Monday, December 01, 2014


I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that Yor, the Hunter from the Future is one of the great under-appreciated cult films of the 1980s and it might just be one of the best examples of that hoariest of clichés — the guilty pleasure. At least, that is what I spent years calling it whenever it would come up in discussions of bizarre movies. Yor is a film fondly remembered by a certain age group of boys lucky enough to have caught one of the roughly gazillion screenings afforded it by mid-1980s cable television. For a couple of years it was in steady rotation owing to its PG rating, its kid appeal and the 90 minute running time. It even had a little shapely female skin to keep the occasional older viewer from thumbing the remote too quickly. But even with the shapely Reb Brown... uh, I mean Corinne (Hitch-Hike) Clery showing off his pecs... I mean her legs... dammit!Even with the eye candy I dismissed Yor for a long time for the most obvious reasons. It is, after all, a silly-looking barbarian movie with poorly articulated dinosaurs and a story that morphs into science fiction halfway through. When I was in my teens that spelled crappy movie; now that I'm a couple of decades older that same description spells insta-classic!

Of course, regardless of the pretty actors on screen the real star of this film is director Antonio Margheriti, alias "Anthony M. Dawson". Margheriti is one of my favorite lesser known Italian filmmakers of the grand golden age of exploitation cinema. In a career almost forty years long he made movies in nearly every genre imaginable, from science fiction (The Wild, Wild Planet) to westerns (And God Said to Cain) to gialli (Naked You Die) to comedy (Mr. Superinvisible) to action (Jungle Raiders) to horror (Castle of Blood), all the time displaying a competence that made him a name you could always trust. He might not always have the biggest budgets or strongest scripts, but he crafted the best film he could every time. His background as a special effects man and miniature builder allowed him to make his productions look more impressive than they probably should. He is still the only filmmaker to make an Indiana Jones rip-off I can enjoy.

For years Margheriti had the dream of making a film from the comic book Yorby Juan Zanotto and Ray Collins. Actually the original title of the series wasHenga but the comics were re-titled for the Italian market, where the director found and read them. The chance to realize this mad jungle action story on the screen came not for cinemas but from Italian television. That's right — this project was made for TV and it wasn't a simple telefilm either. The better to adapt the long-form tale, it was shot as four one-hour episodes from which the shorter theatrical cut was assembled for the American market and home video. In fact, the theatrical version was distributed by Columbia in the United States and was a surprise minor box-office hit, landing in the top ten soon after release. (What mad times the 1980s were, huh?) Apparently the four-part miniseries was never shown on television until years later, and then only late at night. (Yor just can't get any respect.) These days it's nearly impossible to locate the full-length version and if you can it is usually a terrible looking copy that is (of course) only in Italian. What I hope for one day is a DVD release of the entire miniseries subtitled for us American fans to finally see all the amazing monster battles left out of the shorter cut. Hey, if Starcrash can be released on Blu-Ray... Yor, the Hunter from the Future should make its way to my greedy hands as well! Yor is barbarian movie cheese of the highest order and is something any cult movie fan needs to see.

The movie opens with ex-USC football star Reb Brown (Howling II) in a bizarre blond wig, as buff he-man Yor, running across the desert in search of... well, we're not really sure what he's looking for or what might be on his mind at this point. He looks like he's thrilled and happy to be running around the middle of nowhere in a loincloth, though, so you just need to go with it. Under this opening scene we have the rock theme known as Yor's World pounding away and its English lyrics can be a clue as to just how odd things will get. At the same time we're introduced to Ka-Laa (the winsome Corinne Clery), a primitive cavewoman, and her older protector/father figure Pag (legendary Italian character actor Luciano "Alan Collins" Pigozzi) as they hunt. When they are attacked by a Stegosaurus-like creature Yor leaps to their defense, killing the dinosaur with his mighty stone axe. Pag is grateful and Ka-Laa is aroused so they invite their strange blond savior back to their village to celebrate. Everything seems to be going very well until, only a few minutes after Yor starts to take notice of Ka-Laa's hot bod, a band of cavemen with bluish skin attack the village, slaughtering almost everyone in sight and capturing Ka-Laa. Yor immediately swears to get Ka-Laa back so he and Pag track the blue cavemen to their lair where Yor is able to rescue the fair lady, wipe out the nasty cave-dwelling tribe and invent hang gliding all within about thirty minutes. If you've ever wondered what Reb Brown would look like dangling from the carcass of a giant bat then you need look no further than this brilliant film!

After this bonding adventure Ka-Laa and Pag decide to follow Yor in his stated journey to find his true origins. Along the way, they come upon a tribe of dirty, desert-dwelling marauders led by a blonde woman (Ayshe Gul) with an amulet similar to the one seen dangling around Yor's neck throughout the movie. And, as you might expect, since this woman is the only other fair-haired human we've seen in all of Yor's world she turns out to be related to the mystery behind why our hero is so different from everyone else. But what about Ka-Laa's lustful affections for Yor? Will the call of the wild beat out the call of the blonde hair and matching jewelry?

Of course, there is much more to the story... Yor and his merry little group finally make their way to an island, where he discovers that his parents were among a small band of nuclear holocaust survivors — revealing the twist that Yor's prehistoric world is actually Earth after said holocaust. But the American theatrical title gave this twist away already, not to mention the poster art, so I'm not sure how many viewers beyond the age of 8 were all that surprised. The real joys of Yor are in the sheer fun of the adventure. There are rarely any slow moments, with a new surprise waiting just around the next sandy rock formation. What other movie gives you giant bats, humans frozen in an ice cave, dinosaur battles, robot warriors, hot cave girls, exploding miniatures and a fight with a flaming sword? When you shrink a tale's four hours of story down to less than 90 minutes it moves like a rocket and Yor almost never stops moving. The spate of barbarian movies piggybacking on the success of 1982's Conan the Barbarian were a truly mixed bag but this movie deserves to be singled out for special attention. Director Margheriti knew how to make movies like this entertaining and fun for an audience that might wish the days of Hercules and Machiste movies had never ended. There was a lot of care taken on every level of this pulpy voyage, making it something worth savoring for its unique vision. It's a cut above the average even if Reb Brown's blond wig is something I wish had been rethought in pre-production. One thing that was completely perfect is the amazing score! A combination of rock songs by the De Angelis brothers and more traditional orchestrations by John Scott, it's a wonderfully odd succession of music that somehow always finds the right tone to enrich the action.

Although I wish Yor, the Hunter from the Future had come to disc blazing like a futuristic spaceship with lots of bells & whistles, I am glad to have what is presented. Sony has issued the American cut in a Burn on Demand DVD-R that gives us the movie in a pleasingly bright and colorful print anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Other than a few speckles in spots the movie looks good and the sound is clear and crisp. Considering how little attention has been given to the film over the years this is at least a solid first digital release. Being able to see it in widescreen for the first time makes the impressive miniature work in the cave flood scene even more stunning. Margheriti really was a wizard at matching his sets to his effects in a way that puts a lot of modern CGI work to shame. The only extra included is the theatrical trailer, so fans like me will just have to be happy until we can convince someone that a giant multi-disc special edition is necessary. I want the four-hour version on Blu-ray, complete with a cast and crew commentary track! After seeing this disc you just might want that as well.

And if your Yor (he he) interest extends to the podcast format please check out our show on this beloved epic in which we discuss the longer version as well as our love for it in any form.

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1 comment:

Nick Rentz said...

I agree with you on Margherti being one best turn Italian filmmakers. I enjoyed castle of blood, giants of Rome, and seven deaths in the cats eye. He is also one of very few directors to make more than one movie with Klaus Kinski.