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Monday, March 9, 2009

Turist Ömer Uzay Yolund (AKA Turkish Star Trek and Jim Henson's The Cube

Tonight's double feature:
Turist Ömer Uzay Yolund (AKA STAR TURK) and 1969's THE CUBE by Jim Henson

First Feature: Turist Ömer Uzay Yolun

Afterword by Steve Ahlquist

To think of this movie as a rip-off of Star Trek or as a parody of Star Trek is a big mistake, even though Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda (1973) is both these things. The title literally means "Ömer the Tourist in Star Trek." Ömer the Tourist was played by Sadri Alisik, (1925-1995) an extremely popular Turkish comedian, who played the part in at least seven previous films. Among Turks Alisik is held in the highest regard as a comedic actor.

Ömer, Alisik is a hobo, (think Charlie Chaplin) who wanders from place to place, getting into trouble. His trademark is a great care for truth, and little concern for money. In the previous film in the series, Ömer finds himself in Spain, returning a wallet full of money to its rightful owner. Before that Ömer found himself in Arabia and Germany. In this film, Ömer finds himself pulled out of a shotgun wedding and time traveled to an alien planet. Ömer finds himself during an actual episode of the show, the episode called "The Man Trap." "The Man Trap" was the first episode of Star Trek broadcast in the United States. It may well have been the first episode broadcast in Turkey as well. (I have never been able to determine if it was.)

Let's back up.
Star Trek was extremely popular in Turkey at this time. The entire country was going through a Star Trek craze. This movie is an attempt to cash in on this phenomenon by combining Star Trek with Ömer the Tourist. The Turks therefore did the first big screen Star Trek film, and they worked hard to keep the film in continuity. This episode becomes a sort of "What If?" scenario. What if, the movie asks us, just before the first episode of our favorite series began, Ömer the Tourist was beamed aboard the ship?

The movie proceeds, as
Spock (or as the Turks call him, Mr. Spak), logically from this premise. The first episode play out, roughly as it did originally, with the addition of Ömer. Ömer spends his time teasing the crew, and generally making a nuisance of himself. He's a charming rogue, and the crew likes him. I love the use of the stolen incidental music, the nods to bits of Star Trek mythology that that hadn't been seen yet (such as the Vulcan neck pinch) and the entirely too short miniskirts the female crewmembers have to wear.

The production is both great and terrible, the special effects not better or worse than the original series per se, just... different. The sound effects on the Enterprise when the turbolift doors open are provided by a guy saying "whoosh" into a microphone. The phaser blasts are scratched onto the film like my old super-8 projects. The monsters are guys in suits.

It would have been great to continue the
Star Trek adventures with this crew. Imagine seventy eight more movies, each a Turkified remake of an original Star Trek episode, each episode weirder than the last.

With the new
J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie on its way, people will get a chance to see their old favorite characters re-imagined and reinterpreted by new actors, for a younger generation and a new audience. Back in 1973, in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, it was done first.

Cartoon Freak Show, featuring Paul Friedrick's Onion Head Monster

If you like what you have just seen you can order Paul’s OHM Graphic novels and merchandise HERE!

Second Feature: Jim Henson's THE CUBE (1969)

The Cube was an hour long teleplay that aired on NBC's weekly anthology television show NBC Experiment in Television on February 23, 1969. The production was produced and directed by puppeteer Jim Henson, and was one of several experiments with the live-action film medium which he conducted in the 1960s, before focusing entirely on the Muppets and other puppet works. The screenplay was co-written by long-time Muppet writer Jerry Juhl (who also appears in a cameo). Drop it if you got it, because this is a merry trip down Blue Tab-Gooney Bird Lane. Be sure to bring a mandolin playing midget along as your guide.

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