Worst or “Worst”: Santo on Screen Part 1: 3 Dev Adam

The likes of 3 Dev Adam (literally, “Three Giant Men”) and its ilk have been parodied and shot through with satire for decades, but this Turkish 1973 anti-classic is the real deal. A … I don’t particularly feel comfortable using words like “action” or “gangster” or “crime” film, so let us not resort to genre in describing it. Let us say instead that it is a film where a guinea-pig toting Snidely Whiplash dressed up as Spider-Man (and presumably several clones of himself, but more on that later) runs a crime syndicate in Turkey and the combined forces of Earth’s greatest heroes are necessary to stop him. Which should be its own genre, honestly. Besides, with Spider-Man as a villain, it already makes 3 Dev Adam more warped and twisted and heinous than the intentionally parodic Italian Spider-Man (3 Dev Adam being one of the premier foreign interpretations of Western superheros found in the filmic landscape, the very idea that Italian Spider-Man was parodying).

Let us turn to “Earth’s Greatest Heroes” though, which in this film encompasses famed US patriot and shield-wielder Captain America and famed Mexican Luchador Santo, along with Captain America’s hugely famous freedom fighter girlfriend Julie, who I presume you all remember from her seminal appearance in every one of the Captain America comic books and in her own hundred issue spin-off series. Not the comic reboot though. We best not mention that.

3 Dev Adam barely qualifies as a film. The narrative is non-existent and deliciously episodic, the cinematography is scratched to within an inch of its life, and the sets are recycled from scene one, but none of that matters, for this film has Spider-Man, Captain America, and Santo in it, and they are the crux of the film and the only viable means of discussing its majesty. A utilitarian gesture if ever there was one, as I do not know what anyone else looking at the film would discuss if those three figures weren’t hogging all of the screen, and thus the writing, space. 3 Dev Adam is exclusively invested in its tripartite titular characters, and when in Rome…

Santo isn’t treated with much perversion, and is generally a fairly stable character, although he exists sans wrestling mask for almost the entire film. Which frankly is a disappointment, transforming him into whatever this film’s idea of a stable human being is and losing any semblance of the mystery and allure of the famous Mexican Luchador. Admittedly, he does have his wrestling pants, and he uses them many times throughout the film in surprisingly prismatic and varied ways, including, at least once, to hide things in them in the battiest, naughtiest way possible. Which excuses a great man sins, in my book. Points deducted for never once wearing a turtle neck with a Luchador mask, however, and on that front, Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Dracula Y El Hombre Lobo has 3 Dev Adam beat handily.

Captain America is, unfortunately, a wash. Played by famed Turkish action star Aytekin Akkaya, the film privileges him the most from a visual standpoint, which is a shame, for it has the least idea of what to do with him other than point the camera at him and watch him let loose on some fools. Undoubtedly its own light pleasure, but next to the downright voluptuous treatment of Santo‘s pants, Turkey seems to have little respect for America. Cap doesn’t have his shield, too, which is much less of a disappointment than Santo lacking his mask, if we are being honest. More importantly: I am sad to report that, unless he turned his back when the camera was looking, the good Captain never once places anything in his pants.

Which brings us to the film’s idea of Spider-Man, the piece de resistance of a work that generally lets two of its three giant men down, apparently because all of their energy was sucked up by this portrayal of a sniveling don-boss Spider-Man who always manages to enter the frame with the dirtiest, grubbiest, shiftiest eyes and the greatest idea of style. As I mentioned, he is a villain, and the apple of the film’s eye. It seems as though, upon hearing the word “spider”, whoever was tasked with spitting out the film naturally appended “villain”, although I am not so sure this portrayal is a man, let alone a human.

Or a spider. Does he have any spider-like abilities? If “dying and then reappearing a dozen or so times”, “putting a pipe up to someone’s chest and funneling hungry guinea pigs through that pipe to have their way with that chest”, or “a switchblade” sound like spider abilities, than yes. Yes he does have spider-like abilities, in fact. So point to the film for honesty of representation. Also, whenever Spider-Man enters the frame it is almost impossible to focus on anything else but his dusty, diagonal eye brows, which jut out from his face like lightning bolts. Whatever else this film does wrong, all is excused by its treatment of Spider-Man. It simply must be seen to be believed.

Score:

So how good is it really?: 0.5/5 (barely a film)

But how “good” is it?: 4/5 (not top-tier, and it loses some points for not doing much with its heroes, but dammit that Spider-Man is so scorchingly watchable he ought to run for President)

 

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