Monday, March 15, 2010

"Tarkan Versus the Vikings" Revisited

Last week, the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm passed a resolution recognizing the ever-controversial Armenian Genocide (or as I call it The Rashomon Nightmare) by a 131 to 130 vote.

A similar measure was passed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill the week before by a 23-22 count. Among those who voted for the measure were comittee chair Cong. Howard Bermon (D-Calif.) over the objections of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The current Turkish-Swedish spat has reminded me of a right-wing comic book film (actually based on the comic book "Tarkan" by the late Sezgin Burak) "Tarkan Versus the Vikings" (1971) which starred action film icon Kartal Tibet as (who else?!) Tarkan.

"Tarkan vs. the Vikings" is actually available on Netflix, and it is quite an amusing film, which even non-Turkish cinema cinephiles (yes, we are the oxy-morons of oxy-morons) will undoubtedly love. I personally think the fake octopus (we should have posted an image of it here- maybe, next time) is one of the greatest bad special effects in world cinema history.

David Austin of called "Tarkan Versus the Vikings" (one of several Tarkan films): "Turkey's answer to the Italian sword and sandal films and it is more fun than a proverbial barrel of monkeys."

Austin added that the film was like "Conan the Barbarian done on $10,000 and amphetamines."

The plot of the film is a relatively simply one. Tibet/Tarkan has to resuce the Princess Yonca (played by Swedish actress Eva Burden) from the evil Viking Toro who happens to worship an octopus-god monster. Well, maybe it's not as simple as I recall (I must profess to only seeing the film in its entirety once).

But, the film does reflect the Turkish distrust of the outside world, and it perhaps explains why Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan went as far as to remove Turkey's ambassador to Sweden Zergun Koruturk and cancel a pre-arranged trip to Stockholm.

I must profess that I agree with Mehmet Kaplan, a Turkish member of the Swedish Parliament who represents the liberal Environment Party, who told Turkey's conservative newspaper "Zaman" (the FoxNews of Turkey, and I don't tend to agree with them much) that the political timing was bad since Ankara and Yerevan were working on peace negotations. But, (and I know some of my fellow Turkish-Americans will not like me for saying this) I also think Erdogan, who in my opinion has been a bad leader at an important juncture, overeacted as the measure was passed by only one vote and Swedish Foreign Minster Carl Bildth opposed it.

The Swedish measure was praised by the leading Armenian-American lobbyist Aram Hamparian who heads ANCA, the leading Armenian political group in Washington, DC, and Suzanne Khordalian who heads a similar organziation in Sweden. She told various Armenian news outlets that the meetings lasted five hours.

One of my concerns about such political spats is that it will assist ultra-right Turkish nationalists in their political efforts. In an unrelated manner, Yurdagul Simsek of the English-language edition of Turkey's leading newspaper "Hurriyet" reported that far-right politicians like Devlet Bahceli (The Turkish Newt Gingrich) were upset that Turkish performers at a European song contest were going to sing a song in English.

Hey, Abba sang songs in English and look what it did for them.....and Sweden!

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