B&W, 1970, 67m. / Directed by Yavuz Yalinkilicr / Starring Aytekin Akkaya, Dogan Tamer, Ciray Alpan, Jirayir Carkci

Color, 1972, 58m. / Directed by Mehmet Aslan / Starring Meral Zeren, Yildirim Cencer, Kadir Inanir, Eva Bender / Onar (Greece R0 PAL)

While Turkish cinema has already gained a wide fan reputation for its wild imitations of popular Hollywood movies, TV shows and comic books, this fascinating double bill sheds some light on their equally colorful appropriations of Italian horror conventions as well. First up is 1970's black and white(!) offering, Oluler Konusmaz Ki, rechristened here as The Dead Don't Talk. It's an entertaining approximation of the previous decade's gothic horror offerings, particularly offerings like Castle of Blood, The Virgin of Nuremberg and Tomb of Torture. The "plot," such as it is, follows a young couple, Melih (Akkay) and Oya (Alpan), who take shelter at a spooky old house-turned-B&B which they have inherited. Their sinister host (Tamer) informs them in his bass-heavy voice that they're welcome for the night, but soon they're being assailed by a creepy ghoul who enjoys appearing at windows and cackling or chasing the guests down hallways. Soon more visitors arrive, providing even more fodder for a seemingly endless night of terror...

Both conventional and yet wholly bizarre, The Dead Don't Talk refuses to explain itself and develop any of the characters, instead prowling the camera around to soak up the gothic atmosphere. The monochromatic look pays tribute to everything from Bava to TV's Thriller to Hammer Films (and even AIP programmers like The Headless Ghost), all on a super-cheap budget. Add some liberal soundtrack sprinklings from then-recent American hits like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rosemary's Baby, and you've got the receipe for one seriously deranged homegrown offering.

However, the real crackerjack offering here is nothing less than a bona fide Turkish giallo, Aska Susayanlar Seks Ve Cinayet, or as it's called on the packaging, Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder. As anyone who's seen the trailer could already tell, this is a close copy of Sergio Martino's 1970 classic, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (or Blade of the Ripper as most Americans initially saw it). Yep, they even manage to find stars who look like Turkish versions of Edwige Fenech and George Hilton! The setup here is almost identical to Martino's, with a married woman (Zeren) fiddling away her time by going to catfight-packed parties, tolerating her dull-as-dirt husband, entertaining a lover on the side (Cencer), and quivering in fear from a mysterious sunglass-wearing stalker. Many highlights from the Martino film are carried over here (including the memorable slo-mo rain assault), but director Aslan (who also helmed the delirious Tarkan vs. the Vikings, available from Mondo MacabrO) also comes up with a few nifty stylish flourishes of his own, such as a shower stabbing that fills the camera with a gushing river of water that turns into blood. He also pulls out the stops during a flashy car garage pursuit scene that works quite well given the production's limited means. The entire cast is also much more attractive than usual for a Turkish production, which is a good thing given the amount of topless nudity on display. This time the soundtrack samples directly from its sources, with Ennio Morricone getting a thorough workout from start to finish.

Rescuing both films from the brink of extinction (with no surviving film elements and hard-to-find tape masters), Onar gives them a new lease on life with one of the year's most entertaining and essential world horror releases. Both titles are only as good as the original masters, of course; The Dead Don't Talk looks rather soft and drab, but it's watchable enough and better than many other tape-sourced Turkish titles. However, the compression used here is rather unforgiving, as backgrounds tend to look too crunchy for comfort. Thirsty fares better, though the original element was obviously damaged by more than a few screenings before its eventual sourcing to tape. Then again, pristine image quality isn't the point here (and never was for Turkish genre releases); you can finally see these ultra-obscure gemes, with optional English subtitles to boot. You also get mouthwatering trailers for other Onar releases like Tarzan Istanbul'da, Demir Yumruk Delver Geliyor and Superman Donuyor, plus poster and lobby card galleries and bios for both directors. Leading man Akkaya also appears for a 45-minute(!) video interview in which he discusses the film and his career, which ranges from the instant cult favorite 3 Dev Adam to a surprising roster of international productions. Turkish Fantastic Cinema co-authors Metin Demirhan and Giovanni Scognamillo appear for separate, shorter interviews (both sporting copious facial hair) to provide an overview of Turkish horror cinema from its early B&W days to the present.

Mondo Digital Reviews Mondo Digital Links Frequently Asked Questions