Kiliç Aslan (1975)

If you’re going to get into Cüneyt Arkin and you worry, “Will my fragile sensibilities be able to handle sub-VHS prints and an absolute lack of English and therefore no safety net for the absolute phantasmagorical leap into madness that I’m about to take,” permit The Sword and the Claw — or Lionman — to be your gateway drug.

King Suleiman may have conquered the Christians, but he’s a kind man who has spared the women and children. This pleases Princess Maria, who of course gives him a one night all expenses paid guided tour of her spoils of war before Commander Antoine (Yildirim Gencer, who is in Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder) blackmails her into becoming his wife, then kills the King, but not before Suleiman wipes out nearly hundreds of people. Antoine cuts the hands off of his enemy and then hunts down the King’s wife, who gives birth all by herself in the woods, and servant Rhestim, who promptly loses the baby to some lions.

Antoine rules the land along with his son Altar (Cemil Sahbaz, who was Captain Kirk in Turist Ömer Uzay Yolu’nda, the Turkish take on Roddenberry’s space Western), placing his wife into the dungeon to die. Anyone who can’t pay taxes is crucified and killed, in that order, while Rhestim and his daughters have been starting an army. And the son of the King? Well, he was raised by lions to become a 38-year-old Cüneyt Arkin, a maniac ready to trampoline jump and claw his way into your face, if not your heart.

Of course, one of Rhestim’s daughters wants to get in with the rich and powerful, revealing that the Lionman and the King’s son have the same birthmark, one that can only come from the long-dead king. She narcs on her own sister and when our hero saves her, nearly losing his hands to acid.

This would end the fighting of almost any hero. This isn’t any hero. Now that he gets metallic lion claws, he’s ready to kill everyone — and seriously, I mean everyone and then some — to get his revenge.

Imagine, if you will, that this is the most restrained Cüneyt Arkin movie I’ve seen. Like I said, you should take your first steps into this world slowly. Do not dive headfirst into a shallow pool filled with only whiskey like I did. Take small sips, my friend, before you gulp deeply on films where hundreds of ninjas drive cars through brick walls for no reason at all.

The Sword and the Claw is the kind of movie that I could only dream of as a teenager, hopped up on Lemonheads and too many games of Bad Dudes, wishing of a film where people bounce off the walls and kill with aplomb. It feels like the kind of sub-Conan comic book, something even crazier than Warlord or Kull or even Claw the Unconquered.

You can watch this on Tubi. Please do.

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