One of the greatest things about cinema has to be the astoundingly extensive variety of work created since its inception. Though audiences are always familiar with the most popular films, the truth is the history of filmmaking is rife with all sorts of efforts that few ever had the chance to see – or will ever have the chance to see. It is these sorts of films that age like no other, taking on a sort of revered, untouchable cult status as the years pass by, lingering alone in deep obscurity.
Some of the most bizarre films are often created in countries far beyond Hollywood’s traditional and well-known movie making culture – yet still remain entirely familiar. Nations like Indonesia, Korea, Denmark and Japan have all gotten in on the fun with everything from borrowed versions of Rocky to Popeye. Oddly enough, of all these so-called “rip-off” cult films, Turkey was one of the most notorious producers. The Turkish film industry put out nearly-exact replicas of numerous Hollywood megahits over the years, and now some thirty-four years after its release, the only surviving 35mm print of what’s known in English as Turkish Star Wars has been discovered. And yes, it’s as amazing as you’d expect it to be.
Officially known as The Man Who Saves The World, the 1982 film was later dubbed The Turkish Star Wars by fans who clearly saw where the real inspiration for the film originated. Copying or outright stealing footage from Star Wars and music from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon and the James Bond classic Moonraker, the film tells the story of two Turkish space pilots who crash land on a planet ruled by an evil space wizard. The film hasn’t been seen in its full, original format since its theatrical run, and was discovered in the film collection of a retired projectionist in north-western Turkey.
After completing its 1982 theatrical run, the projectionist lied to the production company, telling them that it had been damaged, at which point he stashed it in his own personal library. Speaking on the significance of finding this last remaining print, film historian and filmmaker Ed Glaser had this to say (via Neon Harbor):
“A 35mm print of ‘Turkish Star Wars’ is the holy grail, not just of rip-off films, but all cult film. There are no negatives, and the few other prints of the film ever struck have been destroyed. My goal is to get this one scanned to preserve it for posterity — and hopefully screened in a theater for other fans like me.”
It’s amazing to think that upon their release, films that mimic or outright rip-off elements from other more popular films are scoffed at and often outright ridiculed. However, once time passes, these sorts of filmmaking efforts are seen on their own terms, despite the fact that they were created on the basis of something that wasn’t theirs to begin with. The truth is that these films have their own merit and creativity and really, are they so much more different than what is today often simply referred to as fanmade productions?
Whatever your personal stance on films like Turkish Star Wars, it’s always interesting when a piece of filmmaking history is once again found. It might not appeal to many outside of a particular niche fanbase, but that in itself is perhaps exactly what makes films like Turkish Star Wars so enduring and fascinating.
Source: Neon Harbor