’s population and culture to life, but anything on top of that, from the story, the characters, and the whole monster thing are so convoluted that it’s difficult to take it seriously. Overall, Godmonster of Indian Flats is just plain weird: it has all of these things it wants to do, but no idea how to bring them together. The parts where the film tries to take itself seriously are offset by the incomprehensible plot, unimaginative characters, and flat acting. Maybe some people would describe it as “so bad it’s good”, and there are certainly some points where that is the case, but on the whole, I think it just falls short of having that entertainment value.

  • Film reviews

    #364 – 3 Giant Men (1973)

    3 Giant Men (1973)

    Film review #364

    Director: T. Fikret Uçak

    SYNOPSIS:  A smuggling gang led by Spider-man is stealing precious artefacts in Turkey and selling them for huge profits in the U.S. The Turkish authorities call in Captain America and Mexican wrestler Santo in order to defeat Spider-man and stop the smuggling ring.

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS3 Giant Men (3 Dev Adam) is a 1973 Turkish superhero film. The film centres around Captain America and Mexican wrestler Santo trying to stop a smuggling ring headed by Spider-man (or “the Spider” as he is called in the film). It may strike you from this summary that this is a completely bizarre concept for a film, and makes very little sense considering the characters themselves, but we’ll get on to that later. First, the story begins with a woman being caught by Spider-man’s gang and being killed by having a boat’s propeller reversed into her face (offscreen anyway, signified by the spraying of what looks like tomato ketchup onto the legs of a witness). With this smuggling gang stealing and killing all over the place, the Turkish authorities call in Captain America and Mexican wrestler Santo in order to stop the gang. The story unfolds without any surprising or complex elements; the premise is laid out at the beginning and it’s followed through until the end without interruption. The story reminds me of classic movie serials, which consisted in a lot of this constant back and forth of fight scenes, car chases, and investigating.

    Okay let’s talk about the characters: first, Turkish cinema around this time is infamous for using characters and footage from other properties without permission, and I’m pretty sure this is another example of that. When the police chief first meets Captain America, he remarks how good his Turkish is for an American…except it is plain to see that he is not American, he is played by a Turkish actor, who consequentially does not resemble Captain America in any way. I wonder how much Turkish audiences in 1973 would be familiar with American superheroes, and since it is probably very little, I suppose they could get away with just doing whatever they wanted with the characters. The Mexican wrestler Santo is an original character for the film, and puts on his wrestler mask and cape whenever he needs to fight some bad guys. At one point he is seen wearing a native American jacket, which is a bit odd if he is Mexican, and I wonder if the filmmakers were just conflating the two out of laziness and/or ignorance. Spider-man being the villain is probably the oddest character of the film, as he is one of the most innocent and naive of any superhero. Here, however, he is portrayed as a ruthless murder, who stabs multiple people, tortures them and at one point sends some rats down a ridiculous contraption to eat someone’s eyes out. Perhaps the most bizarre part of his character is when Captain America is explaining that Spider-man cannot stand people who dress up in costumes (such as Captain America), and he will automatically attack them on sight. How does that work? Is he jealous that his ill-fitting suit is upstaged by other costumes? I assume it’s that. Either way, “The Spider” is a ruthless villain with absolutely no connection to the original character, Also his huge eyebrows are a major distraction…

    I can’t quite figure out who this film is meant to be for: the superhero characters might make you think it is a more family-oriented, as the original characters would have been, but the all the brutal deaths and torture (even though it is mostly off-screen) is definitely not family viewing. Couple that with the semi-nudity and stripper scenes and you’re definitely looking at a film intended for adults. The film as you might expect is a very low budget affair, with cheap sets, costumes and props being the norm throughout. Again, it reminds me of the classic movie serials, which used a limited amount of sets and props to keep costs low. There are some surprisingly good points though: Captain America’s suit looks pretty well done (in contrast to Spider-man’s green and red suit, which as mentioned does not fit well), and the fight scenes are quite decently choreographed, although clumsily edited in parts. At the end, the fight between Captain America and Spider-man gets incredibly ridiculous, with Captain America killing off Spider-man in a number of silly ways, only for him to reappear around a corner, and the fight carry on somewhere else. I assume they are all body doubles, but with this film it’s hard to tell what logic it subscribes to from one scene to the next. This film is ridiculous: it’s portrayal of it’s characters is completely at odds with the source material, the story is fairly basic, and is filled with odd scenes that make no sense (what was the deal with the puppet scene?). The film also crams in some raunchy scenes and gory violence that makes it feel like the film is just throwing all sorts into the picture without any consideration for a consistent tone. In the end though, you’re never going to take this film that seriously, and it’s worth a watch just to see how bad it is, and you’ll certainly get a laugh out of how cheap and silly it all is.

  • Film reviews

    #342 – Tourist Ömer Visits Star Trek (1973)

    Tourist Ömer visits Star Trek (1973)

    Film review #342

    Director: Hulki Saner

    SYNOPSIS: The U.S.S. Enterprise is visiting Professor Krater on a remote planet to collect some reports. While they are their one of their crew is killed, and Captain and his crew begin an investigation. The Professor wants them off the planet, and so uses a machine to transport a man to the planet who he will claim to be the murderer. Meanwhile on Earth, Ömer is being forced into a shotgun wedding when he is transported to the planet and taken into custody by Spock. However the investigation begins to get ever more complex, and even Spock’s patience begins to wear thin with the hyperactive Ömer running amok on board the Enterprise…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISTourist Ömer visits Star Trek (Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda) is a 1973 Turkish sci-fi film and the eighth in the series of films centred around the hapless roamer Ömer, as he causes trouble wherever he ends up. This time, he is about to be forced into a shotgun wedding with a woman who he says he barely knows. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise is visiting Professor Krater and his wife on a remote planet to collect some reports from him when one of there crew is mysteriously killed. They have to stay and investigate, which irritates Professor Krater, who decides to use a time machine to bring someone from the past who he can blame for the murder. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for  Ömer, that person is him. Krater brings Ömer to Kirk and Spock as the murder, and they take him on board the Enterprise into custody. Obviously, the first thing that should be mentioned is that this is not an official Star Trek film (although technically it is the first film in the Star Trek franchise), and none of the original cast, crew or writers are involved in this. Then again, neither is it a parody, since that would have changed the names of the characters and such. The film also steals the footage of the Enterprise in space from the television series, which shows it isn’t too concerned with any repercussions from using the Star Trek name. The story itself also isn’t anything too original, with plot points taken from a number of different episodes and recreated. Certain scenes will be very familiar to Star Trek fans as they are pretty much identical to those found in said episodes. So it definitely feels like a Star Trek episode, but mostly because it copies them directly.

    Ömer is the typical fish-out-of-water character, as he tries to navigate the future he has found himself transported to, and generally make a mess of everything he touches. A lot of the time though, he is absent or in the background, as the film typically plays it straight and acts as a proper Star Trek episode. The actors that portray the characters do their bit to capture the original feel and look of said characters: Kirk has that sense of presence and swagger, and Spock has the Vulcan stoicism, and the actor that plays him is able to do the trademark eyebrow raise very well. Some of the acting is a bit rough, but that almost adds to the authenticity of replicating the original series. A lot of the humour is derived from Ömer being annoying and testing Spock’s Vulcan patience to the absolute limit. Ömer gets to play about with some futuristic gadgets and use them to basically annoy Spock again, so the film makes use of the setting for Ömer’s character to be himself, and it all unfolds pretty much how you would expect it to. Some of the humour will be lost on people unfamiliar with Turkey and its culture, but there’s not too much of it, and again a lot of the focus of the film is on reproducing an authentic Star Trek experience.

    This film clearly doesn’t have much of a budget or the technological means to create any spectacular special effects. The same three or four sets are used throughout the whole of the film and don’t offer much variety, although the on-location filming looks rather nice. The bridge of the Enterprise looks nothing like the original, and clearly they had to make it with what they had. This film is definitely a product of its time; when filmmakers could get away with using another’s intellectual property without being found out and sued into the ground. It does feel authentically like a Star Trek film not just because it steals everything from the original without making it into a parody or satire, but because the limited budget reflects the similar constraints that the original series had. The film focuses on being more Star Trek film than Tourist Ömer, with the titular character only serving as a minor complication or annoyance in the plot. Given that the plot itself is mostly cobbled together from episodes of the series, there’s not much new for a Star Trek fan to see either, although they may enjoy the references. Overall: pretty harmless, but pretty pointless.