L. Frank BaumMetin SerezliSuleyman TuranZeynep Degirmencioglu
Turkish Wizard of Oz
Also known as: Aysecik ve Sihirli Cuceler Ruyalar Ulkesinde
Medium: film
Year: 1971
Director: Tunc Basaran
Writer: L. Frank Baum, Hamdi Degirmencioglu
Keywords: Wizard of Oz, fantasy, musical, Aysecik
Country: Turkey
Language: Turkish
Actor: Zeynep Degirmencioglu, Suleyman Turan, Metin Serezli, Suna Selen, Ali Sen, Mine Sun, Cemal Konca, Sitki Sezgih, Ilhan Hemseri, Murvet Issever, Auszuk Cudidifer, Semra, Seda, Seyhan Gumus, Ferdi Celep, Tayar Yildiz, Hari Turyut, Mehmet Asik, Salih Carpar, Ali Abbas Bayer, Harun Atalay
Format: 88 minutes (although the non-bootleg original is apparently 100 minutes)
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066801/
Website category: Foreign language
Review date: 8 July 2010
That was disappointing. It's not as mad as Turkish Star Wars or Turkish Spider-Man, but that means it's just another cheap, lacklustre movie with quite a lot of Turkish dialogue and no subtitles. I'm afraid I got a bit bored, although I'm sure it's more interesting if you can speak the language.
The real title means "Aysecik and the Magic Dwarfs in the Land of Dreams" and it's one of nearly forty Aysecik films starring Zeynep Degirmencioglu. She'd been in movies since she was a baby and she's still the biggest child star in Turkish cinema history. She's also pretty hot. In this film they've dressed her up to look like a brunette Heidi. Anyway, the Aysecik movie-makers in 1970 had had a hit with a rip-off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, so in 1971 they made uncredited adaptations of other famous stories like Cinderella, Pollyanna and The Wizard of Oz. That Snow White factor might explain why Aysecik is being followed around Oz by seven dwarves (Munchkins?), although don't ask me to explain where they got their teleportation abilities.
Anyway, the film's a more faithful adaptation of L. Frank Baum's book than most other movie versions. We're only in Kansas for a few shots at the beginning and the end, the Wicked Witch isn't in the film much and we even get Baum's odd epilogue after the Wizard's flown away in which Aysecik and her friends go off on more adventures. There's the china village and some dancing cavemen with hammers, who might have been meant to be Baum's Hammerheads. It's faithful enough to be perhaps a bit of a shock to anyone who only knows the Oz movies, which is something you've got to respect.
Unfortunately the movie lacks drive. If you don't speak Turkish, then it's just a bunch of stuff happening. Asyecik is certainly attractive, but she's not really propelling the narrative. Overall one could perhaps argue that the film's worth a spin out of curiosity value, but it's best watched as something in the background while you're doing something else.
Helpfully the characters appear in order of importance. #1 is Aysecik, because she's sexy. #2 is the Gay Scarecrow, who talks like a drag queen and is wearing so much lipstick that he looks like the Joker. Once or twice this makes him a bit creepy, but his flaming queen-ness makes him the most interesting character by miles and clearly the star of the show. One entertaining side-effect of his sexuality is to cast a new light on the Scooby-Doo shots where everyone's standing far too close together to make the cameraman's life easier, which is liable to make the other males look like the Scarecrow's special secret friends. There's one scene where he's so obviously seducing the Tin Man that one can only think the censors edited out the subsequent blow jobs. #3 is the Tin Man, who's got a charming smile, while #4 is a Cowardly Lion in a cheap costume and a strange make-up job. He's got a limp-wristed roar, but compared with the Scarecrow he looks like RoboCop.
No, hang on. #2 should have been the teleporting dwarves, who're all over the film like a rash even though they're not particularly interesting. The Wicked Witch is clearly being played by someone young and attractive, but they've made her up (badly) to look like an ugly hunchback. The Wizard looks like a six-year-old's Halloween costume. The only interesting one of all these characters is the Scarecrow, although the Tin Man is likeable, but even they fade into the background after a while.
So what about the stupid stuff? Let's face it, no one's going to watch this film hoping it's good. The only realistic prospect is that the crazed Turkish stuff might be mad enough to be entertaining. In that spirit, we have:
1. Really cheap special effects. They can't even do convincing teleportation. Most underwhelming is the Emerald City, which isn't even green and can't stretch to a halfway convincing Wizard's chamber. You remember the bit where Dorothy and her friends see the great glowing spectral head of Oz and tremble with fear as they're ordered to kill the Witch? Here we get a skull on an upended table.
2. Music and dance numbers, often badly dubbed. Lots of them. "Shim shim shim."
3. The teleporting dwarves. Functionally they're not unlike Baum's flying monkeys and are used to solve plot problems, especially ones which would be too expensive to solve with special effects. There's an appallingly edited version of the "punt across the river" scene, for instance, in which we learn that the dwarves can teleport other people too. At the end we see that they can even teleport to Kansas (unlike Baum's monkeys), which makes you ask why they hadn't just taken Aysecik home themselves. As characters they're uninteresting and pointless, but they do join in the musical numbers and at one point conjure up a cannon out of nowhere to kill dancing cavemen. No one seems to have a problem with this, but maybe the dwarves are just doing their jobs since they're wearing 19th century soldiers' uniforms.
4. The animated title sequence, with the tornado. I'm being kind by calling it "animated", mind you.
Um, that's it. I'd been hoping for some kind of pinnacle of madness from a Turkish Wizard of Oz, but no. It's just a bit pedestrian and slow. Nothing even remotely scary or dangerous happens for nearly the first half hour, after which we get a cheap but moderately effective version of the talking trees. (These ones don't talk, though.) The china village has its moments. Apart from that... nope. It begins fairly well, but my interest gradually ebbed away over the film's ninety-odd minutes until by the end I couldn't see the point. The Gay Scarecrow's definitely worth watching, but otherwise there's just not much here to recommend.
Aysecik means "little Ayse", by the way.