Before I start, I should note that this Turkish extravaganza was in fact dubbed and given an “International” English dub track, whereupon it played as Tarkan and the Blood of the Vikings. Whether this played in drive-ins here I do not know. It may have just hit the Euro circuit. The version I’m reviewing, in any case, features the original Turkish language track and English subtitling.
For the record, Tarkan was a popular Turkish comic book character, and his adventures inspired several movies back in the day when the Turks where grinding out films by the hundreds every year. I’ve seen but a scant handful of these, like Lionman II, but they definitely warrant interest.
Happily, then, the Mondo Macabre DVD for this film offers a second Turkish feature, The Deathless Devil, a superhero pic that is equally entertaining. Aside from the two movies, the disc includes an invaluable (and saliva-drip inducing) nearly half hour documentary on Turkish pop movies, covering many of the films or characters spotlighted in this roundtable. This DVD is a neat little package, pretty much a must buy.
Sadly, no similar films have been forthcoming. Worse, it’s quite possible that many don’t survive, despite being made less than forty years ago. Even German films like the lesser entries in the Dr. Mabuse series from that period have apparently disappeared, and it’s entirely possible that when the Turkish film industry dried up, the master prints of possibly hundreds of movies were destroyed to clear up warehouse space—a fate that also befell a myriad of American and British TV and radio programs from yesteryear—or simply left to molder into nonexistence.
Several examples do survive, although again they have (sadly) apparently not proven popular enough to inspire further Region 1 releases. However, those who have made the leap to All Region DVD players may find several examples of insane Turkish cinema at Xploitedcinema.com, which offers many titles on the Region 0 PAL format.
In any case, Tarkan proved a popular film commodity, and several movies adapting his comic book adventures were made. The series really took off when actor Kartal Tibet, sort of a Turkish Charles Bronson, assumed the role. Vikings is one of half a dozen such pictures he made.
As we open, we learn that the Turks share with the Chinese a charming disregard for copyright protections. The bombastic background music heard here is in fact the main theme from the then recent The Lion in Winter (1968). There’s actually a parallel in the action that perhaps explains why they choose this piece. In Lion, the film opens with Katherine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine traveling down a river in an oar-driven galley to meet up with her estranged husband, Peter O’Toole’s King Henry II.[*To hear a sample of this, page down to the track list found here and click the button to the left of the first entry. You might keep the link handy. I’ll report when the cue is heard again, which is often (albeit generally in short bursts). You may opt to add a certain ‘Radio of the Mind’ effect by playing the music where appropriate.]
Here we open with a rather more conventional, if rather gaudily painted (thing Queer Eye for the Viking Guy) slave galley. Indeed, when we cut inside this proves the sort of thing that might come out of a kit you ordered from a movie scene catalogue: fat, shirtless drummer; sadistic whip guy prowling the aisle and enthusiastically providing negative reinforcement; emaciated, brutalized slaves, etc.
A narrator sets the scene: “When Europe was in the darkness of the Middle Ages, the most barbarous people of all lived in the northern lands: the Vikings.” He briefly describes their depravations, adding, “The Hun storm through Europe had ravished the whole continent, and left all countries defenceless [sic], which left the way open for the Vikings to continue their pillage.” The Huns apparently did a really good job, given the hundreds of years that lay between their era and that of the Vikings.
“The great Turkish chief Attila was heading westwards,” the Voice continues, “leaving only small Hun forces in the lands he conquered. The Vikings took advantage of this, attacking any weak spots.” Soâ€¦what? Are they really saying this film is set in the time of Attila the Hun (roughly 400-450 AD), and that this era corresponded to Viking raids on Turkey?!*[*Actually, the subtitling calls the guy, who we never see, “Atilla,” but I assume that’s just another typo.]
So a little investigation reveals the answer to beâ€¦yes and no. Tarkan, I learned (and sadly there’s not a lot of information on him), was in his comic book roots a warrior in Attila’s army. Obviously, that hardly accounts for the nearly 300 years between Attila’s reign and the earliest Viking raids. Which means that the whole idea isâ€¦weird. To be fair, though, it would be much sillier if Attila were being plagued by, oh, the Wehrmarcht.
Maybe it’s best to just move on, other than to note the concurrant strangeness of basing a heroic saga around a proud member of Attila’s army. Presumably the Turks had a lot more of a live and let live attitude on this sort of thing.
We cut to a woman and four guys on horses (presumably Huns, since Vikings aren’t known for their equestrian skills) riding across a plain. They are spotted by some dudes in a big European-style castle, of just the sort the Huns are remembered for having built and/or occupied. The castle is also suspiciously weathered, as if it were many centuries old, if you know that I mean.
It should be noted that everyone is wearing period costumes that are not, shall we say, entirely convincing to the eye. Everything looks suspiciously new, for one thing. “Three horsemen from afar!” the sentry announces. At the same time, he reports that from their togs, they also appear to be Huns. Soâ€¦he can see their clothes well enough to identify their origins, but can’t see that there are five of them rather than three?
Aybars, the commander of the Huns’ castle, calls forth. He is answered by a woman, who is in fact Lady Yonca, Attila’s daughter. He orders the gate opened, and the party enters. This allows us to see the characters at closer range, which isn’t doing the costuming any favors. Yonca, who wears a big red fluffy hat and has long, oddly clean hair, announces that she is traveling to join her father.
“Is coming with three guards courage, or recklessness,” Aybars inquires. (Or four guards, for that matter. But who’s counting? “I have a whole army to protect me,” she smugly replies. Here the camera cuts to a nearby hillside, and a dramatic music cue accompanies the introduction of Tarkan and two *cough* ‘wolves.’* The latter are apparently traveling incognito as German Shepherds.Given this, Tarkan’s name can hardly be viewed as a coincidence.]
Tarkan apparently normally rides with one Faithful Lupine Companion, and so the matter of there being two of them is raised. “They are father and son,” Tarkan announces, posing dramatically with his fists resting on his hips. “You invincibility has doubled!” Aybars replies, which is technically impossible. On the other hand, Aybars can’t even count to four, so I guess I shouldn’t expect him to exhibit advanced linguistic comprehension.
Aybars informs Our Hero that he’s sent most of his men out to deal with some rebels. (Which also means, happily enough, that the filmmakers didn’t have to pay for and costume more extras.) “It doesn’t seem wise to leave such a big fort defenceless [sic],” Tarkan responds. Yeah, other than the giant friggin’ stone walls, it’s now completely vulnerable.
“Is anyone in the world fool enough to attack Attila’s fort,” Aybars scoffs. “And we have three squadrons of Turkish women here, each one worth ten men.” (Uhm, if that’s true, wouldn’t you solely enlist Turkish females?) Tarkan remains uneasy, however. “Water sleeps,” he notes.* “The enemy doesn’t.” This is especially true, presumably, of enemies who won’t really exist for another three hundred years or so.[*Actually, it does not.]
Cut back to the Viking long boat, which carries what seems to be a mighty army of about fifteen guys. Topside, we meet Toro, their leader. This is a guy in a plastic Viking helmet, a cape, wrist gauntlets and a short skirt seemingly made (and I am not exaggerating) from fluffy blue bathmats, and one of the most extraordinary mustaches I’ve ever seen. It looks like he’s got a furry harmonica glued to his lip. Meanwhile, to my delight, the ship’s main sail is emblazoned with a big, stylized octopus.
With Toro is Ursula, because they need a girl baddie for Yonca to eventually slay. Also, she can show her breasts for our edification, because she’s bad, which would not become Our Heroine. And let me again emphasize: Our Heroine is Attila’s the Hun’s daughter. For her part, Ursula is attired in a bright red full length tunic over a full chain mail bodysuit.
“You’ll see the Turks’ fort soon,” Toro promises, “but they won’t see us.” And even if they do, they’ll apparently only think you’re three guys. He also asserts his surety that Yonca will be found there. Lucky for him, then, that she arrived there all of five minutes ago. “[The fort’s] soldiers are busy quelling the revolts elsewhere,” he continues. Toro apparently has a surprisingly good intelligence gathering capacity. “Our Emperor wants that girl, and I’ll get her for him,” Ursula exposits. “And I’ll get your gold,” Toro agrees. Well, that clears up the motivation end of things.
Inside the fort, Aybars, Yonca and Tarkan are having a feast, joined by two other women. “You seem to treat those beasts as your brothers!” Aybars sneers at Tarkan. He’s talking about his dogs wolves, not the women. Yonca replies that Tarkan’s canine lupine companions are welcome at her table at any time.
Tarkan lays a Leg of Something (I hope it’s an animal) before Kurt, the adult dog, who basically functions as his Tonto. However, Kurt refrains from tucking in. “Why doesn’t he eat?” Aybars grouses. “It’s his custom to feed his son first,” Tarkan announces, placing another leg before the younger, half-grown dog wolf. This, they fail to name for a good long time, so I’ll call him Yurt, for Young Kurt.
In any case, Yurt, too, abstains. “Now he doesn’t eat!” Aybars sneers. “He won’t touch food before his father does!” Tarkan explains. This means, if I’m following this right, that both dogs wolves should have starved to death long ago. However, having observed what are apparently the necessary formalities, the older dog wolf begins to eat, followed by the younger. “Kurt is raising his son like a good Turk!” Tarkan quips. “You speak as though they were your kin,” Aybars observes. “They are more to me than kin,” Tarkan answers, “far more.” Man, I really hope he doesn’t mean what I think he means.
The Viking land at the coast nearby the fort (they have two ships, apparently) and Toro and his force disembarks, leaving Ursula behind. Back at the fort, meanwhile, Tarkan is displaying his trademark archery skills. He hits a bull’s eye with one shaft, which is immediately retrieved for him by Yurt. “I see they’re both well trained,” Aybars notes.
Tarkan fires another arrow, but this coincides with a guard catching a shat in the back. It’s the Vikings, who in their bright blue togs with colorful fur accents have snuck up on the fort and are now menacing the front gate with a gigantic wheeled battering ram. Apparently they hadn’t really gotten the whole ‘sentry’ thing down by this point. Going “WHOAAAA!!” with each attack, they soon batter down the door, and are in the fort.
Meanwhile, Tarkan is up in the battlements, fighting Vikings who are scaling the walls with ladders. I’ve got to say, those guys really know how to pack gear on their teeny boats of theirs. Extras run past the cameras many times to simulate greater numbers than the director had available. This is good, since there are a good dozen “Turkish women” on hand. According to Aybars’ calculations, these alone should be able to account for a gross of Vikings, which is way more than they have on hand. Add that to the score that Tarkan and his mutts wolves dispatch.
All in all it’s a fairly typical low-budget melee. Guys trap sword thrusts in their armpits; scream as they fall from parapets, fall bloodlessly to ground as swords are waved vaguely in their direction and so on. At one point, Chief Viking Henchman Patch, so nicknamed for his eye patch, natch, skewers a woman who is standing in the middle of the fight with a baby in her arms. (And really, how sorry can you feel for her?) Per tradition, once the sword penetrates their bodies to emerge through the other side, it’s somehow about twice as long as when it started.
Yonca gets grabbed, and she calls to Tarkan for help. Unfortunately, he catches an arrow in the back as he moves toward her. That’s not enough to bring down a he-man like him, though, so he gets another. This triggers a burst of Morricone Spaghetti Western music, which I know but can’t identify. I’ll call it [Morricone music cue] when it pops up again, however.
Toro prepares to take out Yurt with a spear. Seeing his son in danger, however, Kurt leaps to the rescue, only to be impaled himself. Hilariously, the camera then attempts a staggered shock zoom shot to Yurt, presumably to capture his profound grief at this turn of events. Sadly, the dog playing Yurt was not much of an actor. His cheerful head turning and tongue-lolling suggests his uppermost thought at the moment is not horror at seeing his father struck down, but “SNAUSAGES!”
Yurt attempts to retaliate against Toro, but takes a sword hilt to the head for his trouble. His victory now complete, Toro orders everyone killed and the place burned down (although it is made of stone) before he and his men return to their boats. He takes all the women, however, as he doesn’t know which one is Yonca.
Back at the fort, Yurt rises and stands over his father’s *cough* dead (if visibly breathing) body and whines. I will say that Yurt, although still a growing dog wolf, has many amazing talents. For instance, he’s mastered ventriloquism, which he displays by howling in grief whilst keeping his mouth from moving.
Having said his piece, Yurt moves on to Tarkan. Who, not to surprise the hell out of you or anything, isn’t quite dead yet. Yurt again howls without moving his jaws, and I guess they were like, eh, who’ll care? Surveying the carnage around him, Tarkan finally expresses horror when he sees Kurt’s body. In his weakened state, he can do no more than painfully crawl over to his dead canine lupine companion, but this he does. Meanwhile, Yurt makes further assorted sounds without opening or moving his mouth. Sometimes they dub these sounds in while he’s featured in a close-up. Did they think we wouldn’t notice?
Tarkan reaches Kurt, who is either still faintly alive (with a big honking spear through his throat) or a worse actor than I thought. I guess it’s the latter, because Tarkan talks as if he were slain. “Dear Kurt, my old friend,” he grieves for a second, before thoughts naturally turn towards vengeance. “Who slew you?” he cries. “Who did this? Who?” Here we cut to Yurt, who makes several sharp, if disembodied, sounds. “So you know then!” Tarkan replies to this yelping. “Then we will have our revenge!”
As any action movie aficionado knows, you can kill a man’s partner, and you can kill a man’s wife, and you can even kill a man’s kids, but never, ever, kill a man’s dog. Or ‘wolf.’ (Or his gun. See Sudden Impact.)
Cut to a hillside where Tarkan and Yurt are giving Kurt a funeral. They stand beside the burial cairn, Yurt looking quite content but wailing his grief, Tarkan clinging to the spear that had killed his best friend. Tarkan is supplied with a Glycerin tear to mark his mourning, and hilariously, so is Yurt. His manufactured ocular moistness is even afforded its own close-up, just so we don’t miss it.
“Farewell, Kurt,” Tarkan laments. “We are together no more. No more will you run beside my horse across the steppes. You were my everythingâ€¦You were dearer to me than anythingâ€¦” OK, I’m starting to get a distinctly creepy vibe again. Let’s just leave it as Kurt being his best friend, shall we?
In any case, Tarkan is an action hero, after all, and so his eulogy quickly turns to vows of retribution. “I will avenge you!” he swears, stabbing the fatal spear loosely into the ground. “I will live for revenge as long as this spear stands here!” he promises, which from the way the spear is sitting at a severe angle might be another fifteen minutes, tops.
Next we get the classic Hero Looking Up to the Heavens, Directly At a Camera On a Crane shot. “May the whole world know,” he shouts, “Blood will flow, and no Viking head will be safe from my sword until the blood of my brother Kurt is avenged!” So saying, he grabs his shoulder and staggers, indicating that he’s not quite ready to start spilling Viking blood as of yet.
Cut to Toro and his entourage arriving at another seaside fort. Or, just as likely, the same one shot from another angle. [Lion in Winter cue.] They are greeted by Viking leader Gero, although his welcome of Toro is less than warm. Gero is aghast to hear of Toro’s exploits, and further perturbed upon seeing the captured Turkish women. “We have no quarrel with the Hun Turks!” Gero exclaims, although sadly he doesn’t continue “â€¦because we and they don’t even exist in the same time period.”
Then he turns to the small party of gaudily dressed men surrounding the woman I earlier called Ursula. “And who are the Chinese?” Gero asks. (!!!!!!!) Apparently I have a confession to make. I had assumed this woman was Ursula, because there was an Ursula prominently listed on the IMDB page for this movie.
However, it turns out that this woman is actually called Lotus, and that she’s supposed to be Chinese. In my defense, I don’t normally associate the Chinese with Vikings who fight Attila the Hun. Also, oh, yeah, the features of the woman playing her aren’t even remotely Asian. Indeed, she’s about as convincing as a Chinese as Tarkan’s dogs are at being wolves.
Still, that’s the story, and they’re sticking to it. And sure enough, she now boasts a small band of henchmen, who have shaved heads and queues and everything. I doubt the actors playing them are Chinese either, but at least they look Chinese from a distance, which is more than I can say for “Lotus.” For herself, Lotus is, in fact, the daughter of the Chinese Emperor. (!!!) So it’s only natural that she’d sail to Norway to hire a Viking to sail to Turkey to kidnap the daughter of Attila the Hun. In fact, when you put it that way, it’s dead obvious.
Gero, meanwhile, is even more concerned to hear that Toro has enslaved Attila’s daughter. “You’re a fool, Toro,” he avers. “Do you know what it means to take on the Turks?” (A line of dialogue, by the way, more likely to be heard in Turkish movies than actually Norwegian ones.) “As soon as Attila finds out,” he continues, “we’re finished.” Kind of wimpy for a Viking leader, I’d have thought.
As it turns out, Toro concurs with my assessment. “You’re finished anyway,” Our Villain sneers, assuming his trademark fists-on-hips stance. “I’m king now, Gero. Vikings can’t be led by an old man!” At this another melee breaks out [Lion in Winter cue], whereupon Toro’s men slaughter Gero’s with surprising ease. On the other hand, it is the early stages of the movie, when the villain tends to have everything go his way.
In any case, it ends with Toro giving the short of booming, exaggerated villain laugh that really went out of fashion with the end of silent pictures. “You will pay for this sooner or later!” Gero promises as he is hauled off. Perhaps he means on an installment plan of some sort. “You’ll rue the day the balloon payment of vengeance comes due,” he sadly fails to add, “bloated with the compound interest of treachery!”
On the other hand, Toro really is asking for it. “Soon the whole world will know of Toro!” he boasts. “I will be even mightier than Odin!” Yeah, that’s the sort of thing ancient Norsemen were always saying.
Cut back to Tarkan, who is slowly recovering. At least they have a realistic idea of how long it would take to heal from two arrows in the back. And, of course, the sea voyages everyone is taking would eat up a pretty good amount of time as well. Not that they’re entirely consistent with this, as we’ll see.
So Tarkan is lying back near a cave, a long and suspiciously white and clean bandage on his arm. Yurt comes trotting up with some greenery in his jaws, presumably for a poultice. “Father Kurt taught you all his tricks,” Tarkan approves. “He raised you well. You’re just like him.” He stuffs the plants in his bandage.
“Listen to me now, Kurt,” Tarkan commands. That’s right; the younger dog is named Kurt, too. Good thing one of them is dead. I’ll continue calling him Yurt, however, at least for the nonce. “You are the son of a hero. You carry his blood. When you grow up, you’ll be as strong and brave as your father.” Yeah, and look what it got him.
“We shall cross the seas to the land of the Vikings,” Tarkan vows. “You’ll show me your father’s killer.” Here they cut to a full-on shot of Yurt’s face just as affirmative growls are added in. If you’re going to dub in fake dog wolf noises, isn’t that when you should be cutting away from the beast’s face? Taking the disembodied growls for impatience, Tarkan grimaces in pain and turns away. “No, not yet,” he says. Not until he’s back to full strength.
Cut to Toro’s newly obtained castle, where the captive Turkish women are being tortured. He has not yet, you see, figured out which one of them is Yonca, and the other women remain uncooperative on the matter. Toro’s torturer is another flamboyantly evil character, given to malign eruptions of Villainous Laughter. He’s also played a bit fey, in a manner I doubt we’d see a Turk portrayed. In any case, his antics also allow for an extra or two to flash their boobies for the edification of the audience.
Toro comes in for a report. Needless to say, these are Turkish woman, and so they cry out in agony but fail to sell out their leader. “Such stubborn women!” Torture Guy spits. “They’d rather die than speak!” (Wow, Turkish women really are different.) “They give their souls, but not their secrets,” Lotus agrees, presumably inscrutably, because of how Chinese she is.
She has a secret weapon, however. For some reason, she’s the only one who knows that a well behind them, one covered with a huge stone slab, is in fact a pit full of poisonous snakes. I mean, seriously, how would she know that? Anyway. “Down there even a mute would sing like a bird,” she promises. Uhm, if you say so. That would hardly be a good way to go, but I think I’d take it pretty readily over endless torture and maiming.
Now, the drawback to this plan, which nobody thinks to mention, is that if you start putting some of the women to death, you might end up killing the one you’re looking for. Despite this, Toro picks one out, and she’s quickly hung over the pit and left dangling by her pigtails. Ouch! As if that weren’t bad enough, when she refuses to talk, they cut one of the pigtails, leaving all her weight hanging on the other. I must say, that does look pretty convincingly painful.
Still, she’s a Turk, baby; and she yet refuses to squeal. However, Yonca can stand no more. Revealing the compassionate side for which the reign of Attila the Hun remains most famous, she surrenders herself to spare her followers further torment. Toro comes over and demands proof of this claim. “My father’s seal is in the ring on my finger,” she says. (!!!) And sure enough, she’s sporting a huge ring that’s basically just a big bleedin’ crest. It’s now obvious why Sherlock Holmes wasn’t Scandinavian.
Satisfied, Toro promises to ravish her later. “I will feast on your splendid body!” he avers whilst pawing her. Of course, this is a sign of his depraved evil, because no Turk has ever molested one of their enemy’s women. That would be unseemly. That said, Toro rejoins Lotus. “Now for a sight the like of which you’ve never seen!” he tells her.
There follows the scene where the movie really rockets off into B-movie blissville. Watching from the battlements, Toro and Lotus see Gero tied to wooden framework floating in the water near the fort. The man in charge of this operation is Orso, who is basically the more dimwitted, less articulate brother of Eegah the caveman.
Toro is having a good old time [fists on hips], promising Gero an unusual fate. “Someone is coming to see you,” he laughs. “And it’s not your lovely daughter.” The latter, I fear, we have not met, or even heard of, as of yet. Great, that’s exactly what we need, another character to introduce and service.
“Who is coming?” Lotus inquires. The answer arrives quickly in a burst of air bubbles rising to the water’s surface. Here we learn the reason for the octopus symbol on Toro’s mainsail, which is that he has at his beck and call (!!) a most wondrous and eminently balloon-like giant octopus. Hence the wooden scaffold Gero is tied to, which naturally resembles the one sacrifices to King Kong were secured to.
The first time the ‘octopus’ rises to the surface, the effect is pretty neat. Basically it seems like they rolled up all the tentacles into firehouse-like rounds, and then started pumping air into the thing as it rested underwater. This causes it to ‘rise’ to the surface in a somewhat organic manner, and with the tentacles radiating outward as they fill with air. The head, meanwhile, is a terrifically screwy kind of thing with huge, painted-on eyes. The overall result is the kind of thing you might see as an advertising gimmick outside your local pool and patio shop, opposite the opposing car dealership’s giant inflatable gorilla.
The tentacles, lighter than the bulk of the body, rise first, with the giant head/body following next. It’s not a sophisticated technique, but it’s so unusual that it kind of took me off guard at first. Of course, we’ll be seeing the process again later, and after a second look you figure out what they’re doing and the effect is diminished a bit. Stillâ€¦GIANT INFLATABLE RUBBER OCTOPUS!!!! Has there ever been a movie, ever, that wouldn’t be improved by such a thing?
Given the nature of the prop, the best they can do in the movement department is to awkwardly wave a few tentacles around on wires. Despite this, the camera dwells on the thing for a good long time, with various camera angles employed to make certain we can study it from as many perspectives as possible. And why wouldn’t they, because this thing is totally awesome.
For his part, Gero is perforce off-camera during the period when the octopus is supposedly wrestling him down beneath the surface. Soon all that is left are some patches of entirely too-red paint floating in the water. Then the octopus disappears the way it came, presumably by now leeching the air out of it. [Literally five second Lion on Winter cue.]
The overall effect of all this is at once laughably unconvincing and completely and utterly charming. If you wouldn’t fall in love with the movie at this point, then you’re probably visiting the wrong website. Damn, that’s just great stuff. (I should note that while the movie’s DVD co-bill, The Deathless Devil, lacks a giant rubber inflatable octopus, it does provide a gloriously cheesy robot of the ‘silver spray painted cardboard boxes and blinky lights’ variety. Seriously, what more could you ask for?)
Toro [fists on hips] revels in his enemy’s destruction. “Did you enjoy the show?” he asks Lotus. “Horrible,” she replies. “You are very wild and cruel.” She doesn’t want him to get the wrong idea, though. When he asks if she fears him, she answers, “Not at all. I like it.” Plus, you have to give props to a guy who has a giant murderous if incredibly goofy giant octopus at his beck and call. Those things aren’t usually all that trainable.
Back to Tarkan, now sharing a cooked bird with Yurt. The time element here is confusing, because the cross-editing between Tarkan and Toro makes it seem like days, or at best a week or two, have passed since Yonca was captured. Moreover, Tarkan still wears a bandage on his shoulder. (Where is he getting all that sparklingly white cloth?) However, at the same time, Yurt has now magically gone from a half-grown dog wolf to a full-sized one. Indeed, he’s as big as Older Kurt used to be. Exactly as big, in fact. Not that I’m implying anything, I’m just saying. In any case, I guess it’s time for me to join Tarkan in calling him Kurt, too. Basically we’re just dropping by to ascertain that Tarkan is healing nicely.
And so we quickly go back to Toro. He and his giant blonde wig and bogus mustache are lounging in a stone tub, attended by several servant girls with surprisingly clean and well-groomed hair. Here Lotus enters, heralded by a loud gong noise. (!!) Well, if they’d done in that in the beginning of the movie, I’d have figured out she was Chinese myself. I’d still have laughed in utter disbelief, but at least I would have gotten what they were going after.
Lotus says she wants a private conversation with Toro, and he sends his girls off. Lotus announces that she’ll be leaving in the morning. She drops her robe, allowing us a quick butt shot and, as reflected in the water, a shimmering boob shot as well. (She primly covers her frontal nether regions with her hand, however, presumably in deference to local censorship strictures.) She enters the water and we cut away as the two embrace.
We discretely—thank you!—cut directly to the post-coital scene, as she sits and Toro lounges on a bed. Toro starts playing with a knife, and then suddenly throws it, impaling one of Lotus’ men, who had been hiding behind a bedroom curtain. [Cue music blare.] This naturally rouses Toro’s suspicions, but Lotus shrugs it off, implying the man was probably a voyeur who got what he had coming to him. “Well, there’s plenty more of you where he came from,” Toro japes. Yeah, there’re a lot of those *cough* Chinese folks.
Lotus turns to pour him a flagon of wine, and inevitably pauses to drop a drug into it from, where else, a secret compartment in her ring. As you might have deduced, this proves not an Underdog Super Energy Pill, but a mickey. (Sadly, it’s obviously waaay too early in things for Toro to get kacked.) Anyway, her remaining men join her and they stroll off. Using blow darts, the Chinese soldiers mow down Toro’s guards. Lotus grabs Yonca and they head out. One of the dying guards triggers a death trap and gets another of Lotus’ men, however, apparently just for form’s sake.
I guess the idea is that Lotus now doesn’t have to pay Toro all the gold she promised. Maybe. I don’t know, you’d think the movie would explain stuff like that, but it doesn’t. Bad people just double cross each other, I suppose. It’s the nature of the beast. That doesn’t explain why Lotus just didn’t kill Toro when she had the chance, given that he’s now presumably going to carry quite a mad crazy grudge against her. As we know, the real reason she didn’t is because the script requires Toro to live long enough for Tarkan (or maybe Kurt) to kill him.
In any case, Torture Guy wakes Toro the next day, announcing that Lotus has grabbed one of their boats and sailed off. (Why wouldn’t she have her own craft? Presumably the budget didn’t allow for it.) One of Toro’s men, Ostok, was sent after her. Toro is pissed, though, and orders [fists on hips] Torture Guy to join the chase as well. This being, really, exactly why Lotus would never have left Toro alive after betraying him.
More pressing, however, is the imminent arrival of Ursula, Gero’s daughter, who is approaching the fort on her own longboat. She has a boatful of uniformly hot and well kept women warriors (just as the Vikings were known for), all attired in little outfits again manufactured from fuzzy bathmats and with little chains holding them together over the women’s respective cleavage. For the record, Ursula’s is pink. Her outfit, I mean; not her cleavage. That’s pink, too, I guess, but you know what I mean.
Toro has dressed his men in the outfits worn by her deceased father’s soldiers, and she approaches the fort unaware of what has occurred in her absence. Looking down from the parapets [fists on hips], Toro exclaims, “You wouldn’t treat me like a man when your father was alive. Now you’ll find out what a man really is!” He then leaves the battlements so she doesn’t spot him. [Lion in Winter cue. Boy, John Barry must have been so proud.]
Arriving at the pier, Ursula is made wary by the fact that her father isn’t there to greet her. The strange men further excite her suspicions, and after climbing up to the parapets, she spots Toro’s boat moored on the other side. Having been told that “the King” is on his throne in the castle, she heads inside and discovers Toro sitting there. [Lion in Winter cue. You know, it’s eventually going to become less effective if they play it every thirty seconds or so.]
“Toro!” she shouts. “Where is my father? Tell me, you scoundrel!” Toro laughs. “Be patient,” he advises, “you’ll see him soon.” Then, to show how eeee-vil he is, he drinks wine from a human skull. “I am toasting your honor!” he tells her. Then, to a blare of music, he tosses the skull at her feet. “There’s your father!” he explains. “That skull at your feet is your beloved father Gero!” Yeah, thanks for spelling that out, although Ursula does seemed pretty surprised. By the way, is that really supposed to be Gero’s skull? First, it looks pretty old, and second, oh, yeah, he was dragged under water and eaten by an octopus. Still, nothing wrong with a little stagecraft, I guess.
Back to Tarkan, who is finally ready to cap some Viking asses. He leaps upon his steed and promises Kurt II “We are going to the land of the Vikings! No Viking will be safe as we avenge your father’s death.” Then we cut to Lotus and her men, who are dragging Yonca ashore somewhere. I mean, seriously, in this movie? Who knows? Paraguay? The Antilles? In any case, they’ve apparently landed to grab a bite at an inn. Wouldn’t takeout be a wiser option right now?
Cut to Tarkan madly riding his horseâ€¦somewhere, and then back to the Inn. Lotus has Yonca tied to a post. “Now you stay here quietly,” Lotus demands, “or I’ll have to cut that beautiful neck.” Given all the hassle she’s gone through to acquire Yonca, that’s not really a credible threat, but anyway. Lotus then sticks her dagger back up her sleeve like it normally rests there, although she’s clearly just holding it in her other hand the entire time.
Tarkan arrives at a dock—the very same one Lotus just parked at!!!!!!—and ties up his horse. I’ve seen some ludicrously convenient coincidences in my time, but this one might take the cake. Anyway, Lotus appears to have taken the Norway to China route that passes by Turkey, and decided to stop to eat exactly where I would were I ferrying the daughter of Attila of the Hun halfway across the worldâ€¦that is, a few miles from where she was grabbed in the first place.
As Tarkan looks upon the nearby Viking boat, he is joined by Kurt, who (sort of) barks furiously. “Easy now, Kurt,” Tarkan commands, “I see it too.” Wow, nothing gets past you, dude; like, say, a big honkin’ Viking longboat parked twenty yards away. Here they decide to give Lion in Winter a bit of a break, and as the two survey the boat, we instead hear the intro to Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” (!!!!) To be fair, though, the guy playing Tarkan is about as expressive as Kubrick’s monolith.
The innkeeper greets Tarkan. “Where are the Vikings?” Our Hero barks, which really does seem a fair question under the circumstances. “There’s
Lotus and her remaining four men come downstairs to the accompaniment of exaggerated ‘Chinese’ music. “That’s them!” the innkeeper squeals. Normally I’d laugh at that. I mean, how many Chinese would be running around these parts? Then again, if they hadn’t told me Lotus was supposed to be Asian, I wouldn’t have known either. So I guess I see his point.
Apparently unaware of Lotus’ role in raiding the fort, Tarkan releases the innkeeper and demands food for himself and Kurt. (Does he ask Lotus about the boat? No.) Kurt clambers onto a chair to eat at the table, which is about the closest we get to a trained dog wolf trick here. They would have been far wiser to get the dog wolf to speak on command, so that it wouldn’t be patently bogus every single time they dub in some bark for him or whatever. I mean, it’s not like climbing onto a chair is going to get him into the Movie Dog Hall of Fame or anything.
Upstairs, the bound and gagged Yonca begins to slip free, mostly because the Chinese apparently can’t tie ropes for crap. Good thing they left a guard up there, too, as they stash what is currently the world’s most besought kidnapping victim in a spot just about exactly where she was taken from, as advertised by the Viking longboat floating about fifty yards away. Oh, wait, they didn’t.
Yonca, her feet and mouth still secured, otherwise slips free and snake crawls to a nearby and highly convenient grate. Needless to say, she is pleased to see the mighty, albeit quite obviously dense, Tarkan dining below. Before she can attempt to alert him to her presence, however, the stew thickens further. Kurt starts barking furiously (kind of), and heralds the arrival of Ostok and his party of Vikings. Again, Lotus is looking like quite the genius for taking this lunch break.
Ostok demands “the girl,” while Tarkan and Kurt are seeing red upon spying a band of *cough* Vikings. Ostok is pushing Lotus around when Tarkan dramatically (sort of) cries “Leave that woman alone!” [Cue music blare.] When Ostok ignores him, Tarkan heaves a big wine pot at his head. “I said leave her alone,” Our Hero commands. As if that weren’t provocation enough, he then assumes a fists-on-hips stance. I was hoping some Viking would yell in an aggrieved tone, “Hey, you can’t do that, it’s our King’s thing!” They don’t, sadly, but the obligatory melee starts anyway.
Ostok approaches Tarkan with a battleaxe, but Tarkan knocks him to the floor and attacks. Barks and growls are dubbed in too, to indicate that Kurt is joining in. Luckily the inn comes equipped with Hidden Trampolines and a hanging chandelier for Tarkan to swing on, so everything’s up to code. I guess one of Tarkan’s things is acrobatics (actually a general Turkish action hero thing), and he performs various flips and stuff as he knocks the assembled Vikings about.
After a bit of fun, however, he draws his sword and he and Kurt get down to business. Especially great is when Tarkan seemingly decapitates the exact same guy three times (!) in short order, using the exact same f/x clip at least twice. Meanwhile, Kurt is (sort of) ripping out various guys’ throats, leading you to wonder why they didn’t have it this easy back at the fort when they had a lot more backup. In any case, all twelve to fifteen Vikings are dispatched in about twenty seconds.
Lotus ambles seductively (kind of) over, noting “You’re a strong fighter.” She thanks him for his aid, but he waves her off. “I would have killed them anyway,” he says. Tarkan then demands a room for the night and leaves. [Lion in Winter cue.] Apparently his curiosity wasn’t piqued by the Vikings asking about “the girl.” What a maroon. For her part, Lotus is naturally attracted to Our Stalwart Hero, because that comes with the territory.
Hilariously, Tarkan walks literally two inches in front of the improbably huge ‘grate’ in which the bound Yonca is currently squirming in plain view, and yet fails to detect her. Actually, Kurt’s the one I blame, as he’s clearly the brains of the outfit. Suspense music plays during this, but Tarkan proceeds on, completely unaware. On the other hand, the idea that Yonca couldn’t make a sound by, I don’t know, knocking her head on the wall, is equally suspect. I mean, she couldn’t even make a hum sound or something?
Cut to Tarkan lounging in his room. Kurt rouses, and Tarkan sees the door opening. It’s Lotus, looking less Asian than ever, but still accompanied by Chinese music. She comes in bearing wine and with her hair down. Looks like Tarkan’s about to get the Hero’s Reward, if you know what I mean. Sex. That’s what I meant. Lotus removes a torch from a wall, and suddenly the room is shot through a red filter—wow, somebody’s after that cinematography Oscar—and we briefly see her boobs, etc.
Thankfully we cut away pretty quickly, back to a yet unguarded Yonca still squirming on the floor, and then back to the post-action Tarkan and Lotus. She is pouring him wine and asking how he could have defeated so many Vikings. As we know, the real answer is “It was in the script,” but instead he answers, “They did me the greatest evil. They killed my most beloved Kurt. And they kidnapped someone who was in my custody.” Oh, yeah, right. The daughter of Attila, the one he was supposed to be guarding. Yeah, his boss is probably going to be pretty cheesed about that.
Lotus asks who this person was, and he answers. [Cue suspense music.] She widens her eyes, and presumably will soon be employing the ring trick again. Andâ€¦there she goes. This time the powder inside is orange, rather than white, so maybe it’s now meant to be a fatal poison. Tarkan raises the flagon to drink, whereas the Kurt Disembodied Sound F/X 3000© starts barking.
Being a yutz, Tarkan drinks the wine anyway, and only then puts the pieces together. Sadly, it’s at this moment that the script finally dictates Yonca can slip her gag, and she calls out. However, it’s too late, and although he grabs up his sword and crashes into the room Yonca is in and even kills a couple of Chinese guys, he falls unconscious before he can affect Yonca’s escape. Meanwhile, Lotus escapes from Kurt the Wonder Dog Wolf by tossing a sheet on him. You know, it’s kind of confusing how these two can be utterly invincible in one scene and then completely inept in another.
In the end, Lotus and her one remaining guy grab up Yonca and leave. (Can two people really sail a longboat?) At least they have Lotus give a less than completely half-assed reason for leaving Tarkan alive, which is that he’ll perhaps kill off more of the Vikings still chasing them. Outside, however, Last Chinese Guy suddenly takes a battle axe to the forehead. [Lion in Winter cue.] It’s Torture Guy and his crew. Soâ€¦Toro sent out two boats to scour the seas looking for Lotus, and they both found her within a few hours of each other? The film might be better titled “Tarkan vs. the Amazing Coincidences.” In any case, Lotus and Yonca are now prisoners (again) of the Vikings.
Meanwhile, Kurt has managed to open the door of the room he was in. [Morricone movie cue.] Kurt manages to rouse Tarkan [Lion in Winter cue], and they speed outside, where the innkeeper is robbing the dead Chinese guy. He tells Tarkan that Vikings came and took Lotus. “Where is the land of the Vikings,” Tarkan asks. Because, you know, there’s only one, more or less. The innkeeper is unsure, but sends Tarkan down the beach to a fishing village.
Cut to Toro MWA-HA-HAing in his most over the top manner yet, and we see that Ursula is now tied to the octopus platform. It’s all pretty much business as usual. Toro gloats and acts like a jerk, Ursula bravely hurls defiance and curses at him, etc. However, her cries for water draw consternated looks from Orso the giant, now looking and acting more like Eegah than ever.
This is also standard, as brutes and monsters always fall for a pretty face and betray their masters. Previously it seemed like Orso tended to the octopus, or anyway he was stationed down by the platform (as he is again). Therefore I had assumed he was Toro’s man. However, here he makes to help Ursula, and she establishes that he’s a dimwitted servant of her family. He still assisted, or stood by, or something, as her father was killed, soâ€¦I don’t know. He’s helping her now, though.
Toro turns his back for a bit, as villains generally do in these situations, and Orso sneaks her some water. She chastises him for helping kill her pop, but she just can’t resist those big brown eyes. “Orso, loyal Orso,” she sighs. “I never believed you could be a traitor. May mighty Odin forgive you for what you did to my father.” Hilariously, Orso literally just shrugs a couple of times, as if to say, “Hey, whadyagonnado?” And with that, bygones are pretty much bygones.
Meanwhile, Tarkan has procured a small dinghy from some fishermen, and is setting out to find the Land of the Vikings. “No one’s ever crossed this sea in such a boat,” he is warned. “I’ll be the first, then!” Tarkan stoutly replies, telling them that he’s a Turk. “I heard Turks were brave,” one fisherman avers, “now I know they’re crazy.” Wait, soâ€¦he’s not currently in Turkey? That means that Lotus, Tarkan and two Viking ships bumped into each other at some neutral site within hours of one another? You know, I’m just going to move on.
Back to the fort. Toro waves a hawk in Lotus’ direction (apparently every location in the movie is about half an hour away from all the others), and says he should have his pet tear her eye out for her treachery. However, he also reckons “I’ll be stronger if I have the daughters of both Attila and the Chinese emperor.” So that’s that, then. “You’re beautiful and wise,” he informs Lotus. “I can make use of both qualities.” Then he tells Torture Guy that Lotus can roam around free, but that he should keep on eye on her. Yeah, that sounds like a great plan.
Back to Octopus Central. Ursula rouses from her exhausted swoon to see the octopus approaching. As I noted, this time they really give the game away, as it’s now obvious the octopus isn’t rising from below so much as inflating. Stillâ€¦giant rubber octopus! Anyhoo, it menaces her for a while, and then it seems like she’s done for, only to be saved by Orso, who drops a big rock on the ‘pus (well, near it) and sends it temporarily packing.
Archers up on the fort open fire, but Orso tosses Ursula over his shoulder and books for it. He rather unconvincingly out paces his pursuers, and when they finally seem to have him trapped, Ursula’s female warrior band shows up. (Where have they been all this time?) They slaughter Toro’s soldiers, save one who escapes. However, when he reports in, Toro sets his hawk on himâ€¦gee, I didn’t see that comingâ€¦because that’s the kind of thing Evil Tyrants do. Indeed, it’s in chapter nine of The Evil Tyrant Handbook. At least he finally addresses Torture Guy by name, calling him Eric when he sends him out to retrieve Ursula.
Meanwhile, Tarkan and Kurt are having a rough go of it, languishing under the blazing sun in his tiny boat. Here they play Morricone’s ‘Harmonica’ theme from Once Upon a Time in the West. Sure, why not? They are saved, in any case, when the Tarkan Coincidence Engine has their dinghy found by Eric’s longboat. [Lion in Winter cue.]
Eric, unaware of who Our Hero is, has Tarkan brought aboard as a galley slave. Kurt is left behind, but jumps into the water [Morricone cue] and gives chase. He eventually manages to catch Eric’s boat, whereupon he climbs aboard and hides himself without drawing notice of the like fifteen guys standing on the tiny deck. Given the nature of the boat and the number of guys congregated there, this is entirely retarded, but there you go. It was probably the will of the gods or something.
Meanwhile, Tarkan finds himself chained in the hold [Lion in Winter cue.] He is Tarkan, though, and when Whip Guy starts acting like a dick, Our Hero manages to grab the guy and makes to snap his neck. However, the drummer quickly dissuades him from doing so by prodding him with a spear. Released, Whip Guy starts beating on Tarkan even more, but Tarkan’s all, “Ain’t but a thing.”
In the end, an overseer appears and stops Whip Guy from wailing on Our Hero. “He’s the best slave we’ve got,” he explains. That earns rebellious slaves who nearly kill their masters a pass, I guess. However, a seething Tarkan is clearly like, “I’ll see you in the parking lot after school, dickweed.”
Topside, Kurt manages to clamber aboard just as the wind finally kicks up, allowing for the slaves to rest for a while. As previously noted, he stows away out of sight. Then all the Vikings rather conveniently (I’ll say!) decide to take a nap, and Kurt emerges [Morricone cue] and trots pass them to head down into the hold. There everybody but Tarkan is rather conveniently sleeping too.
Tarkan is naturally pleased to see his better half on the scene, and has Kurt grab the drummer’s spear. This rouses Whip Guy, but he gets a taste of Furry Justice. From Kurt, I mean. As he is mauled, the Drummer attempts to aid his comrade, but is trapped by the spear-wielding Tarkan. He orders Drummer Guy to unchain all the slaves, leading to the mandatory brawl you always get in movies like this. The Vikings are quickly dispatched in suitably unconvincingly manner, although Eric leaps overboard and swims to safety.
The men offer to make Tarkan their captain (him and his “wolf”). However, Tarkan is still treading the Road o’ Vengeance, and he too leaps into the sea. We then cut to him washed up on what I am entirely certain will be exactly the right shore. However, as he lays exhausted in the sand, great furry boots approach him. [Thus Spake Zarathustra cue.] It’s Orso, so yes, Tarkan just managed to end up exactly where he wanted to go.
Tarkan rises to find this giant towering over him, and naturally Orso attacks. Using a canny combination of acrobatics, guile and ‘the script’s on my side,’ however, Tarkan eventually defeats his inhumanly powerful foe. He raises his sword to deliver the death blow, when a woman’s voice rings out. It’s Ursula, who pleads for Orso’s life. Tarkan pauses, and her women warriors (who uniformly mince when they run, which ain’t helping to sell their supposed martial prowess) surround him.
Ursula approaches, noting “You must be very strong to have vanquished Orso! No man has ever done that before today.” Hey, he’s Shaft, baby. I mean, Tarkan. She demands he name himself, and he replies, “They call me Tarkan. I am a Hun Turk.” He’s not ready to make nice, either. To Tarkan, Ursula and her band are just more Vikings to kill.
In response, Ursula argues that they have a common enemy, and that she wants Toro dead as much as he does. (Although to be fair, Toro just killed her father, whereas he killed Tarkan’s dog wolf, which is obviously worse.) Tarkan still insists on going it alone, until Ursula reports that Toro who is the one holding Yonca. This raises the stakes, and Tarkan agrees to join forces.
Meanwhile, Eric has reached the fort, and Toro is now hearing of this mysterious Hun as well. Just in case, he orders more guards placed on Yonca. For her part, Lotus clearly realizes who Tarkan is, but holds her tongue, presumably seeking to turn his presence to her advantage.
Soon dusk is approaching, and Tarkan has removed himself a small way from the Viking camp. However, Ursula is only human, and soon appears for a little taste of sweet, sweet Hun-y. “My father used to say the Huns were comfortable only in war,” she vamps. “Your father knew us well,” Tarkan modestly admits. Ursula starts talking about revenge and stuff, just to get him into the mood. She explains that tomorrow is a feast day, and that if they attack then, Toro’s men will be at their most vulnerable.
Having set the mood, they now fall into each others’ arms. Just to heighten the romance, we occasionally cut over to an angry-looking Orso, who obviously is sweet on Ursula himself. Hilariously, there is a scene exactly like this one in The Mighty Peking Man, only with a giant ape rather than a big caveman dude. Enraged, Orso pours water on a roaring campfire and douses it. This might possibly be symbolic or something.
Sure enough, the next day Toro’s men are swilling wine and whoring it up like nobody’s business. We watch the debauchery for a while, because is was standard fare in movies like this. For his part, Toro tries to get into the Lotus position, if you know what I mean, but she’s all, “Yeah, right.”
Instead, Toro has the captured Turkish women brought in and turns them over to his men. They kill some of the women, and rape some of the women, and kill and then rape some of the women, and man, that’s just wrong. One woman they terrify by putting her on a blanket and flinging her repeatedly up into the air, which causes her to scream likes she’s being eaten by ants. I mean, seriously? As tortures go, that one seems pretty mild. In fact, I think the usual reaction to having that happen to you is to go, “WHEEEE!!”
All this is rather unpleasant, including a bit where the woman previously flung on a blanket is hung over a fire pit as some Vikings try to sever the ropes suspending her with tossed axes. Their drunken aim isn’t up to the task, though, until Eye Patch Guy takes his turn. Into the fire she goes. [Lion in Winter cue.] I’m not even sure it’s possible for a guy with no depth perception to be deadly accurate at tossing blades, but that’s the idea.
While everybody is so distracted, however, Tarkan and Ursula’s warriors kill the lone perimeter guard and steal their way up to the fort. Tarkan then uses a grapple to climb the wall and lower the ladder that leads to the battlements. The rest follow him up and some arrows and Tarkan himself silently dispatch the remaining handful of guards.
Inside, Yonca draws Toro’s anger by trying to stab him when he attempts to get fresh with her. He has her tied up on your classic target wheel (where the hell did they get that?), with her hair fanned out in a series braids. [Lion in Winter cue] Then One Eye tosses a batch of axes, each cutting through a braid and landing ever closer to her face. Oh, the suspense.
As in, oh, the suspense; where is it?
The bacchanal is interrupted by the appearance of Tarkan, Ursula and the Mincettes. At this point they’re clearly treading water until the movie ends, and so we got the long orgy scene and now a long fight scene. Needless to say, this is your prototypical poorly choreographed melee sequence, with confused action wide shots interrupted by brief vignettes of some soul or other getting supposedly whacked.
Orso is given a lot of stuff I assume is meant to be funny (?), as he mows down Vikings by the bushel load by swinging around a table and then a big sword. In fact, he mows down more of Toro’s men than I think Toro had men to start with, and that doesn’t even cover the dozens and dozens more offed by Tarkan, Kurt, Ursula, etc. Anyhoo, Yonca calls to Tarkan and he runs over to free her. Then Toro notices Orso killing his guys like five times over and sets his hawk on him. Orso loses an eye before Tarkan intercedes and kills the raptor. If this all sounds confused, then I guess I’m doing a good job.
Tarkan tells the now cyclopean Orso to take Yonca to safety, and then leaps back into the fray. However, since the good guys are basically fighting the hydra—every guy they kill turns into two others—and especially since there’s still a lot of ‘action’ and reverses and other ‘exciting’ crap to cram into the film’s final twenty minutes, things start turning against them. Several of the Mincettes are killed, Ursula is captured by Eric, and then Toro threatens to kill her if Tarkan doesn’t surrender. I wouldn’t have thought Tarkan that sentimental—and of course Ursula pleads with him to let her die [Lion in Winter cue]—but the big softie lays down his axe. To be specific, he lays his axe down in Eric’s head, but both he and Ursula are still subdued in any case.
Cut to the top of the fort. Toro is demanding that Ursula tell him where Yonca has been taken. She bravely refuses to say, perhaps because there’s no way she would know that. Tarkan also remains silent. Proving to have little imagination, Toro again aims to feed Ursula to the octopus, which is now waiting below. [Thus Spake Zarathustra cue] Instead of tying her to the post, though, they just toss her down in the water. First, though, they toss her up and down again, which apparently really was considered quite the torture back in the day.
So she hits the water, right near the octopus, which looks more ridiculous each time we get another chance to examine it. But hey, I’m saying that’s a good thing. Ursula screams and performs the Lugosi Maneuver, which entails a character wrapping inert tentacles around themselves to simulate an attack.
However, Orso and Yonca are hiding nearby on the rocks. [Thus Spake Zarathustra cue] Damn, this thing must have been written by a five year old high off an entire crate of pixie stix. In any case, just about here the Bad Vikings all turn and leave. Boy, you know you’re jaded when you can’t be bothered to watch a giant rubber octopus eat a half-dressed Viking Princess.
Anyhoo, this allows Orso the opportunity to leap into the water to help his princess out. As you were probably anticipating, Ursula is saved, while Orso dies the Obligatory Tragic but Redemptive Death. We get some underwater shots of him wrestling with the octopus, which were clearly shot in a swimming pool.
Back inside the fort, Tarkan has been left to Lotus’ tender mercies. He is suspended over the aforementioned snake pit. Always with the suspending. She wears what looks to me a headdress more East Indian in nature than Chinese (although I’m no expert), and performs a little dance of which I’d say the same. She also is boasting what look to be Lee Press-On Nails from Hell.
To the accompaniment of Chinese music, Lotus dances and strips off clothing while occasionally tossing a knife to part some of the ropes holding Tarkan aloft. This goes on for a while, and then, just at the very second when Tarkan is about to be killed, Kurt shows up [Morricone cue] and saves the day [Lion in Winter cue]. As Tarkan frees himself and then beats down a slew of Vikings with a four by four, a snarling Kurt forces Lotus to back up. Not to TOTALLY SHOCK THE HELL OUT OF YOU, but eventually she (duh) ‘ironically’ falls into the snake pit.
That’s the idea anyway. The actress playing her actually falls backward from a slightly raised platform, with the camera placed low for a purportedly cool shot. Sadly, the effect is somewhat reduced when we see a bunch of hands come into shot to catch the actress before she hits the ground. That’s some good filmmaking, there. Oh, and did I mention that Lotus is at some length seen to be wearing machine-made, black lace panties?
Tarkan evades the spiked death trap that earlier killed one of the Chinese guys, and then is seen running along the fort’s battlements. However, he finds himself surrounded by archers. That’s right, he’s captured again, for about the fourth time in fifteen minutes. Yeesh.*[*In case I have not adequately communicated it, this portion of the film is, er, highly episodic. I can only assume that the movie tells a highly condensed version of some long running story arc from the Tarkan comic book. The overall effect is like watching one of those ‘movies’ made by shaving everything but the fights, death traps and escapes from some 14 part matinee serial.]
Tarkan and the mighty Kurt are both brought before Toro while bound with lines and secured by several guys apiece. When Toro turns to reveal his face, Kurt starts going nuts as he recognizes him [big music cue], dragging several guys with him as he tries to get at Toro. Furious barking in dubbed in, although again the impact is hobbled by the dog’s wolf’s generally inability to do anything but look content and loll out his tongue.
‘Enraged,’ Kurt draws near enough to nip Toro, and must be driven off with a phalanx of spearsmen. “What is wrong, Kurt?” Tarkan keeps asking, despite the fact that Kurt’s entire assigned role in this mission was to identify his father’s killer. Even Kurt seems to be wondering why his master is such a dumbass here. And so we watch the gears in Tarkan’s head turn with painful slowness, and he does finally put it together.
“Is he your father’s killer?” Tarkan finally asks, and then he, too, goes crazy. “I will destroy you, treacherous Toro!” he yells. He too attempts to launch an enraged attack, and rather unconvincingly is barely restrained by like fifteen guys. In the end, though, their numbers are too great. “You cannot destroy me,” Toro boasts. Well, not yet; there’s still nine minutes of movie left.
So Kurt is put at the bottom of a big pit somewhere in the fort. And, naturally, it’s time for Tarkan himself to face the octopus. You know, even I’m thinking they might be overusing this thing by now. We go through the entire inflating beastie process again. I’ll bet this process took a good piece of time before it was entirely full. I wonder how long the actors had to stand there waiting for this thing to get ready?
Meanwhile, Kurt escapes by, and I’m not making this up, supposedly running up the sheer, entirely vertical wall of the pit. I’m no special effects expert, but it’s pretty obvious this piece of movie magic was achieved by having him move over a horizontal surface and turning the camera sideways, like when Adam West used to ‘climb’ a ‘wall’ on the old Batman show. I doubt even the kiddies in the audience were fooled by this.
Even Tarkan seems a might freaked out by the whole “I’m about to be eaten by a big goofy octopus” thing. At this point, though, Kurt finishes his *cough* ascent and reaches daylight. [Morricone cue.] He rushes topside and eventually jumps over the wall to engage the octopus, and manages to drive it back. Man, that’s one wimpy cephalopod.
Meanwhile, Ursula and Yonca are now lurking in the rocks just as Orso and Yonca had been earlier. Ursula also makes to help Tarkan, and tries to get him free whilst blocking dozens of arrows with a shield no larger than a dinner platter. She takes one in the shoulder, though, and finally Yonca gets off her ass and comes to help, too. She swims over and resumes freeing Tarkan, including using Ursula’s teeny shield to protect a good 25% of his body. (Why hadn’t the archers kept firing while Tarkan was unprotected? Because then he’d be dead.)
As arrows are lazily tossed in their general direction by off-camera stagehands, Tarkan is freed. He grabs a knife from Yonca and naturally jumps to save his domestic partner from the octopus. This involves several underwater shots even more clearly shot in a swimming pool.
He tussles with the lazily floating tentacles, and mimes stabbing at the octopus while being careful not to puncture it, since I’m sure a sizable portion of the film’s budget went towards buying the thing. In the end, he finds a sword laying near, one that Orso had tossed into the water earlier. With this he dispatches the beastie, although again without actually being seen to have penetrated its skin.
Tarkan emerges from the water with the sword, and ducks several hundred arrows with the use of another, only slightly larger shield. “Oh, mighty Turk,” Yonca declares, “no one can stop you now!” Probably not, with only three plus minutes of film left. Having tended to the wounded Ursula, Yonca also leaps up to join the fray.
Tarkan tosses an errant hand axe and manages to sever the rope holding aloft the ladder to the top of the fort. Yeah, everything’s going his way now. You’d think he’d be an utterly exposed target as he runs up the narrow device, but of course he and Kurt reach the top safely, supported by an occasional arrow fired by Yonca down below. Her advantage is that she’s allowed to hit things.
The majority of the Vikings flee (!!!!) the crazed Tarkan, although given that he kills at least 40 others (and I’m not exaggerating), they might have a point. This leaves Toro to Our Hero’s tender mercies, although only after Tarkan ‘ironically’ dispatches Eye Patch Guy with a thrown axe. Because that was the latter’s weapon of choice, see? Anyhoo, the final battle with Toro comes, and it’s pretty lame. I guess they just couldn’t bring themselves to admit that any one man, especially one who isn’t even a Turk, would be a match for the mighty Tarkan.
Toro falls yet unkilled into the water, but Tarkan isn’t about to let him escape. “Here I come too, Toro!” Tarkan shouts [Lion in Winter cue] and he leaps from the battlements. I think the idea is that he dives with his sword pointed down, and stabs the floating Toro with terrific force as he hits. However, this is entirely a supposition on my part, especially since Tarkan is clearly shown to hit a good foot or more to Toro’s right. Even so, his errant blow magically does in Kurt’s killer, and vengeance is gained. [Lion in Winter cue]
Cut to Yonca and Tarkan and Kurt floating away in the Viking boat (can they really sail that thing themselves?), as a recovering Ursula morosely waves goodbye. And no wonder she’s morose. Everyone she ever loved or trusted is dead, and there’s still a bunch of guys—the ones who fled Tarkan’s wrath—presumably lurking around, men who had already sided with Toro and betrayed her father to his death. But hey, that’s show biz.
The indefatigable Carl Fink offers clarifies some issues:
Ursula, Toro, Gero and Ostok are not Norse names. At least Eric is.
Why are you so surprised that Huns and Vikings have the ability to wash?
“Barbarians” were generally clean people when they weren’t actually wading
through swamps or something. The real Old Norse, like their living
descendants, were in fact famous for their fondness for bathing. The Arab
writer ibn Fadlan wrote about this only about 600 years after the Huns were
driven from the West. Don’t be fooled by Roman and Greek propaganda.
Historically, the Huns did invade China (which called them “Hsiung-nu”), so
it would make sense for the Chinese emperor to want to distract them
westwards. Dunno if that was in the Tarkan comic. (Some scholars dispute
that the Hsiung-nu or Xsiongnu were the same people as the Huns, but it
seems to be the current consensus.)
Depending on the type, yeah, two people can sail a longboat. One sail.
They’d have a hell of a time rowing it, though.
Meanwhile, Jabootu Patron Sandy Petersen deconstructs one of my theories with withering ease:
You’ll be happy to know that “Tarkan” is in fact not a rip-off of Tarzan, or at least not obviously so. The Tarkans were an ancient group of Hunnic warriors/nobility. They are memorialized in my game expansion pack “The Conquerors” as a type of elite Hunnic cavalry. So they actually have a connection to Huns. It would be kind of like naming an ancient Greek hero “Myrmidon” or a medieval warrior knight “Paladin”. So it makes comic-booky sense.
Editorial Note: Until and unless further Turkish pop movies pop up on Region 1 or 0, you may want to give the Mexican Kaliman: El Siniestro Mundo de Humanon a try. It’s equally insane, maybe more insane, and the disc does feature English subtitles.
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