Interview With Grindflicks’ Randal Black About Fargo’s Turkish Movie Showcase

On Thursday, November 15 at the Sanctuary Events Center in Fargo, North Dakota, Grindflicks will present “Turkish Movie Showcase: A Mega Mix of Turkish Flix.” Greg Carlson talked to Grindflicks founder and events coordinator Randal Black, who has been bringing the best in exploitation cinema to Fargo audiences since 2010, about the wild allure of unofficial re-imaginings of some durable Hollywood titles.

GC: When were you introduced to the group of films knows as Turkish Remakesploitation/Turksploitation/Mockbusters?

RB: With no real effort on my part, I’ve seemed to align myself with people who are into underground film. I was fortunate enough to have a friend at the time who actually collected Turksploitation movies. Like most people, I wasn’t even aware that such movies existed. Of course, the first one my friend played for me was The Man Who Saved the World, better known as “Turkish Star Wars.” I think that would have been around 2002.

GC: What do you like most about Turkish Remakesploitation?

RB: To me, what separates the Turkish mockbusters apart from other exploitation films is the true anarchic spirit that imbues the movies. While most exploitation films tried to cash in by riffing on the “flavor of the month/year,” Turkish production companies were blatantly ripping off existing movies — sometimes with little to no understanding of the source material — and did so without batting an eye. The brazen disregard for Hollywood politics and copyright laws is like a strange form of outlaw cinema. I guess that appeals to me on a certain level.

GC: As remix culture goes, the Turkish variants on well-known Hollywood exports like Jaws and E.T. fall somewhere along the copyright spectrum between freely-adapted tribute/homage and blatant cash-grab plagiarism. What does the exploitation connoisseur say to those who would speak against theft of intellectual property and the unauthorized use of another’s music or character, etc.?

RB: Wow, that’s a really good question. I don’t support the theft of intellectual property when it comes to new and upcoming artists; the literal starving artists that spend their last penny to chase their dreams. They need revenue. They need to be able to take numbers back to producers and studio heads and say “Look, people are willing to throw down money for what I do. Support my vision and help me reach out to more people and we can make even more money.” But when it comes to bonafide blockbusters, honestly, I would probably tell critics to relax. These films were rip-offs of extremely popular movies that made a ton of money. It’s not like “Turkish E.T.” [Badi] and “Turkish Star Wars” took food out of the mouths of [Steven] Spielberg or [George] Lucas.

GC: Do you prefer the shot-for-shot remakes or the ones that diverge substantially from the originals?

RB: I prefer the divergent. They present a wild card element that keeps things fresh and interesting. It’s more entertaining to see a version of Spider-Man as a murderous dick than a friendly neighborhood wallcrawler. I would rather have E.T. inexplicably blow smoke out of his stomach than see his chest light up. Personally, I think shot-for-shot remakes are lazy and unimaginative. Except for “Turkish Exorcist” [Şeytan]. That’s essentially a shot-for-shot remake, but it’s solid gold! Sorry, I tend to be a walking contradiction at times.

GC: How self-aware are these films? Are we laughing at them or with them?

RB: A few of them are self-aware. I think. I hope, anyway. For example, in “Turkish Pink Panther,” there’s a point in the film where the main character is actually going about in a pink, panther costume. I mean, it’s either tongue-in-cheek or the best example of how little some Turkish filmmakers knew about their source material. So, to answer your question, generally we’re laughing at them.

GC: Why did you decide to make a supercut rather than show, say, a complete film like The Man Who Saved the World (Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam) aka “Turkish Star Wars” (Çetin Inanç, 1982)?

RB: There are a few I probably could have shown in their entirety — like “Turkish Star Wars” and “Turkish Exorcist” — but this showcase is more about exposing people to the wider, weirder world of Turksploitation. And, on the flip side, there are so many of these films that would be pretty rough to screen entirely. They have some great moments but are a bit of a slog. I want it to come at the audience so fast and so strange they really won’t have time to process what they’re seeing before the next bizarre image pops on the screen.

GC: When you were putting the show together, what was the one scene or sequence you knew you had to include?

RB: Man, you ask the tough questions. Definitely the flying scenes from “Turkish Superman” [Süpermen Dönüyor]. Definitely.

GC: What Turkish Remakesploitation movie are you most excited to watch that you have not seen yet?

RB: While I was hunting for Turkish movies, I stumbled upon “Turkish Snow White” [Pamuk Prenses ve 7 cüceler]. Unfortunately, I just haven’t made time to sit down and watch it, but I’m certainly intrigued.

GC: What can newcomers to the Grindflicks experience expect when they come to see the Turkish Movie Showcase?

RB: I think that newcomers aren’t used to the kind of cheering and jeering we encourage at our screenings. Grindflicks screenings are movie parties, equal amounts of movie and party. But, newcomer or regular, if you’ve never seen Turksploitation, it’s going to be a unique experience. And, in all honesty, even I never know what to expect at our screenings.

Tickets for the 21+ event are $5 at the door, which opens at 7:00 p.m. The movie starts at 8:00 p.m.

Greg Carlson (@gcarlson1972) is an associate professor of communication studies and the director of the interdisciplinary film studies minor program at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He is also the film editor of the High Plains Reader, where his writing has appeared since 1997.