St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

The Egyptian Rocky Horror

Fangs (1981)

The Turkish remake of Star Wars gets a lot of love it thoroughly deserves — it has music cribbed from Indiana Jones, it has a balsa-wood light saber in the shape of a lightning bolt, and it has a training montage of some guy jumping on a trampoline for ten minutes with styrofoam rocks tied to his legs. What’s not to love? So why in the name of sanity has it taken me this long to find out there’s an Egyptian version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show? There was apparently some legal loophole in near Eastern countries where they had no copyright laws, so local filmmakers could just remake their favorite English-language films, steal music, and bastardize the plots to fit whatever passes for entertainment in their country. Which brings us to Fangs: it’s got glam vampires (glampires), music from The Pink Panther, and the Old Spice guy. Strap yourselves in.

The Rocky Horror mouth but with really bad black makeup that doesn't obscure the rest of the face.

Normally I lead with the title card from the movie, but this whole thing’s in Arabic so I don’t even know where to stop it. So let’s just start with the iconic Rocky Horror lips, only this time there’s something about them I can’t quite put my finger on…

Me: You’re a filmmaker, is it really that hard to do black makeup that doesn’t catch the light?

Parker: I don’t know, you’d just use a computer these days. I don’t imagine it was easy to do with film.

Me: It looks like her face is made of sand.

Ali, the Egyptian Brad Majors.
Mona, the Egyptian Janet Weiss.

Meet Ali and Mona, the Egyptian Brad and Janet. Ali is strikingly pretty, and those cheekbones could cut glass.

Parker: His face looks like a mask of his own face.

Me: He does have that desiccated space mummy vibe. I dunno though, I’m about it.

Parker: You always go for men who look like aliens.

Eh. It’s a fair cop.

A Grim Reaper in the front garden.

Ali and Mona’s car breaks down in the rain, so they go to take refuge in a nearby house. As they embark upon a damn near shot-for-shot rehashing of “Over at the Frankenstein Place” but with different music, they pass a Grim Reaper in the front garden. Ali and Mona seem to be quite zen about the whole thing. In fact they don’t even seem to know it’s there. Did someone just leave the Halloween decorations out too long?

Three glampires dancing in capes.

After a lot of sinister background music, the Egyptian Riff-Raff and a glampire tell Ali and Mona that there’s a party and that their host is Dracula because why not. It takes forever to get to the party, but eventually…

Parker: Which dancer are you?

Me: The one in the black cape and the mirrorball pants.

Parker: I liked that one too. All right, I’ll be the red one.

The music keeps going at a steady pace, promising to build up to some big climax but never quite getting there. It’s like the music at the start of a song, but for the whole song. It never breaks out. It’s not bad, it’s just sort of teasing.

A female glampire unmasks.
A male glampire unmasks.

The dancers start to take off their Halloween masks to reveal… glampires! They are all extremely pretty.

Me: You know I kind of like this, where they get a room full of really pretty people and make them look unsettling. Although they did just paint over that guy’s mustache. He looks like Cesar Romero playing the Joker.

Parker: They’re all fully clothed! The original is all about transgression. The party is dangerous.

Me: The most transgressive thing you could do in Egypt was take off masks for twenty minutes.

Parker’s right, though. The original Rocky Horror is all about sexual repression and oppressive social mores. I get the sinking feeling that the Egyptian version is going to wind up being a biting political satire of Egypt’s dependency on the silver standard or some bollocks that’s incredibly specific to Egypt in 1981.

The glampires drink each other's blood.

Ali and Mona join Dracula and the glampires for dinner. The glampires start drinking each other’s blood.

Me: Why would vampires drink each other’s blood? It’s like they don’t even know how vampires work.

Parker: It’s a chicken and egg situation. If one vampire drinks another’s blood and then the second vampire drinks the first one’s blood, then do they just keep passing it back and forth?

Me: Sure, if the digestive system were linked to the circulatory system. Which it’s not. They should be sucking on each other’s arseholes, that’s the only way to get back something you swallowed.

The plumber turns out to be... Dracula!

Apropos of nothing the film embarks on a fifteen-minute digression (yes, fifteen minutes, I timed it) in which the Criminologist has a figurative conversation with Dracula and then shows us a bunch of scenes from Egyptian daily life where the plumber charges an extortionate fee, turns around and is revealed to be Dracula, and then the Criminologist laughs hysterically. Then the car mechanic charges an extortionate fee, turns out to be Dracula, and the Criminologist laughs. Then the doctor charges an extortionate fee, turns out to be Dracula, and the Criminologist laughs. For FIFTEEN MINUTES.

I think we just found out where the satire is. I guess everyone in Egypt was charging a lot of money in the 80s? I would almost have preferred it if it were a huge, over-elaborate allegory for the silver standard.

The only thing that makes this segment of the film remotely tolerable is the fact that this is the bit where they steal all the music from other films. Parker and I clocked the Pink Panther theme, the James Bond theme, the Jaws theme, and the music from A Clockwork Orange.

Dracula puts on a video tape.

When we finally cut back to the movie, Dracula has sat Ali and Mona down in front of a red television and put on a video tape of the Nuremberg rally.

Me: Wanna come round to my place and watch “Hitler’s Greatest Hits, vol. 2”? It’s called “Hitler and chill”, all the kids are doing it these days.

A glampire who looks like the Old Spice guy.
Old Spice guy puts on a Rocky Horror t-shirt.

In frankly the only piece of eroticism in the whole movie, one of the glampires takes a shower and hello, I’m not complaining about this bit at all. You know it’s really refreshing to have the only bit of nudity in a horror film be a man. I’m so tired of seeing random tits everywhere because straight male directors just want to take actresses’ clothes off. Maybe this director was making the biggest nod he could to the queerness of the original Rocky Horror, because I’m sure you couldn’t get away with any gayness in Egypt at the time.

Also, he looks like the Old Spice guy. Also, he puts on a Rocky Horror t-shirt!

The glampires melt in the sunlight.

Old Spice guy and Riff-Raff start getting a bit bolshy and fight back against Dracula. Riff-Raff, who I guess is human, opens the curtains and all the glampires melt in the sunlight.

Ali and Mona escape to the pyramids why not. To be fair though if you’re filming something in Egypt it would be almost criminal not to use the pyramids. They’re right there. I bet they’re in every Egyptian film.

The Skinny

A gorilla peers out from behind a curtain.

“My way is sweet and creamy.”

Hoo, boy. What to say about this one? It’s damn near unwatchable and it’s clearly ripping off so many different things, despite which the amount of creativity and ingenuity is really startling. The music is great, the glampires are great, and I’m willing to bet this looked like nothing else in Egypt at the time. On the other hand there are long, repetitive sequences; Dracula looks like someone’s overweight uncle and has all the personality of a wet sponge; and all the camp, transgressive fun of the original is gone. I wouldn’t watch this again, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it once. I would love to see more filmmakers who are this daring, especially on a nonexistent budget.