Way before the era of the Internet…back when DVDs had barely broken through the market, and Marvel Studios was just the faintest glimmer in the eye…there was a legend. A legend of a movie that had not just Captain America in it, but Spider-Man. And Mexican wrestler-hero Santo. All in the same movie.
How was this possible? How did Marvel sign off on this?
Of course they didn’t sign off on this, silly—this was a completely unauthorized Turkish movie called 3 Dev Adam (“3 Giant Heroes”).
Made in 1972 or 1973, 3 Dev Adam was the story of how Captain America and Santo teamed up to fight the evil “Spider” to bust a counterfeiting ring. They absolutely call the character “Captain America,” and he wears a close replica to the actual superhero’s costume. Spider-Man’s costume is a bit wonkier, and has these big eyebrows jutting out of the eye-holes of the mask—but despite the fact he’s the villain of the movie, he’s clearly supposed to be Spider-Man.
When I first heard about this movie many moons ago, my imagination was all fired up. But the only place I’d be able to see/acquire it would be comic book conventions.
Thanks to YouTube, however, there are several copies of the full-length 3 Dev Adam available for viewing (what are the rules on pirating a copyright-infringing movie? is it merely a case of double jeopardy?).
But Amazon Prime Video also had a copy of 3 Dev Adam to watch—called Superhero Force and featuring a shot of the ersatz Spider-Man on it. Distributed through Sprocket Flicks—who apparently provides Amazon with quite a number of these classic public domain films—it may be, as far as I know, the first/only “official” release of 3 Dev Adam.
The quality of the Superhero Force version is pretty bad, and headache-inducing to those not used to such fuzzy/smeary/faded fare. But I have to wonder if any original print of the film is still around to even make a good copy anymore. I mean, some crisp digitally-remastered 3 Dev Adam released in one of those fancy DVD/Blu-ray collector’s editions would be amazing but…
Now, how is the quality of the film itself? Well…
It’s not extremely terrible. It’s a little terrible. It grows on you. I mean, it’s a simplistic, cliched plot filled with almost zero character development and badly edited fight scenes. Captain America and Santo are the good guys, and there is the vaguest sense that the slightly younger-looking Santo is Captain America’s sidekick. Somebody pointed out to me that perhaps Santo is supposed to be symbolically playing Falcon, Cap’s sidekick at the time in the comic books. The fact that the actor who plays Santo, when in civilian clothes, wears an odd red-fringed jacket with a bird’s head on the back…geez, I think he is supposed to be Falcon! (edit after second viewing…it might actually be a Native American head on his back, or a bird wearing such a headdress).
Spider-Man here—or, “The Spider”—is really fashioned in the mold of those nefarious mysterious sadistic villains of the pulp era and old movie serials. In a sense, he’s the only character even remotely interesting in 3 Dev Adam—mostly because he’s portrayed as a relentless psychopath. In the only scene of him without his costume (we still never see his face), he’s making love to his girlfriend; weird shots of like strange toys and whatnot are edited into that scene, I guess in an attempt to stress his craziness.
And the characterization of women here is almost complete shit, mostly strippers, models, gangster molls, naked bodies peeped at in showers, and who-the-fuck-knows-what. Only the character of Cap’s girlfriend Julia—who herself is some sort of undercover law enforcement type—has any sort of agency outside of being a prop. Which makes me wonder if she was supposed to be like the Sharon Carter of the movie.
But you will excuse me if I do not approach 3 Dev Adam with the expectation of it being a complex feminist treatise or anything else so refined. The movie opens with a woman being buried up to her neck in sand and having a boat propeller shoved in her face. Santo stashes evidence in his underpants because he doesn’t have pockets. And during one of the climatic battles towards the end of the movie, the film jump cuts several times to different parts of the fight without any sort of continuity whatsothefuckever.
This is a film you largely “enjoy” because literally it has Captain America, Spider-Man, and Santo in it. Period. You either think that’s a fucking hoot or this movie has pretty close to zero value to you.
This leads to the problematic situation of making fun of what might be, to that country at that time-period, a “legit” movie. I have no idea what the state of Turkish films were at that time. I know that the man who played Captain America, Aytekin Akkaya, was apparently a reasonably big star in Turkey at that time. He made tons of films, and eventually found his way to a far more famous Turkish unauthorized movie, Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam—better known in America as “Turkish Star Wars.”
Anyway, I’d love to get more perspective and context on these Turkish films. And I’d love to know what the genesis of 3 Dev Adam was, and how that all got made.
So: if you are a fan of cult movies and/or superhero flicks, 3 Dev Adam/Captain America And Santo Vs. Spider-Man/Superhero Force is worth just getting familiar with.
Postscript: after recommending this to a friend, I’ve started watching it again. How can I sit through it multiple times, much less the first time? See, this is the $250,000 question.