Çanakkale aslanlari (The Lions of Gallipoli) (1964)
Directors: Turgut Demirag, Nusret Eraslan.
Starring: Tanju Gürsu, Ajda Pekkan, Memduh Alpar, Mehmet Büyükagaoglu, Engin Deniz, Lütfü Engin, Oya Engin, Ziya Erim, Celal Ersöz, Talat Gözbak, Altan Günbay, Ilhan Hemseri, Atif Kaptan, Haydar Karaer, Yavuz Karakas.
the battle seen from the Turkish point of view
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Gallipoli is a peninsula in northwestern Turkey, the site of the Gallipoli Campaign (sometimes called the Battle of Gallipoli) in World War I. The town is located across the Sea of Marmara from the town of Cardak located east on Asia Minor.
A poem to the fallen of Gallipoli
He, who hath been shot on his immaculate forehead,
lays on the ground.
Oh God! This, such a crescent [on the Turkish flag], so many suns
Fall devotees for
Oh, Soldier, who hath fallen down on these
Realms for these realms.
May thine ancestors descend from heavens
To kiss thine purged forehead..
Who can dig the grave for you to encompass
If I want to enclose thee in history,
Thou shall not fit.
This book will not suffice
For the walls thee demolish.
Only eternity will cover thee
Even I bring down the moonlight for thee, make it wait ‘till dawn
Like thine tomb-watch, make it wait ‘till dawn
Even I enlighten thine chandelier with dusk light,
those shall not suffice for thine memory.
O, Thou holy son of the martyrs,
don’t ask for grave from me,
The prophet is ready to embrace thee.
Turkish soldiers stand in the trenches looking out to the Sea of Marmara. A soldier calls for Sergeant Kadir to look out on the sea. He says: "They are coming again." "They" are the Allies’ naval armada. Sgt. Kadir tells the man to go inform the captain.
Two soldiers talk about if they are scared or not, but they quickly turn to getting to know each other. One fellow says he’s from Adana where he has a shop. The other man is from Izmir and says he has a farm back home where they grow grapes and figs.
March 18, 1915. General Hamilton comes to a meeting aboard ship. He tells the men that Gen. Cardelon has been sick and has left. Gen. Dorobeck will take his place. Gen. Hamilton will now go over the plan of attack. They must first take the batteries in Orhaniye, Unkale, Ertugrul and Sedd-ul Bahir. Then they will clear Gallipoli Strait of all the mines. The next step will be to destroy all artillery and batteries in Kepez. After that, they will destroy the supplies in Gallipoli. Finally they will invade Gallipoli. After Gallipoli falls, their ultimate goal is Istanbul. Dorobeck now gets up to describe the planned marine assault.
The Turkish spotters call up Dardanos battery to say that enemy ships are in the Strait. The ships starts firing at their targets. The Turks hold their fire because their artillery is old and can only be effective at short ranges.
As the British and French ships get close, the Turks open fire with their artillery. A fire is started on the Agamemnon. The Inflexible is also on fire. Then fire is spotted on the Bouvet. The navy has to pull back. The Turks stop firing at them.
The Turkish soldiers are getting tired of waiting around and many want the Allies to land already. Meanwhile at headquarters they are having a conference. The first to speak will be commander Esad Pasha. The commander says between one and two days the enemy will land their forces. They will first try to capture Mahir Plateau on the southeast tip near the end of the peninsula and then conquer the batteries in the Strait to open the way for their navy. They will land on Sadd-ul Bahir and then head for the Kabatepe and Ariburnu regions. Therefore, the Turkish forces will be concentrated in these places. The head man, however, has his own plans because he is supposed to defend the whole of the peninsula and not just part of it.
Soldiers go to a bakery to pick up their daily bread. The young boy behind the counter says he saw some buoys in the Strait. One of the soldiers says he will go check it out. Three soldiers go out in a boat and tie a rope on one of the buoys. They figure the buoy is marking where the Allies will land their forces. So their plan is to move the buoy. And then the Allies will land on the wrong beach.
April 25. On the Queen Elizabeth. Gen. Hamilton says the navy will open fire at 05:45. Soon after the salvo the landing on the beach will start. Division 29 will go to Sadd-ul Bahir, three brigades of Anzak forces (Australian and New Zealand) will land on Ariburnu. Another brigade, from the French, will land at Kumkale. Another French brigade along with the marines will due a support attack on Saroz Beach.
The navy starts firing again. The Allies start landing on the beaches. There are thousands of troops coming up the hills and the Turks start retreating. The Turks learn that enemy forces have landed at Ariburnu and Kabatepe. Mustafa Kemal (later known as the famous Ataturk of the Turkish Republic) on his own launched an assault on the enemy.
Allied Regiment 27 is advancing but are taking heavy casualties.
The soldiers of Turkish Regiment 57 are getting clobbered. The commander calls in for advice and is told that his forces are to fight to the death. By the time the Turkish forces are all killed, more Turkish soldiers will have arrived to fight on. This is the only way they can save Gallipoli from being captured.
The 57th starts pushing hard against the Allied lines and the Allied troops have to run for their lives. They plant the Turkish flag on the ridge they captured.
There is a lull in the fighting and the main sergeant, Kadir, of the group at Ariburnu gives the new arrivals some information. He tells the men this is Gallipoli and their commander is Mustafa Kemal. Their regiment is 77, first division. The division commander is Captain Dogan. The enemy is relatively a short distance from the Turkish encampment.
Sergeant Kadir warns the men to never underestimate their enemy. He tells the soldiers not to raise their heads without cover because the enemy will hit them instantly. The sergeant says that the big flaw of the Turkish soldier is that he immediately wants to get in close to fight with bayonets too quickly. So first start with the bullets and then go with the bayonets.
One of the new recruits, Mehmet, acts like he doesn’t know how to act in the army. He’s a bit strange, so the sergeant arranges a wrestling match between Mehmet and a man known as wrestling man. The contest is very ritualized until they seriously get into the wrestling. Mehmet defeats wrestling man without too much trouble.
Training of the men begins. Sgt. Kadir takes a large group of men and goes to check out the area around them for possible enemy infiltration routes. They come to a village and he warns his men that beyond the village they will be advancing into dangerous territory.
The Turks go into the village and take some refreshments. Unbeknownst to the sergeant, the Allied forces are also coming into the village. A big fire fight begins. Captain Dogan hears the fighting and he gets his men on the march to help the other Turks.
In the village it’s house to house fighting. Reinforcements arrive for the Turks and the Allies start a running retreat. Now the entire Turkish regiment is told to pull back for a rest period. Before they leave they bury the Turkish dead.
Two heroes from Regiment 57 are honored for their bravery.
Wrestling man says he would like to adopt the bakery boy and take him home after the war. He has gotten the boy a uniform so he can feel like one of the soldiers. A big problem for the boy is his connection to the Greek Orthodox priest who wants the Turks to be beaten. The priest tells the boy that this land was once all theirs and soon it may be that way again. The other priest with them says it’s not right to fill the boy’s head with a lot of political ideas. The anti-Turk priest says that he will have the other priest transfer elsewhere and tell others how the priest betrays the church. The other priest says: "You are the betrayer. That’s treason." He leaves.
The priest gives the bakery boy a time-bomb. It has a delay of 20 minutes. The priest wants the boy to blow up the Turkish ammo depot. It the depot is exploded, then that will be the last of the ammo for the Turks.
The Turkish soldiers face toward Mecca and have their religious prayers. The Allies are making another attack on the Turkish lines. When the Allied forces get near enough, the Turks make a bayonet attack against them. The enemy troops start running away in retreat.
The priest wonders if anything happened to the boy. Aleko returns but tells the priest that his real name is Ali and he is a Turk. The boy throws the time-bomb to the priest and it explodes killing both the priest and Ali.
The Allied navy starts blasting the shores again. A radio man calls the commander to say that the enemy is firing tons of bomb at the Turkish trenches near Kereviz River. The river became so full of blood that it came to be called Blood River.
The Turkish navy wants to go after the Allied vessels. The commander says tonight they will go to the attack. The Turkish sailors get ready for the fight. The Turkish vessel approaches a large vessel. The Allied ship signals for the password. The Turkish captain tells his signal man to buy them some time by creating a little confusion via the signaling. They get closer and then send three torpedoes at the Allied ship. The mission is accomplished. The ship Goliath is sinking.
The Turks are figuring that more Allied troops will be thrown into the battle, so they are preparing for more Turkish troops to head down the Gallipoli Peninsula.
The Turks are digging a tunnel that has put them under the Anzak area. Their plan is to blow it up. The men set the explosives and the fuses. The fuses are lit and the men get the hell out of the tunnel.
The tunnel explodes and the Turks start another assault on the Allies. Again the forces of the Allies have to retreat. Meanwhile, the Turks are running out of water. Regiment 57 wants to send Mehmet out to get some water for them. Mehmet is ready to go.
Mehmet takes a donkey carrying two empty casks to be filled with water. The artillery shells are bothering Mehmet a great deal and he yells at the Allies that no matter how many bullets or shells come his way, he is going to get his buddies some water.
On the way back the donkey gets very stubborn. Trying to move the donkey Mehmet ends up falling into an Allied trench. The soldiers grab him and take him to headquarters. Mehmet tells the commander that the Turks have lots of water, so his very gracious captain sent him with water to give to the Allies. The commander falls for the ruse and actually apologizes to Mehmet for his men roughing him up after they grabbed him. While talking to Mehmet, the commander sees that the man has a deep wound. So the commander orders his men to take him to the hospital.
Mehmet’s buddies are starting to worry about what might have delayed Mehmet. They wonder if he may have been wounded.
The nurses and the doctor take good care of Mehmet. One of the nurses, named Lona, actually grew up in Istanbul and speaks Turkish fluently.
An artillery shell hits the Red Cross hospital tent and now Mehmet and Lona are recuperating side by side in hospital beds. Lona says that Mehmet saved her life. And now she asks him if he is engaged or married. Mehmet says it’s something like that. So now Lona asks how did Mehmet meet the woman in his life?
Flashback.A woman introduces Mehmet to two women. Tomorrow Mehmet will be sent to Gallipoli. Mehmet wants to go because both his father and his brother are martyrs. The woman says that she would like Mehmet to marry her daughter. The woman is rich and lives in a manor that has 30 rooms, servants and lots of cars. Mehmet asks the woman why him? The woman responds that her daughter saw him in military drill and she decided that she would like to marry Mehmet.
Mehmet is interested because the daughter is very pretty. But the woman tells the other young woman to go get Mehmet’s fiancé. The woman that comes into the room is not pretty at all and even has a humpback. Mehmet pretends that he has to go now because he has to get back to his military unit. The daughter swoons and falls to the floor. The mother scolds Mehmet for causing her daughter to faint. Mehmet says that just because he's a poor soldier, the woman tries to palm her daughter off on him. He pushes the male servant out of his way and leaves.
Back to the present.Lona laughs at the funny story. She also says that they may never see each other again after Mehmet recovers. Mehmet assures her he will never forget her. They hold hands.
When Mehmet is up and walking, he gets his donkey back. The donkey is covered with gifts. The commander says that the gifts are for his commander for his kindness and not payment for the water. The commander also tells Mehmet thank you for bringing them water and saving nurse Lona from death. He goes on to say that he wants the Allied nations to be friends, and not enemies, with the manly nation of the Turks. And for the safety of the Turkish soldier, they have called a temporary cease-fire to make sure he gets back safely.
The Turks are on high alert. The soldiers say that every period of silence is usually followed by big trouble. They see Mehmet returning with the donkey. They figure the guy must be crazy just sauntering back into the Turkish lines. Mehmet gets scolded for not behaving appropriately in a war zone. So Mehmet tells his buddies what happened to him.
The commander is not pleased by the story. He thinks Mehmet is just lying. He tells himsmen to teach Mehmet a lesson by hitting his bare feet with 40 hits from a stick. A soldier begs the commander to beat him instead of Mehmet because if Mehmet’s family ever found out what happened to him they would feel dishonored by Mehmet. The commander lets Mehmet go free without any punishment.
Back on the Queen Elizabeth General Hamilton tells his staff that this will be the final push to capture Gallipoli, which has already cost the Allies too much in men and resources. The Anzak forces will lead the attack at Anafartalar. The troops will land on Sulma and push eastward to defeat the Turks.
Three hundred Greek troops will create a diversion by landing on Saroz Beach. In addition, troops will be landed on Izmir in order to surprise the Turks.
The final push is launched on Ariburnu as well as elsewhere. Many soldiers become casualties right there on the beaches. The over-all Turkish commander scolds the regiment commander for not launching a counter-attack on the Allies. The regimental officer says the men are too tired and worn out, so he took it upon himself to start the counter-offensive in the morning. He asks his superior commander to please be patient, and, if the supreme commander is not happy with tomorrow’s results, he will take all the blame.
The overall commander is so mad at this disobedience that he orders the officer to leave for Istanbul for he is placing Mustafa Kemal in charge here. The supreme commander walks over to Kemal and asks him what he thinks of their situation? Kemal says there is enough time for them to stop the enemy. He asks for a little patience. Kemal says they must plan to defend both Ariburnu and at Anafartalar. Therefore, they should combine all the Turkish forces into one force commanded from one single command-post. The overall commander likes the idea so he tells Kemal to take over the forces at Anafartalar and it will be Kemal who will lead the attack.
Kemal starts to work. He commands Division 12 to go to Mestantepe and Division 7 to Damakcilik Bayir. He tells the division commanders to start their assault immediately. The Turkish assault begins. The Allied forces do another running retreat.
Sgt. Kadir is given the task of leading Mehmet to the British trenches. His assignment is to bug the British telephone lines. They hope to learn about the assault plans of the Allies.
Mehmet puts on the uniform of a British officer. Sgt. Kadir tells him that he will create a distraction as Mehmet reaches the British trenches. The two men move into no-man’s land and soon come upon the British patrol unit. The sergeant tells Mehmet to go that way, while he thinks of how to distract the patrol. When Mehmet hears the gunshot, he is to jump into the trenches.
Mehmet steps on a branch that when it cracks make a loud sound. The British start firing at the place from where they thought the noise came. Kadir has to go into action immediately. He starts firing at the patrol who now spot him. Kadir is wounded, falls down and then rolls down the hill to where the patrol catches him.
Meanwhile Mehmet gets past the British forces. He finds the communications center and knocks out the British commander who is alone in the tent. Mehmet sets up his wiring. He takes the unconscious man with him to lay his wire going away from the tent. The guy wakes up and with a knife goes after Mehmet. The Turkish soldier is able to overpower the man and knock him unconscious again. And again he takes the commander with him as he continues laying the wire.
Four Turkish soldiers are waiting for Mehmet. An artillery shell lands nearby Mehmet and both the commander and Mehmet are wounded. The Turkish soldiers take the two men to their trenches. Then the two men are taken to the Red Crescent hospital tent.
In the hospital Mehmet learns that he has been promoted to sub-sergeant. He also learns that the bunkmate on his left side carries a picture of Lona with him. Mehmet gets upset saying that’s a picture of his fiancé. He then turns on his right side and says to himself: "Fiancé? Hah!"
The Turks have learned from the telephone bug that the British are about to leave Gallipoli. But for now they want a dangerous Allied machine gun nest taken out.
A patrol squad goes out and crawls it’s way through the grasses to get near the machinegun. The Allies hear the Turkish soldiers coming through the grass but they can’t see them. So they throw a grenade which wounds most of the bunched-up men. They also shoot a long volley of shots into the area.
The commander painfully gets behind the enemy and starts throwing grenades at the troops. It was a suicidal mission from the start and the commander is killed. The British officer in charge is very impressed by the man’s sacrifice of his life. He permits the Turkish POWs bury the commander as a martyr to his country. The man is buried while still in his clothes as all martyrs are buried. His body is then covered with the Turkish flag. The Allied officers in attendance salute the bravery of the Turkish commander.
The fighting resumes. The machine guns keep devastating the Turks.
Mehmet puts his British uniform on and goes to see Lona at the hospital. He confronts her with the accusation that she is already engaged because another man had her photograph. Mehmet asks if she was just trying to make a fool out of him? She says no, she wouldn’t treat the man who saved her life in that way. But she does asks if Charley is alive? Yes, he is. She then says Mehmet doesn’t understand that she loves him. Satisfied, Mehmet now takes off.
Heading back he gets behind a machine gun nest and knocks the two men out. He then takes the machine gun and starts mowing down the gunners of the other machine gun nests. A soldier throws a knife into Mehmet’s back and he turns around and machine guns the man. He then returns to knocking out other enemy machine guns.
Now that the machine guns are out of action, the Turks launch their attack again. And this time they overrun the British. The Turkish captain is wounded.
Mehmet changes from the British uniform to a Turkish uniform.
The Brits are retreating again.
The triumphant Turks watch the sea from the shore.
The Allied commander’s staff talk about the loss of 300,000 of their soldiers at Gallipoli, while the Turks lost 250,000. The officers agree that Gallipoli cannot be captured.
"It is blood on it that makes the flag, a flag.
Land is country only if there’s someone dying for it."
The British ships leave the area.
The picture quality left a lot to be desired, but the film was definitely watchable. The sub-titles in English are not the greatest, but the viewer can deal with the oddities. One thing I noticed about the movie is that they sure made the Turkish soldiers and officers very kind, magnanimous and even gallant in warfare. A couple of times they saved the lives of Allied soldiers. A lot of the Turkey soldiers were older and heavier too. They were often short and stout. The film is around 2 hours and 40 minutes long and one can see that Gallipoli was a much more complex and large-scale operation than that portrayed in the western films about Gallipoli. The main difference is that Turkey won the battle against the western powers and wanted to pay tribute to their battle heroes.
The big hero of Gallipoli was Mustafa Kamal (better known as Ataturk), who later became the father of the Turkish republic. The film follows Mahmet and Sgt. Kadir closely and there's a bit of love story between Mahmet and nurse Lona.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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