THE TURKISH WIZARD OF OZ

5 Stars
Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 96 minutes
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“The Turkish Wizard of Oz” is, without debate, the single stupidest production in the history of motion pictures…and also the most entertaining. This 1971 endeavor, which is only now being released in the US courtesy of a small West Virginia company called Shocking Videos (shockingvideos@citynet.net), offers an enchiridion of cinematic insanity which boggles the mind, tickles the funnybone, and damages the brain cells. Not unlike the rediscovery of “Reefer Madness” in the 1960s and the Ed Wood oeuvre in the 1970s, this is a buried treasure which comes to light with unparalleled dizziness and deserves to be hailed as a new cult classic awaiting popular coronation.
Working on the most preposterous foundation imaginable — a no-budget, alfresco, Turkish-language remake of the 1939 MGM classic — “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” (also known as “Little Ayse and the Magic Dwarves”) blossoms into wholly unexpected and truly astonishing situations and sequences which happily shove the L. Frank Baum source text through the meat grinder while leaving the audience gaping in shock and (for those who loved demented movies) rapture.
The film finds Dorothy, called Ayse here, as a happy farm girl with a cute dog who gets carried away in her house by a violent twister (depicted in excessively crude animation. The house lands on a witch wearing silver slippers (it would seem they don’t wear ruby slippers in Turkey) which conveniently fit Dorothy’s tootsies. Whereas the Kansas Dorothy found herself in Munchkinland, the Turkish Dorothy finds herself in a wooded park where seven midgets dressed like toy soldiers sing and dance around her. The midgets have magical powers which allow them to disappear and re-appear whenever the going gets sticky…and speaking of sticky, one of the midgets waves a phallic magic wand to conduct some heroic hocus-pocus.
Dorothy and Toto skip around a forest (no Yellow Brick Road here, just lots of nicely manicured lawns) and encounter the usual suspects, albeit with rather unusual changes in their personalities. The Scarecrow runs amok in a prissy personality that suggests the fussy old stereotype of a homosexual, although he is allowed an intensely brooding lament on his lack of brains with a soul-search that recalls Marlon Brando’s “I coulda been a contender” soliloquy from “On the Waterfront.” The Tin Woodsman is found rusting and moaning in a strangely orgiastic manner and his humorless demeanor throughout the film suggests an inept cop who is furious that he can’t fill his speeding ticket quota. The Cowardly Lion has relatively little to do here but twitch his nose, and the costume designer oddly covered his loins with an excess of fur that suggests the craven feline has a vagina.
In case you are wondering where the Wicked Witch is, she doesn’t turn up until an hour into the film blowing into a shofar. The Wizard himself, dressed like Merlin with a Gregg Allman hairstyle and shaggy mustache, also has the briefest of supporting performances and his balloon-ride departure from Oz accompanied by a Dixieland jazz rendition of “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” Speaking of music, “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” abruptly breaks into clumsy song-and-dance numbers which are not helped by the obvious lack of singing and dancing talent among the cast; the score is somewhere between a Maurice Jarre knock-off and “Uska Dara.” A village of overgrown dolls and a tribe of dancing cavemen are also featured here, for no immediately obvious reason.
What seems like a total fiasco is actually a goldmine of the unpredictable. “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” is so excessively strange and shoots off into the most unlikely tangents that the well-worn tale is given an eccentric second life. The MGM film version has become so deeply ingrained in the cultural psyche that any notion of a remake would pale in comparison. But “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” is not a remake–it is truly a rip-off, but one that is so unapologetic in its attitude and totally naive in its wacky twist of Baum that it plays like a jolly yet shabby doppelganger to the 1939 classic.
Sequences where the Scarecrow is disemboweled so Dorothy can hide from the witch in a pile of straw, or when the Tin Woodsman is clubbed to near-death by soldiers swinging oversized boulders, or when the magic midgets fire a cannon at the dancing cavemen and spend five minutes laughing at their carnage brings a Tex Avery-morphed into-John Waters sense of nuttiness to the story which cannot be underappreciated.
Most amazing, though, is the leading lady. As Dorothy, Zeynep Degirmencioglu comes on screen with supple breasts and painted eyebrows that suggest Turkish farmgirls have far more glamour than their Kansas counterparts. Throughout the film, the magic midgets are constantly pinching and ogling her, and even Toto gets into the act by jumping up under her dress. Dorothy also engages in some bottom-play with the Scarecrow, sewing up a hole in his rear end after he sits on a fire (but the silly Scarecrow only has eyes for the Tin Woodsman, with one of the most amazing flirting scenes ever put on film!) Forget Judy Garland…any guy who wants to have a hot time over the rainbow can hang out with the comely Miss Degirmenciouglu.
Believe it or else, “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” is not presented in its belated US release with English subtitles. This is actually a blessing, since there is no need whatsoever for a translation. “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” speaks the universal language of silliness so fluently that subtitles would only be a serious intrusion in this crazy Oz-by-way-of-Istanbul adventure. This film takes the cake and the whole bakery, too!
[ For more information, email shockingvideos@citynet.net ] .



Posted on July 5, 2004 in Reviews by
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