Turkish Captain America
Did you know that the first ever Captain America movie was Turkish? Get ready for “Uç Dev Adam”!
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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After much anticipation, Marvel Studios’ “Captain America: The First Avenger” is exploding into theaters. But until now, the star spangled hero has never had a proper big screen outing in his home country.
For that, he had to hop a plane to Turkey.
So get ready for a patriotic triple punch of red, white… and Deja View.
Despite two TV movies and a direct-to-video feature, Captain America’s only prior appearance on the silver screen was in a 1944 Republic serial.
But in 1973, director T. Fikret Uçak sent him on a mission to Turkey, to hunt down that diabolical super villain with the red face… Spider-Man.
Superhero films were all the rage in Turkey in the ’60s and ’70s: “Spy Smasher”, “Iron Claw”; versions of “Superman”, “Batman”, and “The Phantom”; and even anti-heroes like Killing from the pages of lurid Italian photonovels.
Uçak was certainly no stranger to comic book movies, having previously directed an adaptation of Turkish comic “Tarkan”. But he wanted to take the trend a step further by incorporating several masked characters — favorites from his childhood — into one film.
The result was “Uç Dev Adam” — Three Mighty Men. It’s a truly international affair, bringing to Turkey not only Captain America, but also famed Mexican wrestler El Santo.
Fans will notice right off the bat that Captain America is missing his trademark shield and helmet wings, but the real aberration is the sinister Spider-Man!
With Captain America and Santo on the case, Uçak wanted an especially powerful foe to oppose them. His solution was to turn another major superhero… into a supervillain. Because Turkish audiences were only minimally familiar with Spider-Man, Uçak was able to take as many liberties as he wished. Hence, this Spider-Man is a sadistic, murderous crime lord with an international counterfeiting operation! And what’s more, he has the superhuman but distinctly un-spider-like ability to spontaneously duplicate himself.
Now what’s interesting about Turkish masked heroes is that most of the time their masks… are optional. Secret identities weren’t very common in these films, so the protagonists generally wore their headgear as a fashion accessory, used only as the mood struck them.
As such, Captain America and Santo spend most of the film in civilian clothing. Indeed, their explanation for wearing masks at all is… perhaps a bit dubious:
Captain America: Spider is a child-minded lunatic. He always wears a mask. When he sees someone else wearing a mask, he wants to destroy them. My special outfit is bulletproof.
Another common thread with these films is that the heroes rarely had real super powers, instead taking a cue from the Batman school of putting on a costume and beating up bad guys.
And as was always the case with Yesilcam cinema, the production’s resources were extremely limited, and special effects that Hollywood took for granted had to be invented from the ground up. Star Aytekin Akkaya describes a sequence in which bullets had to bounce off of Captain America’s chest.
Another tradition was to lift music from American sources, and the particularly attentive will notice many borrowed tracks here, including the main theme from the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”
Actor Dogan Tamer explains that the four necessary elements for a profitable Turkish action film were violence, sex, sadism, and heroism — and “Uç Dev Adam” has them all in spades. Nevertheless, it took months for the movie to find success. Finally, Uçak rented a booth at a film festival where he found an international distributor who, among other feats, turned “Uç Dev Adam” into the first Turkish movie sold in Tanzania.
Happily it did find an audience, because this is an absolutely over-the-top, fantastically fun film. I truly cannot recommend it highly enough.
Unfortunately, the original negatives and film prints of “Uç Dev Adam” were destroyed in a fire, and the only copies that remain have been sourced from videotape. In fact the first 16 seconds of the film were thought to be lost entirely until Onar Films discovered them on a 20 year-old Greek VHS and restored them for an official DVD release. That’s the kind of dedication that keeps these films alive.
Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see you next time.