December 24, 2014
Dry Summer (1963)
Grade: 69/100

Director: Metin Erksan
Stars: Erol Tas, Hülya Koçyigit, Ulvi Dogan

What it's about. An unpleasant but gripping family drama set in rural Turkey. Osman Kocabas (Erol Tas) is an aggressive and completely selfish thirty-something. His younger brother is Hasan (Ulvi Dogan). Upon his brother's urging, Hasan marries his gorgeous fiancée Bahar (Hülya Koçyigit, only 16 at the time), virtually wrestling her away from her tradition-minded and much older mother.

Osman is ambitious about increasing the size and yield of his farm. His plan is dam the spring on his land, cutting off the water supply to the dependent farmers and landowners downstream. Hasan and Bahar disapprove but cede to the older man's judgment.

The neighbors, led by Veli Sari (Hakki Haktan), are angry. They appeal to the law, but Osman hires an effective lawyer, and wins the case. Sari and a confederate attempt to sabotage the dam at night, but Osman catches them in the act. He shoots Sari, killing him, then successfully pins the blame on his own brother. Hasan is sentenced to eight years in prison.

Osman promises to write to his brother and send money, but does not. Osman intercepts Hasan's letters to his wife, who continues to live in the same cramped house with Osman. Osman begins a campaign to seduce Bahar, a diligent laborer who nonetheless learns to despise her brother-in-law.

A general amnesty frees Hasan, who seeks revenge on his self-aggrandizing brother. But Osman awaits Hasan with both a rifle and pistol.

How others will see it. Most viewers will share the sentiments of Bahar, Hasan, and the neighbors. That is, they will develop a growing hatred for Osman. Since he is a strictly cinematic character, they might even wish to see him killed. As soon as possible, but definitely before the credits roll.

It's obvious that all the actors are dubbed. Presumably, the movie was filmed as a silent to cut the budget, and different actors provided the voices as a post-production expediency. After a few minutes, though, one becomes accustomed to the indifferently edited dubbing, and no one on the message boards even mentions it.

Dry Summer achieved the greatest international success of any Turkish movie up until that time. It won two prestigious European film awards, the Golden Bear at Berlin and the Biennale Award at Venice. It was mostly ignored in the U.S. until championed by Martin Scorsese, several decades later.

Today at, Dry Summer has 1,324 user votes, a low total for a Hollywood movie but a good number for a dubbed black and white Turkish film made a half-century ago. The user rating is even more impressive at 8.0 out of 10. However, the rating drops steadily with advancing age demographics, and women over 45 give it only a 6.8 out of 10. Presumably, they would like to have seen Bahar beat Osman to death with a shovel long before the third reel.

A dog is shot dead to advance the plot, a concept that alienates modern Western viewers. One has to remember that directors on a shoestring budget in 1963 didn't have the luxury of CGI animation, that dogs are still served for dinner in Asia, and that cows, hogs, and chickens are butchered by the billion annually in America. Where the top-rated reality show is about a family of duck hunters and beaver killers. When you play the national morality card, be careful of the hand that you are holding.

How I felt about it. Everybody hates Osman. That doesn't mean he will be stopped, and it would have been more interesting if the director had the courage to reach the logical ending, where Hasan is murdered by an armed Osman henchman before he can get to either Osman or Bahar. I understand the irony of Osman drowned in his own water that he so selfishly hoarded. What I don't understand is how Osman could have missed Hasan with so many shots, particularly after he had recently trained as a marksman with the same guns.

One doesn't feel too sorry for Hasan, who is stupid enough to take the fall and get sent to prison. It is easy to feel sorry for Bahar, made to work as a slave by Osman and eventually repeatedly raped by the man she despises.