Saturday, 22 March 2008

Aysecik ve sihirli cüceler rüyalar ülkesinde (aka Turkish Wizard of Oz) (1971)

Our heroes take part in another clumsy, poorly choreographed dance routine

I suppose it's not really fair to call this film a rip-off of the 1939 MGM classic, since the US film was not the first nor the last attempt to adapt Frank L. Baum's classic novel to the big screen. However, this film does take borrow a great deal from the MGM film, and puts it's own bizarre and unmistakably Turkish stamp on the proceedings. It literally translates to "Aysecik and the Magic Dwarfs in the Land of Dreams", Aysecik referring to our Dorothy stand-in, a character who had already starred in a series of Turkish childrens' films. She is played by Zeynep Degirmencioglu, and seems a lot more... glamorous than in the MGM classic. There's no English subtitles, but I doubt they would have helped much anyway. This film is cuckoo-bananas.

Unfortunately, the trading of Kansas for Turkey has left Aysecik's guardians farming a mountainous wasteland, fit for cultivating naught but dust and rocks. Nevertheless, Aysecik lives a happy and carefree existence with her little dog Toto, er, I mean Banju. The arrival of the twister prompts a change to some shoddy cel animation, presumably since it's cheaper to animate than some real-life special effects. Once she wakes up, the film suddenly and inexplicably cuts to Aysecik in the middle of a dance with some Turkish munchkins. She retrieves the silver slippers from the flattened witch (they're silver in the original book and besides ruby is so last year) and with a kiss from the Good Witch she skips into the forest. There's no brick road in this version, yellow or otherwise, just acres of dull Turkish woodland.

Dorothy comes across the scarecrow in a field, in a scene that plays out similar to the MGM movie, except that for some reason the scarecrow is a mincing gay stereotype. Fabulous! After his rescue, Aysecik and the scarecrow engage in a song and dance routine that seemingly goes on forever, not helped by the fact that neither of them can sing or dance. They also find the tin woodsman rusted up in a clearing in another sequence much like the 1939 film, although I swear the scarecrow hits on the tin woodsman at one point. The cowardly lion suffers the worst from the reduced budget, wearing a baggy body suit with clumps of hair stapled to his groin.

After a run-in with some gropetastic trees, the three of them stumble across a miniature village of living dolls. Two of the creepy dolls have a chat with Aysecik, which ends with everyone in tears (the Tin Woodsman is unaffected, presumably due to his lack of a heart). Following a brief journey on a river raft, they receive another visit from the munchkins.

Now it should be noted that the munchkins are a little different in this film. There are seven of them, and they can perform magic and appear and disappear at will. They dress like Nutcrackers and tend to line up in height order and laugh their asses off at absolutely everything. Here they have a clumsy song and dance with Aysecik and company, and then send them on their way.

At an incredibly bad model of the Emerald Palace, they meet up with a frighteningly jolly fellow in a fez, who leads them to meet the Wizard of Oz. The magic dwarves also appear to slingshot pebbles at the portly fellow's ass and then disappear when he turns around. They must have thought this was particularly amusing because they proceed to repeat the sequence several times. They finally meet the Wizard who, rather unimpressively, turns out to be skull on a table next to a flaming oil drum. Presumably, the Wizard instructs them to kill the Wicked Witch and they leave.

This is followed by a bizarre scene, where the scarecrow is disemboweled and turned into a pile of hay in which to hide Aysecik and the cowardly lion. I presume were trying to hide from the gaze of the Wicked Witch (who in this version, has a face that appears to be covered in a horrible fungus), but it doesn't work because she watches all of this occur. She sends out her soldiers, who tear apart the scarecrow and bash the tin woodsman with oversized styrofoam boulders.

Aysecik is taken to see the Wicked Witch who puts her in a dungeon. After the Witch tricks her into giving up her silver slippers, Aysecik defeats the Wicked Witch by throwing some water on her. This causes her to writhe around in an orgiastic manner before disappearing off camera. The soldiers of the Wicked Witch are happy to be free of her, and Aysecik and her pals return to see the Wizard, who is revealed as a man in a cheap Merlin costume. He gives what I assume is the speech about their brains, heart and courage being inside them all along. He agrees to see her home in a hot air balloon, but thanks to Banju's antics, she misses the balloon and the Wizard (or at least a doll in a model hot air balloon) floats away alone.

So, Aysecik and her three friends are on the road again in an attempt to find the Good Witch. They stop in for a song and dance number with the doll village, before coming across some caves filled with hammer-wielding cavemen. Thankfully, the munchkins appear and blast the cavemen with a cannon. The munchkins, of course, find their acts of violence hilarious. After several more awful dance sequences, she finally meets up with the Good Witch, and after a tearful goodbye, Aysecik clicks her heels three times and she's back on her dirt farm.

In some ways, this film is more faithful to Frank L. Baum's book than the 1939 film, but the pacing and editing make it seem like a random sequence of unconnected events. Frequent song and dance sequences are hampered by a cast who are obviously not up to the task. It doesn't have the manic energy and abstract craziness of Turkish Star Wars, but it's certainly strange, especially for someone who grew up with the MGM classic.

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