The Turkish Batman
Remember when Batman used guns, hung out in strip clubs, and didn’t have to wear a mask if he didn’t want to?
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The final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s celebrated Batman trilogy has been breathlessly anticipated. But the Dark Knight’s most unusual adventure didn’t involve Bane, or Catwoman, or The Joker or The Riddler. It was solving the murders of the famous fashionistas in Turkey.
Holy remakes, Batman. I’m getting a rising feeling of Deja View.
By the end of the 1960s, Batman had proven that he could make himself at home in any medium: graphic novels, radio, television, film – even the Sunday funny pages. Moody or merry, it was all the same to the caped crusader. So it’s no great surprise that the campy Adam West interpretation of the character was a hit around the world.
But while Turkey’s similarly tongue-in-cheek take on Batman came only a handful of years later in 1973, its biggest inspirations were not what you might expect.
In “Yarasa Adam”, someone is murdering the city’s ten most stylish citizens, all of whom have been insured for a suspiciously large sum of money by an eccentric magazine publisher. And, as one might imagine, only Batman and Robin can get to the bottom of the mystery.
Although based on a comic book icon and produced just 7 years after the wildly popular 1966 “Batman” TV series, “Yarasa Adam” really owes its pedigree to the American movie serials of the 1930s and 40s. These were episodic adventure shorts which played alongside a main feature. And they were a major influence to many Turkish filmmakers of the Yeşilçam period like Yılmaz Atadeniz and Çetin İnanç. Serials like “Flash Gordon”, “Spy Smasher”, and “The Mysterious Dr. Satan” were adapted for Turkish audiences throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.
And indeed, Batman himself starred in two movie serials produced by Columbia Pictures in 1943 and 1949.
“Yarasa Adam’s” action sequences in particular really capture the flavor of the old serials, with
rock’em-sock’em fisticuffs and acrobatics. Like Turkish genre pictures, budgets for serials were universally minuscule, so in order to add interest, cheap action sequences – like wild fist fights – were added whenever possible.
Another interesting point is that unlike their comic book counterparts, Batman and Robin are not vigilantes. Rather, they operate within the law as agents of the authorities. This is notably similar to the 1943 Columbia serial, in which the dynamic duo were portrayed as agents of the FBI, in order to conform to American censorship regulations. In Turkey as well, vigilantism was objectionable, so it was more natural and acceptable for the heroes to work for the police.
But speaking of agents, Turkish Batman adds espionage appeal by borrowing from spy films and television shows. The movie’s mysterious villain, for example, is only seen from behind his chair, caressing his pet cat, in obvious homage to James Bond’s nemesis Blofeld. And when Batman receives his assignment, one can’t help but feel that his mission might just be “impossible”:
Batman plays an open reel tape containing his instructions.
Tape: Good morning, Batman. Congratulations on completing your latest mission.
Moreover, virtually the entire score for the film has been lifted from various spy movies and TV shows. The result is a veritable “who’s who” of secret agent theme songs, including “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “I Spy”, “Charade”, and “Reilly: Ace of Spies”.
What might really surprise viewers, however, is the film’s adult content. Everyone knows about Batman’s playboy lifestyle as his alter ego Bruce Wayne, but he’s got nothing on Turkish Batman.
Batman: Robin, shouldn’t you be working out now?
Not only does he “get the girl”; but he also brings home a beautiful stranger, and spends a great deal of time with Robin at a local strip club. Indeed, “Yarasa Adam” ventures completely into sex comedy territory when Batman attempts to fool love interest number one by disguising love interest number two as a less than convincing nurse.
It’s clear that secret identities are of no concern to our heroes, and as such, Batman and Robin spend as much time out of costume as in them. In fact, even while suited up our heroes frequently forego their capes, presumably to avoid hindering their acrobatics.
“Yarasa Adam” is pulp entertainment in its most pure form: lurid, energetic, action-packed, and exploitative. And with a breezy 61 minute runtime, it’s impossible to get bored. For fans of Batman or connoisseurs of cheap thrills, it’s not to be missed.
In a bizarre instance of Turkish copyright infringement in reverse, in 2008, the mayor of a small Turkish town attempted to sue Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. for the unauthorized use of their town’s name. The name? Not Gotham City. Batman.
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