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Wild Blood
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by Jay Seaver

"Not good at all, but you should see at least one of these things."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Every few years, the festival will have a sidebar that is basically "movies that have an important place in pop culture history somewhere in the world, even though they're kind of objectively terrible", and it's probably worth checking one out so you've got some idea of that chapter of cinematic history in your head. But, don't look too much more closely than "right place, right time" for why these action movies were a big deal in Turkey; the likes of "Wild Blood" are not good movies, no matter how excited the people of Turkey were to see this sort of home-grown action at the time.

This one opens with a flurry of witnesses in a potential trial against Hasmet (Hüseyin Peyda) being rubbed out, mostly at the hands of son Osman (Osman Betin). Unfortunately for him, his most bitter enemy, Riza (Cüneyt Arkin), escapes from the military police escorting him, although not until after saving the lives of his guards. As he moves through the wilderness, making his way to Hasmet's well-guarded stronghold, he meets up with another escapee, the daughter (Emel Tümer) of one of the other witnesses.

It's barely seconds into the film before the audience is struck by how choppy the editing of this movie is, especially for something made in the early 1980s, bouncing all over the place, with random cuts to weird angles and a tendency to leave a conversation midway through, but without a pause to indicate it's a bit of a cliffhanger moment. It seldom reaches the point of complete incoherence, but it reflects a "throw it all together" feel, content to explain some bit or piece of Riza's deal whenever they get around to it. There aren't very many transitions or bit of exposition in the movie that aren't somehow bumpy, like it doesn't matter how things are connected so long as they're all there.

That's the way the film in general plays - it's got all the basic pulpy ingredients, with its outlaw hero nevertheless having a code of honor as he not only fights with knives and guns, but must survive on his own in the wilderness. The heroine is generally pretty useless in a fight, but she wears a variety of ripped outfits nicely, and then gamely has a sequence where she's not wearing any at all. There's plenty of action of course, often laughable with explosions coming out of nowhere and punches being unconvincing just as often as they're enthusiastic in their exchange. There's a full family of villains - corrupt mastermind, cold killer, sadistic freak.

There's no element to this movie that's done particularly well, so one may wonder how it winds up taking up a valuable screening slot at a major festival 35 years later, part of an unironic tribute. It's not so difficult to figure out; writer and star Cüneyt Arkin recognized the pulp trappings that people responded to and distilled it down to its essence, making sure to create something that steals from the best and most popular but adapts it to local expectations. Wild Blood is a First Blood knock-off, sure, but it's one made with enthusiasm. There's a ridiculous scene early on where Osman's henchmen seem to be rapist zombies, and it's easy to react with scorn (or, worse, condescending ironic "appreciation") at how nonsensical it is, but Arkin and director Çetin Inanç don't add something like that to the movie if they're just looking to do a cheap rip-off entirely for the money. That's guys trying to entertain as much as they can without the resources that the American inspiration had.

It doesn't necessarily make "Wild Blood" charming or a hidden gem; it's a bad movie. But it's the sort of bad movie that's worth seeing to understand just how far influences spread, and for how cheap local grindhouse fare could have as much of an impact on a culture's cinema as its masterpieces.

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originally posted: 07/18/17 02:46:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Çetin Inanç

Written by
  Çetin Inanç
  Cüneyt Arkin

  Cüneyt Arkin
  Emel Tümer
  Hüseyin Peyda

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