Death Warrior (1984)

It’s a known fact that ninjas from all over the world are capable of incredible feats.

However, only ninjas from Turkey can throw a rock that turns into a bomb when it hits someone in the face.

The mythology of Turkish genre movies makes for a better story than The Odyssey. Turkish filmmakers during the 1970s and 80s worked harder than anyone. And created more product than anyone. For over a decade, three screenwriters and a handful of directors produced nearly one-hundred movies a year on budgets that wouldn’t cover a tank of gas today. Given the financial constraints and lack of copyright laws in Turkey, it’s no surprise that the bulk of these movies are soaked in hallucinogenic plagiarism. Turkish genre movies are not known for their tact, originality, or depth. They’re known for presenting Spider-Man as a serial killer (3 Dev Adam) and adding the theme from Raiders Of The Lost Ark to a slasher (Bloody Mansion Death). Occasionally, stuff like The Dead Don’t Talk or Cellat aka Turkish Death Wish felt surprisingly legitimate. They had emotion, story arcs, and suspense. But for the most part, Turkish genre movies don’t exist to give us a comforting feeling of familiarity. We watch them because we want to fall into a swirling void that’s ruled by impossibility and severed from reality.

With Death Warrior, the void opens even wider.

A group of terrorists plot the destruction of a super-cop named Death Warrior. These terrorists are also known as ninjas. The ninjas practice in the middle of a field to the sound of music cues from Enter The Dragon and Psycho. These ninjas are capable of stabbing tree trunks with match sticks, shooting arrows that sound like a V6 engine, and slicing throats with playing cards. They’re also responsible for a series of random murders. The ninja leader says, “Tonight, while the moon is rising up, the bats and ninjas will awake! Our dead will come back to earth. Destruction to Death Warrior!”

Death Warrior is Cüneyt Arkin, star of Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam aka Turkish Star Wars and one billion other movies. Death Warrior hopes to work with the government to stop the ninjas from killing innocent people. But the government wants no part of Death Warrior! He is a loose cannon! He cannot be trusted! Of course, this means that Death Warrior must take matters into his own hands. This seems like a simple task until you watch the movie.

Death Warrior sits on a curb. He watches a car drive through brick wall. Death Warrior fights some ninjas in a warehouse. The warehouse becomes an apartment — then a parking garage — in the span of eight seconds with no explanation. Ninjas attempt to run over some cops in a Volvo. Death Warrior rams them with his motorcycle, which becomes an Evel Knievel toy at the moment of impact. Ninja zombies rise from the dirt while camera swoops from Evil Dead accompany them. A monster with vulture claws and a face made of toothpaste murders a man in his apartment. Plants strangle people. Death Warrior’s second girlfriend turns into a frog and attacks him. He throws her against the wall. She explodes. In the next scene, Death Warrior finds his girlfriend in a bureau. She’s human again. A shot of a mountainside turns upside down.

Death Warrior is a dream come true. Most Turkish genre movies have a handful of outrageous moments. But this one contains quadruple that. We’re engulfed by a sensory overload in every way possible — each ten minute chunk has more ideas crammed into it than George Lucas’s entire career. It’s not enough to say that this movie has gaps in logic, structure, and aesthetics. It goes beyond that. Death Warrior feels like Godfrey Ho grabbed chapters from twelve unfinished novels by different authors and compiled them into a screenplay while eating a piece of toast. Then the movie was filmed one day a year for five years with a different crew each time. Seventy minutes of footage was usable. All of it was used. But it had style. The dreamy, collage-like assemblage is filled with beautiful photography and cocaine-fueled editing. The manic pace only lets up when Death Warrior pauses to explain why the Turkish police force is the strongest in the world. He does this more than once.

The movie climaxes with a twenty minute fight between Death Warrior and the ninjas. There isn’t much dialogue during the battle, but a disco version of the theme from Jaws plays through most of it. At one point, Death Warrior says, “Beware the ninja. They have one-thousand ways of reaching you.”

All one-thousand of those ways were utilized during the making of this movie.

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