Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The first adaptation of Mandrake the Magician to cinema was in the form of a serial in 1940. The first -and so far, only- Mandrake feature film would come from the low-budget exploitation cinema of Turkey in the late 1960s: Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde (Mandrake the King of the Magicians After Kiling). Made in 1967 or 1968, this very obscure movie pits Mandrake and Lothar against Killing, a photo-comics anti-hero of Italian origin which was very popular in Turkey at the time. The craze for the skeleton-costumed Killing was so high that Turkish filmmakers had made 10 movies featuring Killing (with variant spellings of the name) in 1967-68 and Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde was one of them, so this movie owes its existence as much to Killing as to Mandrake. On the above poster, Killing is depicted in the upper left, over Lothar's shoulders.
Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde was scripted and directed by Oksal Pekmezoğlu (b. 1938), an illustrator by training and by early profession who had picked up a career as movie director after entering the Turkish film industry initially as a credits sequence artist. His prolific post-Mandrake filmography includes movies from a variety of genres from mainstream musical melodramas to adult-oriented sex-comedies. Top-billed Güven Erte, who presumably plays Mandrake, is a little-known actor credited in supporting roles in several Turkish movies from the second half of the the 1960s, the Mandrake vs Killing movie being his only starring role.
Several sources name this movie as "Mandrake Killing'e Karşı [Mandrake vs Killing]", but that may only have been an unofficial promotional reference during the production or pre-production phases; both the official censorship documents and the movie's own release poster give the title as Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde. There is also an uncertainity as to dating the movie. Türk Filmleri Sözlüğü 1914-1973 compiled by Agah Özgüç and published by Turkish Filmmakers Union include this title, listed shortly as "Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde", under the year 1967 and hence all subsequent sources date it from that year. However, the censorship document of the movie, kindly made available to me by my friend Dilek Kaya, is dated August 28th, 1968. Perhaps the project for this production was announced in 1967, but the movie appears to have been made or at least completed in 1968. As for its release, I can not find any listing for it in Istanbul. The movie appeared as part of a double-bill in the Çelik cinema of the south-eastern city of Adana on May 24th, 1969. Of course, the fact that I couldn't find any Istanbul release info does not necessarily rule out the possibility of an unreported release in Istanbul, but I had been told earlier by another researcher friend of mine, Metin Demirhan, that Turkish Z-grade masked/super/anti-hero movies of the late 1960s were said to be especially popular among audiences in Adana and some of these movies were rumoured to have been made primarily or even exclusively for this market; Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde was perhaps one such movie.
The censorship document list the original running time as 75 minutes and the the censorhip commission has ordered the cutting of two "sex scenes" and one flogging scene! The brief synopsis on TFS 1914-1973 refers to the plot as "the adventure of an Indian princess who has come to İzmir on vacation," so the movie appears to be set in the Turkish western coastal city of İzmir, probably also shot there, at least partially. The second-billed name in the cast credits list on the poster is actress Mine Mutlu who might have played the "Indian princess".
Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde has never been shown in Turkish televisions nor had been available during the video boom of the 1980s, so it was believed to have been a lost movie. However, Demirhan had once told me, about ten years ago, that he had heard that a 16 mm copy was present in the private collection of a collector. Indeed, a Turkish blog reported in 2009 that a battered 16 mm copy of Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde was leased from a private collector in Ankara, repaired as best as possible in Istanbul and a transfer was made onto Betacam tape which was then sent to Greece-based Onar Film, a fan-driven label which had been releasing obscure Turkish Z-movies on dvd. Unfortunately, the owner&manager of Onar would become critically ill in 2010 before he could release on dvd the recently-discovered Killing movie he had hinted in his blog. Onar has sadly been inactive since then.
I conclude this post with the below mega-rare photo still from Sihirbazlar Kralı Mandrake Kiling'in Peşinde:

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