Turkish James Bond
Global competition, cultural imperialism, and sexy panties.
Allison, Keith. “Golden Boy.” Teleport City. N.p., 08 May 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
Stadtman, Todd. “Golden Boy in Beirut, Aka Altin Çocuk Beyrut’ta (Turkey, 1967).” Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
Uluer, Utku. “Yeşilçam Arkeolojisi: İsveçli Cecilia’nın Altın Çocuk Filmini Kendisine Nasıl Ulaştırdık?” Sinematik Yeşilçam. N.p., 15 June 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
He’s his country’s greatest spy. Deadly, impeccably dressed, and, uniquely, blond. And with so many beautiful women throwing themselves at him…
…there’s nothing for him to do except lie back and think of Turkey.
This time it’s a Deja View… to a kill.
Over half the planet knows James Bond. His movies have been released in more countries than the jet-setting British agent has visited in person.
Bond hit big in Turkey after Istanbul became the backdrop of his second outing, “From Russia with Love.” And soon Eurospy copycats began using the transcontinental city as their own requisite exotic location. Those were local hits too. But Turkey must have noticed that it was regularly playing host to foreign super agents and didn’t yet have one of its own.
So producer Hasan Kazankaya invented one. He hired the fair-haired Göksel Arsoy, teen idol and Turkish cinema’s so-called “golden boy,” as secret agent… “Golden Boy.” And in 1966 he was dispatched on his first adventure.
In “Golden Boy,” or “Altın Çocuk,” Turkey is in the iron grip of supervillain Demetrius. He threatens to destroy the country’s nuclear facilities with remotely-controlled atomic warheads, and the only one who can stop him is the eponymous girl-magnet super-spy.
Golden Boy may be a secret agent from the gateway to the East, but the filmmakers do everything possible to make his adventure feel like a legitimate Western-made Bond movie. In the first place, the film owes much of its heritage to “Thunderball,” from the remote control warheads to the underwater action. And “Thunderball’s” pre-credits sequence, which features a mourning widow who’s really a man, baby, is replicated later in the film.
However it’s more pastiche than remake, and the film incorporates loads of 007 tropes, motifs, and moments. The credits play like a budget version of Maurice Binder’s intros, with a half-nude girl dancing in front of a mirror to the movie’s theme song. Golden Boy himself is apparently killed in the first scene, borrowing a tradition of opening fakeouts that began in “From Russia with Love” and continued through “You Only Live Twice.” And the cat fancying evil genius is a clear homage to Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Then there are the staples like the elaborate death traps, the case full of weapons and gizmos, the bevy of fawning femmes, and of course the international locales.
Hasan Kazankaya aspired to the cosmopolitan style of the Bond productions. He lavished a substantial budget on “Golden Boy” which allowed for the shooting of an extended sequence in London. Thus Golden Boy jets to the UK on holiday, drives around all the scenic spots, and spends his time picking up girls and buying drinks. It does not relate to the rest of the plot. So why even spend all that time in England?
Well to make his Golden Bond feel legitimate, Kazankaya needed exotic women and at least one exotic location. And if that happened to be the one that gave Bond to the world, even better.
Also note the credits: “London scenes directed by Mr. Ray Bowman,” “British and French TV stars involved in the film’s British scene,” and starring the “Swedish Cover Girl” Cecilia Åkerfeldt. Those aren’t entirely accurate. “Mr. Ray Bowman,” if even real, was an unknown with an exaggerated title. The “British and French TV stars” were girls with no on-camera experience hired in London as glorified extras. And the “Swedish Cover Girl,” though indeed Swedish, was discovered at her friend’s wedding and had never graced a cover in her life.
On the one hand, such ploys recall many Eurospy movies, which would often disguise themselves to appeal to an international market by Anglicizing their credits. But on the other hand, “Golden Boy” was made for an exclusively Turkish audience. And it seems strange to overstress its foreign connections using trumped-up credits just for the local market. But in this case those Western elements were a badge of status and quality.
Since the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 there had been a massive push to modernize and westernize. And this had the unintended side effect of valuing elements of Western culture as automatically superior. Turkish filmmakers would often therefore strive to meet a Western “standard,” and the globe-hopping nature of a Bond film gave them a chance to really go for broke. Showing that Golden Boy was just as international as 007 was an excuse to smother the movie in more Western sauce than usual. Kazankaya was making the most of that cultural cachet, assuring his audience quality through foreignness.
Not that this quest for legitimacy didn’t involve some… cheating. In addition to fudging the credits, maintaining the Bond feel with the underwater action also involved a little subterfuge. The budget might have accommodated a scuba sequence, but filming underwater had never been done in a Turkish film. The equipment simply wasn’t available. So while the above-water shots were filmed on the Bosphorus, the rest was taken hook, line, and sinker from a French spy movie, “OSS 117 se déchaîne.”
The soundtrack also does some borrowing, with needle drops from “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball.”
In the end “Golden Boy” is a real balancing act. While putting forth a proudly Turkish answer to James Bond, it still measures itself against 007’s own exploits. But Western viewers will still find plenty of excitement and novelty in addition to the familiar elements, as the film earns a itself an honored position in Eurospy canon.
In typical Bond fashion, the ending promises a sequel. It came the very next year: “Golden Boy in Beirut.” For most of its runtime it’s a solid noirish thriller, and then suddenly we meet the hero’s nemesis who looks like… how can I describe him?
Sounds like double-O heaven. Thanks so much for watching, and we’ll see you next time.