During the ’60s and ’70s Turkey became one of the biggest producers of film, as movie theaters were the only form of mass media that every Turkish citizen could afford. During this time, the financially and structurally weak ‘Yeşilçam’ film industry was churning out the same plots to satisfy demand without proper equipment and only a handful of screenwriters and directors. The same story of poor boy meets rich girl (or vice versa), the siblings separated at birth, or the farmer boy discovering the big city were starting to become stale due to excessive repetition.
It was then that the filmmakers had a bright idea, ushered on by the almost non-existent copyright laws of the time. Yeşilçam began producing remakes of European, American, and Indian movies using the same scenes and soundtracks, even borrowing whole segments of special effects when the budget was too tight. Only the plots and characters were changed somewhat to satisfy the cultural whims of the Turkish audience.
Take a look at some of the most hilarious remakes from the famous Yeşilçam era:
The Yeşilçam remake of Steven Spielberg’s tale of a gentle alien who becomes stranded on earth features a spaceship that seems to have been made of carton and Christmas lights, a very bad alien costume complete with a fog machine in the crotch area, and a whole lot of screaming. Even though this production only got a 3.4 on IMDB, it’s still worth a watch for a good laugh from beginning to end.
Christopher Reeve’s performance of Superman in 1978 was definitely the inspiration behind this sad attempt at a remake, where the exact replica of Superman’s costume leaves no room for second guessing. The unforgettable sound of bullets being fired in Yeşilçam has become rather iconic, and there’s plenty of that in this amazing clip where Superman really seems to be flying through the clouds (not).
Certainly the most well-known Yeşilçam remake, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saved the World) has become a cult classic, partly due to its leading actor, Turkish icon Cüneyt Arkın, who shot more than 250 films in his heyday. There’s plenty of stolen scenes from the original Star Wars, stolen music from Indiana Jones, a Darth Vader-like character whose outfit is composed of cardboard, bright orange fuzzy monsters, and plenty of action scenes where one punch from Arkın is enough to kill his enemy. You’ll be happy to know the entire film is available online.
Based on William Friedkin’s iconic horror film starring Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow, the Turkish Şeytan (Devil) follows the story of twelve-year-old Canan, daughter of a high society Istanbul family, who becomes possessed by the devil after playing around with a Ouija Board. There’s plenty of low-budget special effects, screaming, bad acting, and staring in disbelief.
Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler (Ayşe and the Magic Dwarves) is pretty much an exact replica of The Wizard of Oz, except for a few name changes, very bad special effects, and a lot of strange creatures that don’t seem magical at all. Produced in 1971, this fantastically awful film follows the journey of Ayşecik and her dog Banju who are transported to Rüyalar Ülkesi (The Land of Dreams) in an animated tornado.
For more in depth information about Yeşilçam, check out Cem Kaya’s 2014 documentary Remake, Remix, RipOff, which features Turkey’s directing legends, producers, actors, and film scientists, as well as great excerpts from some of the best (worst) remakes.