Sunday, April 30, 2006

Turkish Star Wars

Allegations of copyright infringement in popular culture are ever with us. The basic idea behind copyright being that you can't copyright an idea, only a reasonably detailed and concrete expression of an idea.

This is the most obvious reason the Da Vinci Code case failed: the idea that Christ may have married Mary Magdelene and fathered a line of French kings, while certainly not first Dan Brown's, was scarcely an idea subject to copyright.

Those who did undergraduate intellectual property, however, would probably remember a classic case falling the other side of the line - the Italian re-make of "Jaws". This resulted in the Australian case Universal City Studios v Zeccola, where it was held (for the purposes of an urgent injunction) there was an arguable case of copying.

The judge at first instance, in the words of the appeal court, "with some
degree of fortitude, viewed both films, one after the other
" before ruling for the makers of "Jaws".

With considerably more fortitude I settled down to watch "Turkish Star Wars", perhaps one of the best bad foreign films imaginable. Actually, it's so bad as to be beyond imagination, so just go watch it - if you can find a copy, which will be hard for reasons I'll mention later.

The titles alone say it all. Some of them are visibly painted on cardboard and "faded out" by the simple expedient of rushing them towards the camera and off to the left.

It begins with a monologue that's incomprehensible, even with the aid of subtitles, uttered over a backdrop of footage of early NASA launches and random bits of Star Wars space-fight footage mashed together. Unfortunately not enough footage, so what they have they loop three times (a money-stretching trick this production crew ain't too proud to use over and over again).

We then have fighter pilots, who appear to be standing either in front of TV screens or a back projection of more Star Wars space-battle footage, in motorcycle helmets.

Our heroes are then shot down and land, apparently, on the evil over-lord's planet. They must defeat him before he can penetrate the shield of projected brain-molecules that defends the earth. (At least I think that was what was going on.) Along they way they must save the oppressed locals from his evil army of chubby skeleton warriors, dudes in halloween masks, mummies, guys in tin man costumes, giant muppets with bad claws, and an eight foot yeti thing that seems to flail victims to death with streamers.

Moments to watch for:

- crashing your space-fighter in such a way it disintegrates, but you crawl from a sand-dune unharmed!

- kicks that land nowhere near the bad-guys but send 'em sprawling!

- "Ouch, that hurts!" moments when it becomes painfully apparent there are no stunt doubles

- when care bears attack! Men in giant pink bear suits attack children with their cardboard claws!

- a devastating mystical sword, obviously made of cardboard and shaped like lightning!

- our hero, trapped and bound to feindish devices by ... telephone cords!

- evil sorcerous villains, drinking their victim's blood through a bendy straw!

- that yellow, swirling special effect: when it turns up, it spells trouble!

Best of all, when the evil villain is sliced in half: "This is one of the more tricky visuals from the Turkish effects wizards: he is filmed while one half of his body is in shadows, then they go to a shot of him with the other half of his body in shadows. It seems impossible, but both halves of him ended up with his whole nose."

The reason you'll have trouble tracking this gem down? In a delicious result for a film made with no concern for copyright (it's soundtrack is composed of scraps from Indiana Jones and Flash Gordon, too) it is only available on bootleg DVD ...

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