Thursday, 28 January 2010

Badi (aka Turkish E.T.) (1983)

"Sorry kid, Reese's Pieces give me gas."

I'm going to be honest here. I don't really like E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial all that much. Yeah, I know it's really well made and that all the kids give amazing, naturalistic performances and one of them says "penis breath" (at least until Spielberg's guns-to-walkie-talkies wussification). My parents took me to see it at the drive-in when I was a kid but I promptly fell asleep, so I don't have any fond childhood memories of seeing the film. I guess I came into it too late. Still, if something were to ever make me appreciate the craft of Spielberg's original it would a low-budget Turkish remake. What's that? There is a Turkish remake? And I've already seen it and I'm writing a review of it right now? Huh. Weird.

Rather than focusing on a single boy's relationship with E.T., Badi ups the ante by including two boys. One is a fair-haired kid named Bülent and the other is a dark-haired kid named Ali (thanks imdb). Bülent is an outgoing kid with several siblings who is busy performing science experiments in the attic when he isn't being chased around by his Super-Mario-esque father under the threat of hilarious child abuse. Ali, on the other hand, is a shy only child with a single mother (I think) and a love for animals. So great is his love for the animal kingdom that he is able to communicate with his pet bird using a series of chirps and whistles.

Unfortunately, Ali's friendship with animals takes a rather tragic turn at the beginning of the film. He befriends a stray dog and tries to take it to his school, without success, but the next day he discovers that the dog has been shot by a local policeman. As the corpse was unceremoniously dumped into the back of a truck it became apparent to me that it really was a dead dog, and what's more that it was the same dog as before. I wondered if maybe the dog was just sedated, but that seems unlikely considering the film appears to be shot in a slum with a budget of 67 cents. Nope, they genuinely killed the dog to make this film. I expect this shit from Italian cannibal films, but not copyright-flaunting Turkish kid flicks. For shame.

With his canine chum out of the picture, the scene is set for Ali's heartwarming intergalactic friendship, but first we are introduced to a few other characters. In Spielberg's film the adult characters are largely absent and/or evil, but here a trio of alien-hunting scientists play a much larger role. There is a woman, who befriends a local electronics repairman, some other guy and an old man. Sorry I can't get more specific than that, but the only Turkish I know are the swears and they aren't likely to show up in a kids' flick so I'm out of luck. Judging by the coloured lighting and shocked expressions, they manage to detect Badi's spacecraft when it lands, although they and a mob of pitchfork-wielding townsfolk all fail to find Badi himself.

In the original movie, E.T. was sent to Earth to collect living specimens for research, but before he could get back to the mother ship and fire up the anal probe it left without him. It's an effective scene that taps into a universal childhood fear of abandonment. In this version, however, Badi just waddles off the smoke-and-disco-lights spaceship and the ship takes off. There's no explanation as to what he's doing there, although one look at him suggets they were dumping his ugly ass like a chihuahua the day after Christmas. Sure, E.T. may resemble a freshly laid turd, but Badi looks like something fished out of a dumpster behind a Ferengi abortion clinic. He's a midget in a cheap rubber suit that looks like a dildo with stumpy legs, rubbery gorilla arms and a face that's both ridiculous and a little bit too human. Terrifying.

Of course, following this there's the scene where Ali meets Badi for the first time. In the original it's a great suspenseful scene that's comically defused when E.T. is just as scared of Elliot as Elliot is of him. It's a pretty pathetic recreation here, with Ali turning and running for his life and Badi, lacking any sort of mobility or articulation, performing an awkward about-face and stumbling off in the other direction. They must have liked this scene though, because they do it again later when he is introduced to Bülent.

The next day Badi visits Ali at home while he is feigning illness to stay home from school. Once he's alone Badi telekinetically opens the front door and, I'm not kidding here, shoots a blast of smoke out of his dick. I'm not sure what they were going for but it was a pretty hilarious misfire. Following this there's the obligatory bonding scene. Ali shows Badi his family photo album, while Badi makes a couple of apples levitate and heals Ali's ankle. It differs a little from the original (I'm pretty sure that E.T. never fondled one of Elliot's nudie mags for instance, although I could be wrong) but they do have an analog to the scene where E.T. eats Reece's Pieces. Badi's mask lacks any sort of articulation though, so he instead feeds Ali some sort of Turkish treat (Turkish delight, perhaps?) and in a shot almost as digusting as Badi himself, Ali starts laughing with his mouth full. A few hours on Earth and Badi is already learning bad habits.

After they pull the gag where Ali's mother wanders around the kitchen with Badi hiding in plain sight, Ali introduces Badi to Bülent and the other kids. In E.T. there's a famously improvised line where, upon meeting the alien, Drew Barrymore says "I don't like his feet." If E.T. looked anything like Badi I can only imagine what she might have said, but I'm sure her distaste would have extended well beyond his lower extremities. Indeed, upon meeting him Bülent's younger brother bursts into tears. Later, when Ali goes to sleep, he has a pretty weird dream where he takes Badi to school and everyone starts doing the chicken dance, including the teacher. Yeah sure, whatever.

Eventually Badi gets bored at home and decides to visit Ali and Bülent at their school, surprising a janitor who falls down in shock and cracks his head on the concrete steps. Once Badi enters the classroom they once again pull the gag where the geriatric teacher wanders around, oblivious to Badi's presence, until he finally spots him and keels over from a heart attack. In fact, Badi leaves quite a sizable trail of psychological trauma and busted heart valves in his wake. When Bülent's father spots Badi wandering the halls (he mistakes him for one of his kids and hilariously threatens to beat him) Badi hits him with another blast of dick-smoke, inspiring a Scooby Doo chase sequence and turning Bülent's father into a gibbering basket-case. Even Ali's mother doesn't escape unscathed, spotting Badi and having yet another heart attack.

While the scientists fart about with oscilloscopes and soldering irons, the blonde kid uses his scientific skills to build a communication device for Badi, constructed primarily from an umbrella covered with aluminium foil, a big silver ball and a circular saw blade. They bring it to the local funfair so they can use the ferris wheel to get a good location to transmit. They also bring along all the kids in town, for some reason, so Badi uses his telekinetic powers to activate all the rides in the park. Way to keep a low profile. The film then takes on a weird Lord of the Flies vibe when Ali gives a rousing, fist-pumping speech to all the kids while perched atop a ride car, but soon the kids hear sirens and scatter.

The next day Ali is totally depressed because Badi has gone missing. Luckily, and I could be wrong here, Ali's pet bird tells him that Badi is lying in the boot of their car. How did the bird know this? Why didn't he say so earlier? Why was Badi in here? I have no idea, but Badi is looking pretty ill after his ordeal and to make things worse a squad of riot police and a garden-tool wielding mob come marching down the street looking for him. Luckily all of the neighbourhood kids cause a distraction (read: riot) by donning masks and running through the streets with smoke grenades, dumping marbles all over the ground and shooting toy guns at the police. Not particularly sensible behaviour, especially with police that regularly gun down harmless stray dogs, but it masks their escape long enough for Bülent and Ali to steal a scrap cart from an old man (who appears to be having a stroke) and recreate the famous flying sequence from the original film. It's truly magical, if by magical you mean a cheap green-screen effect.

Thus we say our tearful goodbyes to Badi, the rubbery freak who waddled off his cheap, unconvincing spacecraft and into our hearts. This particular Turkish rip-off probably isn't as much fun as 3 Dev Adam or Turkish Star Wars, but it's worth a look, especially for Badi himself, who makes the protagonists of bottom-of-the-barrel E.T. rip-offs like Nukie look cute and cuddly by comparison. Most importantly of all, this film has filled my heart with childlike wonder. I may have watched this film in Turkish without subtitles, but truly the magical language of Badi is universal.

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