The Other Turkish Superman
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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The Man of Steel is flying into theaters this weekend. But really, would you rather watch Superman’s origin story for the thirty-second time, or see him fight an evil Asian transvestite in a wheelchair?
This looks like a job for Deja View.
By 1973 Superman had not had many adventures on the big screen. Apart from a couple of Columbia serials and a series of short cartoons, his only theatrical feature was “Superman and the Mole Men,” the 1951 pilot for “The Adventures of Superman” TV series. So in that context, we might find Turkish director Tunç Başaran’s rather irreverent take on the character less surprising.
In “Demir Yumruk: Devler Geliyor” — or “Iron Fist: The Giants are Coming” — the flamboyant, wheelchair-bound criminal mastermind transvestite Fu Manchu is hunting a hidden cache of treasure and uranium. It is this that will enable him, somehow, to rule the world. When he kills the one archaeologist with a lead on the loot, the murdered man’s son joins forces with macho policeman Enver to get revenge. Also, there’s Superman. But we’ll come back to that.
Adapting a comic book icon for the silver screen must have been old hat for director Tunç Başaran, who had previously adapted the Turkish comic “Tarkan” and the Italian “Il Comandante Mark.” But it doesn’t take a comic book fanatic to spot that some liberties have been taken with the Man of Tomorrow.
You can see from his costume that this Turkish Superman is really more like “Super-Bat-Man.” For in addition to the signature “S” and cape, our hero sports a dark costume, cowl, and a bat insignia on his belt. Keen-eyed viewers will also notice that the bat emblem features its own “S.”
So you might not be surprised to learn that our Turkish superhero, who is never actually mentioned by name, has somewhat more terrestrial origins than the Krypton-born “Man of Steel.” In fact the man behind the mask is none other than Enver the policeman, who fakes his death to trick the villains and dons the suit — with exactly zero build-up or foreshadowing — in order to maintain the illusion.
While the amalgamated costume may seem strange to hardcore comic fans, spectacle was paramount. As seen in movies like “Uç Dev Adam” where Spider-Man is a sadistic crime boss, the draw of these films was less about fidelity to the source material and far more about extravagantly costumed do-gooders whomping bad guys with karate. And if those costumes were in some way recognizable, perhaps in multiple ways, so much the better!
“Devler Geliyor” has no shortage of the spectacular. In addition to Superman and the over-the-top Fu Manchu, the film features such elements as a deadly steel mitten that doubles as a gun, and a hook-handed henchman named simply “The Hook.”
And in typical Yesilcam tradition, the film boosts its production values by lifting its music from an American film: in this case, Roger Corman’s 1966 biker flick “The Wild Angels.”
By now I’m sure it’s clear that this isn’t *really* a Superman movie at all. It’s a typical Yesilcam-era pulp adventure movie, with the Superman iconography used as a kind of hero shorthand.
It’s also quite a nationalistic film. Here Superman, instead of a “strange visitor from another planet, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men,” is a Turkish cop. His enemies are exclusively foreigners. And there’s a certain amount of patriotism in his battle against the nonspecifically Asian Fu Manchu, whose explicit goal is not only to take over the world, but to prove his race superior.
“Demir Yumruk: Devler Geliyor” delivers a very different experience from what you might expect from a Superman movie, but it’s every bit as entertaining. It has loads of energy, outlandish elements, and absolutely zero time spent on the hero’s origin.
Incidentally, “Demir Yumruk: Devler Geliyor” was just one of several remakes that Tunç Başaran directed. In fact two years prior, he made “Little Ayshe and the Land of Dreams and Magical Dwarves,” a Turkish adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.” But that’s a horse of a different color—I mean a story for another time.
Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see you next week.