The Turkish Remake of Psycho (Is a Musical!)
What “Birdemic” is to “The Birds,” this movie is to “Psycho.” Proof that everybody should take a, uh, stab at Hitchcock.
Hitchcock, Alfred, François Truffaut, and Helen Scott. Hitchcock. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. Print.
Özkaracalar, Kaya. “Between Appropriation and Innovation: Turkish Horror Cinema.” Fear without Frontiers: Horror Cinema across the Globe. Ed. Steven Jay Schneider. Godalming, England: FAB, 2003. N. pag. Print.
Rebello, Stephen. Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. New York: Dembner, 1990. Print.
I wonder what Hitchcock would think of that color remake of “Psycho” from the ‘90s. The lesser actors, the line for line dialogue, all that singing…
Did I mention I was talking about the Turkish one?
He’d probably get a crazy feeling of Deja View.
In 1960 Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal horror-thriller gave the world a fear of showers while teaching movie audiences to arrive on time to avoid missing the best parts. It spawned four sequels, a TV series, and in 1998 a laboriously shot-for-shot color remake. But three years earlier, a passionate low-budget filmmaker named Mehmet Alemdar—Turkey’s answer to Ed Wood—beat the latter to the punch.
In “Kader Diyelim,” or “Let’s Say It’s Fate,” desperate secretary Bahar steals a stack of money to pay off her boyfriend’s debts and finally get married. On the lam, she stops at a hotel run by a disturbed young man named Naci and in a macabre twist of fate is stabbed to death in the shower. With Bahar missing, her boyfriend Orhan must find out what happened to her and who is responsible.
The original “Psycho” was an independent film, shot outside the studio system with the crew of Hitchcock’s TV show. But “Kader Diyelim” takes “independent” to a psychotic new level. When Mehmet Alemdar made it there was no studio system. There wasn’t even an industry. Thanks to television, home video, and piracy, by the 1990s Turkey’s film industry was nearly as dead as Marion Crane.
So to make a movie at all Alemdar’s resources were stretched to their limits. Since the 1980s he had usually shot his movies on inexpensive videotape. But he felt this project deserved better. Unable to afford theatrical standard 35mm film, however, he opted for the more economical 16mm format, scrounging barely enough film stock for a feature.
He was taking another risk as well. Horror films were an unpopular genre in Turkey. But he shared the producer’s dream to remake a Hitchcock movie and so spent a month transcribing and adapting “Psycho.” And by “adapting” I mean “he turned it into a musical.”
Unlike Sam Loomis in the original film, hero Orhan spends a lot of time singing songs to girls. “Kader Diyelim” was never intended to be Turkey’s first horror musical, but certain obligations intervened. Ten years earlier Alemdar had been set to direct an arabesque musical—a popular genre featuring Arabic style songs—and had paid popular singer Vahdet Vural to star. But the film was never made. Flash forward and, still owing the director a film, Vural offers to star in “Kader Diyelim.” Alemdar is skeptical, but after all his budget is tiny and Vural is still a celebrity, so he agrees. He reworks the script, adds songs, and beefs up Vural’s role. Sadly, no songs were added for the Norman Bates character.
Yet despite this wildly divergent approach, the final film is unmistakably “Psycho.” The structure is virtually identical. Entire scenes are restaged minutely, from the opening sequences in the hotel and the real estate office, to the homey supper with Norman Bates, to the investigation of the infamous cabin.
The differences, though, are much more interesting. Disregarding the songs, the most striking change is the complete absence of “Mother.” Instead we clearly see Naci commit all of the murders, undisguised and wig-less, including four strangers who are dispatched before Bahar even reaches the hotel. Alemdar has said that as a young man in a different culture, rushing to finish a script, he didn’t quite understand the importance of the psychological aspects of “Mother.” Instead, he focused on the split between Naci’s good and evil personalities.
He also created a “hero” with a dark side of his own. Orhan is a more jaded take on “Psycho’s” Sam Loomis, selfish and womanizing. Over the course of the film he carries on relationships with two other women besides Bahar. And he even has an ex-wife to whom he pays alimony. His story doesn’t end happily, and Alemdar, a self-described moralist, wanted to make a statement about the kind of men who take nice girls to cheap hotels on their lunch hour.
Ultimately, Alemdar was not able to create the movie he envisioned. The film was shot in just two weeks, and the director laments its substandard cast. And because of the limited film stock available, several sequences remained unshot, leaving obvious holes in the story. Characters appear without introduction and are swapped out without warning. In post-production his editor had used his best guesses to piece the narrative together.
By any measure “Kader Diyelim” is not a polished film. And the production’s shortcomings, the non-standard 16mm format, and the bleak state of the industry conspired to keep the movie from ever finding distribution. However, its flaws (including, perhaps, the musical numbers) are what make it so fascinating to watch. It’s wildly unusual—rough, raw, and surreal. Its attempt to simultaneously please multiple audiences recalls the “masala” approach of India’s Bollywood. And above all, Alemdar’s “Psycho” takes risks. That’s more than you can say about the Hollywood remake.
“Kader Diyelim” wasn’t Mehmet Alemdar’s first remake. His 1986 version of “Rambo,” called “Ramo,” will be getting a DVD release in 2017 from the new champion of Turkish cult cinema.
Film historian Ali Murat Güven, through his company Aztek, has begun releasing limited edition, official DVDs of Turkish cult classics. His upcoming titles include the Bruce Lee clone “Return of the Dragon” and the Turkish “Star Trek.” But his first release is the jaw-dropping ‘90s action epic “Operation Codename: Long Live the Fatherland” from the director of “Turkish Superman.”
You can see more at Aztek’s website, aztekproduction.com.tr.
Thanks so much for watching and until next week, I’m forecasting… spattered showers.