The Executioner

Director:  Memduh Un
Year:  1975
Rating: 7.0

Country: Turkey

Aka - Cellat

Before I get into this review I just wanted to mention that I looked around for other DVD releases of Turkish films from the 1960's/1970s and came upon the Onar Film Distribution company that released this one as well as a dozen others including a couple of the Kilink films, Iron Claw the Pirate, Tarzan in Istanbul, Three Giant Men and a few crime films that look interesting. Digging deeper though I discovered that the company went out of business with the death of its owner about eight years ago and I can't find any of these films on Amazon (Ebay may have a few at inflated prices). I am glad I picked up a few when they were released. DVDs going out of print is a tragedy to me and the growing popularity of streaming has just accelerated this trend. I like physical and am not a streamer. Someday I may have no choice but so many films are disappearing - older Hong Kong films which I am familiar with are getting nearly impossible to find and the vast majority of them will never get on to streaming platforms. I was saddened to read about this fellow who ran Onar films - it was his pure passion for these older genre Turkish films that drove him. If you read his Blog postings it was clearly a labor of love and sales were never great. A belated RIP to Bill Barounis.

As were so many of these genre Turkish films of the period, this was heavily influenced by a Western film. In this case Death Wish which had come out the year before. I saw Death Wish probably 30 years ago and never followed up on the sequels - but I recall the gist of it. A man's wife is murdered and his daughter sexually molested and Charles Bronson goes on a righteous path of vigilante killings of street criminals, not necessarily related to the murder of his wife. It was a controversial film when it came out with conservatives and liberals taking opposite sides of the vigilante issue - and to a lesser degree this argument re-emerged when Bruce Willis did a remake (which I never saw). Death Wish was made during a time when street crime was a major fear for people and likely weaponized by politicians. I have no idea if any of this was an issue in Turkey - it was in one of its democratic phases as it went back and forth between military juntas and democracy in the 1970's with a coup in 1971 and one later in 1980.  If you watch this film, it sure seems like street crime is an issue as our protagonist has no problem finding scum to kill in the dark alleyways of Istanbul.

Orhan (Serdar Gökhan) returns from a vacation with his beautiful wife Filiz, his cute sister Sevgi and her husband Jahit. He is a good fellow who doesn't believe in violence and guns but learned to shoot from his father who was a famous hunter. He is an architect. Three cretins - one who looks just like a drugged up David Crosby (in other words David Crosby) - break into his home while he is at work and rape his wife and sister - with the wife dying and the sister going into a comatose trauma unable to speak or react - or describe the marauders. Orhan patiently waits for the police to find the men but they have no clues. On a business trip he meets a customer who gives him a gun as a present with a speech directly from the NRA - guns don't kill, people do and if it were not a gun it would be a rock or a knife. Such great logic. Not a lot of mass killings with a rock since the days of Fred Flintstone and as I always ask people who give this specious argument - would you rather face a man with a gun or a rock.

Back in Istanbul with the police no further along Orhan decides it is time for someone to clean up the streets. Him and his gun. And he is good at it. He wanders the dark nights looking for targets - the first is a man about to rape a child - afterwards he throws up but it gets easier - almost addictive. The film is quite well done - the streets and clubs of the city suitably sleazy and dangerous and his victims all deserving. Gökhan is excellent in his role as a good man with a deadly mission. It is hard not to root for him as we are of course meant to do.