Interview with Ed Glaser, author of How the World Remade Hollywood part 1

As you may have learned from reading our site, I’m obsessed with bootleg films or remakesploitation. From films like 3 Dev Adam (Three Giant Men) and Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves the World) to just about everything that emerged from the 80s Italian horror boom, I’m just so astounded by how movies get culturally remixed. 

According to Ed Glaser, author of How the World Remade Hollywood, “Most of these films were low budget and many were unauthorized, but all of them were fantastic—and lately have begun to resurface thanks to cherry-picked YouTube clips. But why and how were they made in the first place?” 

I had the opportunity to speak with Ed and learn even more about how he discovered these films himself, how they’re often so much more than just a Xerox and how ideas shift as they cross borders.

I can’t thank him enough for the conversation that we had.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: Should we call these movies remixes or rip-offs or remakesploitation?

Ed Glaser: It’s up you! But I use remakesploitation quite a bit. I picked it up around 2008 from an article by Jason McElreath. I think he coined it and then I just kind of kept using it relentlessly ever since. 

B&S: When did you discover these films?

Ed: Around 2002 I was reading Thomas Harris’s Hannibal novels and decided to rewatch the films. I knew there were a couple versions of Red Dragon and I was curious if there were any other alternate versions. I went to IMDb and sure enough, there was a movie called Sangharsh, which is a Bollywood film.

I wasn’t as familiar with Bollywood at the time, though I had been told that its movies always featured singing and dancing. So I was very curious to see how that would translate to Silence of the Lambs. Of course I immediately ordered the DVD and waited anxiously for it to arrive, and then ordered a bunch of pizzas and watched the film with friends — and no subtitles. 

Two hours later, it had changed my life. 

Since then, the film has been released with subtitles – thank goodness – and it’s really a marvelous film. It was just such a unique experience seeing a familiar story told through such an unfamiliar lens.

B&S: How do you go from this life-changing experience to deciding to write a book?

Ed: Very slowly. For a while, it was just a matter of discovering what other remakes, remixes, and rip-offs existed. After I showed Sangharsh to some more friends a few years later, I started wondering what other films like that were out there. 

I went looking and that’s how I discovered Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves the World) or “Turkish Star Wars.” I started buying these films and watching them with friends and that sort of became a regular occurrence. 

The question I always had when watching them was, “How did this get made?” You know, what was the context around it? Because when you see these films sort of plucked from a vacuum on YouTube, you have no idea. It’s like this clip has come from another universe. But of course it didn’t.

The filmmakers made these movies under particular circumstances and for specific reasons. I wanted to hear the stories behind them. So I started digging, learning, and reaching out to people. Eventually, as I learned more, particularly about the Turkish film industry at the time, I discovered some clips from a film called Korkusuz (Rampage), which was sort of the “Turkish Rambo” from the same director as “Turkish Star Wars.” I ended up buying the rights to that film and producing an English language release. Shortly after that, since I had collected dozens and dozens of these films and learned the stories behind so many of them, I started doing a web series called Deja View, where each episode highlighted a single remakesploitation flick. 

I did that for a number of years, and meanwhile several people suggested I write a book on the subject. I’d never written a book before, so thus began another very slow process.

B&S: I think that a lot of people come into these movies looking for something to laugh at. And then some people stick around and understand that these movies give us the opportunity to view a culture through a different lens. So it’s not just a meme or a joke. There’s merit to these movies.

Ed: Absolutely. I get a little tired of the internet snark, when it’s just a case of people showing clips and saying, “Look at this crappy movie.”

I’m not saying all these films are amazing or all high art. Some of them have been roundly trounced by their own film industries and local audiences. So they’re not all great films, but it’s not fair to take them out of context and laugh at them. It’s weird and disingenuous to lump them all into the category of bad movies. And why wouldn’t you be curious where they came from? They may look low budget or rough around the edges because some international film industries in the ‘70s didn’t have the resources of Hollywood. But when you dig deeper, you see that many of these filmmakers were performing miracles.

You can’t just look at the surface.

B&S: I’ve always disliked when people call Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves the World) a Star Wars rip-off. After all, isn’t Star Wars itself a cultural remix of Kurosawa and Jack Kirby and Flash Gordon? And The Dam Busters and a million other movies?

Ed: Absolutely. If you look at the film, it’s very much its own thing. It’s got a lot of Star Wars because of the footage that it lifts from that movie, but the story itself is pulled from Flash Gordon, Battlestar Galactica, religious mythology, and just all kinds of places.

B&S: It doesn’t look like it either. 

Ed: Çetin İnanç is such a fascinating director. The way he does action is so wild. He’ll thrust the camera right up into the action at crazy angles and swing it around and it’s so dynamic and unusual. His frequent director of photography Çetin Gürtop, his brother-in-law, the stuff that they did together was just like, you’re not supposed to do that. But I’m so glad they did.

B&S: It’s the next level of how jarring Hong Kong action films can be. 

Ed: Absolutely. I got to spend some time with Çetin İnanç and his wife a few years ago and interviewed him about some of his films. He’s just the nicest person in the world. But it was funny, I took some pictures with him. And then he took some pictures of us and he got my camera and the way he took pictures was just the same way that he must have shot those movies. He was getting in your face and then swinging back and then just like constantly clicking and moving all around and it’s very active and funny. It was a lot of fun.

B&S: Why Turkey? Why do they excel at cultural remixing?

Ed: In its heyday it was a country with a ravenous appetite for films but minimal resources to produce them. The screenwriting talent was also limited. There was basically just Bülent Oran, Erdoğan Tünaş, and Safa Önal who were the big three screenwriters of the Yeşilçam era in Turkey. There were others, of course, but they were the biggies. And they were overworked! You’re producing up to 300 films a year, which Turkey did in 1973, which at the time made it the third most prolific film industry in the world. They did this with none of the infrastructure that Hollywood had. 

They also had no real copyright laws for foreign intellectual property that would prevent them from using stories or other elements from existing media. So you get these remixes where they’re pulling from other sources, in part because they’re doing so many scripts.

B&S: It’s culturally similar to the Italian film industry in the 80s, particularly Bruno Mattei and Joe D’Amato, where it’s nonstop content creation. Filmirage made forty movies in 14 years!

Ed: Filmirage, Flora Film…they had a huge demand to fill. All the companies that Mattei worked with – I mean, he and Claudio Fragasso were there in the Philippines for years just churning out these dudes-in-the-jungle movies for their bosses.

B&S: Mattei takes cultural remixing to another level because he’ll just outright take footage.

Ed: By the 2000s his budgets were slashed so much and he was shooting on digital video. So the last few movies he made – The Jail: The Women’s Hell, Zombies: The Beginning, The Tomb, In the Land of the Cannibals – it wasn’t even like the old days for him. 

When it comes to Turkish films, during the Yeşilçam period from the ‘50s through the ‘80s, music was something they’d also straight-up lift from elsewhere. How are you going to get composers to write new music and orchestras to record that music for all of the hundreds of films that they had to do that year and for no money? Why not just grab from your personal library of soundtrack LPs and score the film with those? There’s was no law saying you couldn’t.

B&S: I find it really interesting that people look down sometimes on these movies and decry them as rip-offs and unlike in hip hop, where sampling is accepted.

Ed: I couldn’t really venture much of a guess as to why that is beyond the fact that as long as the sampling falls within legal boundaries, you know, we think that that’s okay.

In our next chapter, we’ll get into where Santo fits in amongst world cinema, post-apocalyptic film and how sharks lend themselves to great remake and remix movies.

You can get Ed’s book, How the World Remade Hollywood, from McFarland Books. To see some of these movies and hear from Ed, check out Deja View: Remakes and Rip-Offs of Your Favorite Films.

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