Karate Girl – 1974 / Director: Orhan Aksoy

Very dangerous, very good with a knife…

You’ve probably seen part of this Turkish martial arts effort. Commonly cited on YouTube as the worst death scene ever is the sight of a Mr. Bean look-a-like being shot several times, with an indecent amount of gurning and overacting before he finally snuffs it. To be fair, the scene is slowed down a touch, and the scream is added, but even in context, it is pretty poorly done. As for the rest of the film? An almost masterpiece. Think of Turkish films, and Turkish Star Wars probably springs to mind. A film which unashamedly nicks footage from Star Wars along with music from any number of Hollywood blockbusters interspersed with the sight of two Turks taking on a lame Darth Vader rip-off is a sight to behold. Further, even more blatant, versions of E.T., First Blood, Rambo, Star Trek, SupermanDeath Wish and so on also feature. Turkish Spiderman (featuring an ersatz Captain America and the Mexican wrestler Santo) has to be seen to be believed. Many of these epics have been reviewed on these very pages – take a look in the A-Z or search for ‘Turksploitation’. Karate Girl itself doesn’t pointedly rip-off a particular film, but is instead a semi-legitimate entry into the rape/revenge genre typified by Death Wish, Thriller: A Cruel Picture and so on.

A young mute girl, Zeynep (Filiz Akin – who I’ve never heard of, but is absolutely stunning) lives with her aged father (who is a dead ringer for Geppetto in Pinocchio). Zeynep sells flowers in order to finance an operation to restore her voice, but not before a horribly cloying scene where father and daughter speak of their love in sign language. The cash is put into what looks like a large suitcase, but is promptly stolen by a gang of escaped convicts. The gang themselves are a sneering bunch of degenerates, who rough up and try to rape poor Zeynep. Before the heat can arrive, poor Geppetto is bumped off by the criminals, and you can guess the rest. Apparently, attempted rape is a sure-fire cure for muteness, and Zeynep is tutored in the finer arts of gunplay by a sympathetic cop. Within, seemingly, moments the innocent flower seller is blasting bottles off poles and shooting cigarettes out of copper’s mouths. John Woo-style shooting isn’t enough, so Zeynep is ushered off to the local karate school, where she obtains black belt status within five minutes. After mastering the martial arts (and after the tragic death of the cop – who Zeynep falls in love with, unsurprisingly) Zeynep joins the police force and tracks down the scum who killed her father (and the cop, who was bumped off by Mr. Bean)

This could have been absolutely awesome. Imagine scene after scene of a gorgeous, blonde Turkish girl karate-chopping an unending stream of moustachioed scum. Slow, clumsy fight choreography, shit dubbing and inappropriate music would make it a winner. Instead, the high-kicking is kept to a minimum, with a good portion of the film passing before Zeynep starts kicking ass. The scenes of violence are as brilliantly inept as you could wish for, but there just aren’t enough of them. I just wish they’d ripped off Coffy or Get Christie Love instead. Akin looks wonderful in a black leather/red roll neck combo, but her trail of vengeance doesn’t have the impact, say, of The Exterminator lowering someone into an industrial mincer. Shooting a guy who knifed your boyfriend or slapping around a gangster’s moll just doesn’t cut it.  That isn’t to say that this is worthless. Far from it. The gang of criminals are played to OTT, Exploitation film perfection (and all wear the same clothes throughout Zeynep’s martial arts training and enrolment into the Turkish police force), when Zeynep fills Mr. Bean full of lead, the dead cop giver her post mortem, Obi Wan-style advice and a crowd give Zeynep a very polite round of applause when she foils an attempted baby murder.

Is this a good film? No way. Is it a bad film? To be honest, no. Is it a monumentally shit film? No – Akin is too good for this to be put in the Turkish Star Wars pile. There’s just nothing as brilliantly crap as Star Wars‘ training montage and there are some nice shots of the Süleymaniye Mosque . The bongo-filled score is pretty good, too. Akin is/was one of Turkey’s most famous actresses, and her showing here really makes me want to seek out more of her work. A Google image search reveals that she still looks great today, even at 70.