Antonio Margheriti, 1983
Starring: Reb Brown, Corinne Cléry, John Steiner, Carole André, Luciano Pigozzi
Yor, the Hunter from the Future is not exactly a sword and sorcery film, but it seemed inconceivable to write about the genre and exclude it. Yor is a great mishmash of ‘80s fantasy film tropes and, mostly importantly, it was made during the post-apocalyptic film boom popular in many countries, but particularly in Italy. As a result it is a mixture of sword and sorcery barbarian-themed films and sci-fi tinged post-apocalyptic cinema. Masters of the Universe and Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time both try something similar and it’s fair to say that all three films are completely ridiculous.
A caveman named Yor rescues the lovely Ka-Laa and her adoptive father Pag from a raging dinosaur and then again later from a band of cavemen who destroy their village. Ka-Laa falls in love with Yor, and she and Pag accompany him on a quest to find out about his origins and a strange medallion he wears. Yor meets a woman who wears the same medallion and she joins them on the quest, much to Ka-Laa’s chagrin. She is soon killed by another raid from the cavemen. Yor, Pag and Ka-Laa befriend another tribe, but the tribe is soon demolished by flying saucers, so they travel to a mysterious island. Here Yor learns that he came from a group of nuclear holocaust survivors on - surprise - Earth. Earth is ruled by the evil Overlord and Yor must face off against his armies, nuclear weapons and advanced technology.
If you thought the film version of Yor was mind-blowing, it’s actually cut from a 190 minute long miniseries made for Italian television. This Italian-French-Turkish co-production is based on a comic book, Henga, el cazador, by Argentinian artist Juan Zanotto and Ray Collins. Other than its sheer ridiculousness, Yor is most notable for the number of important fantasy and horror names involved in the film, most importantly director Antonio Margheriti, who used his pseudonym, Anthony M. Dawson, for this film.
Margheriti was a prolific Italian filmmaker, whose works range from fantasy, horror, sci-fi and spaghetti westerns. He made a number of enjoyable horror films, such as Castle of Blood (1963) and The Long Hair of Death (1964) with scream queen Barbara Steele and The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963) with Christopher Lee. He made a lot of fun B-movies like Assignment Outer Space (1960, the first Italian space film), Battle of the Worlds (1961), Wild Wild Planet (1965) and Cannibal Apocalypse (1980). He also did special effects on Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dynamite (1971) and second unit directing on Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1973). He worked with a lot of beloved genre actors from both horror and spaghetti westerns, including the likes of Lee Van Cleef, John Saxon, John Morghen and Klaus Kinski. Margheriti’s work is important, but somewhat neglected. Here’s hoping that his full catalog will soon be available on DVD.
The prolific actor Luciano Pizoggi (Pag, Yor’s wizened mentor) has been a regular fixture in Margheriti’s films, as well as a lot of other Italian horror productions, including several of Mario Bava films, such Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970). Star Reb Brown has been in a number of ‘70s and ‘80s B-films, including The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and Space Mutiny (1988). One of my favorite French actresses, Corinne Cléry (Ka-Laa), also appeared in the infamous erotic film Story of O (1975) and the James Bond film Moonraker (1979), where she is sadly killed by a pack of dogs. John Steiner (the Overlord) is another fixture in horror and art-house cinema, including Lucio Fulci’s White Fang movies, Tinto Brass’s Salon Kitty (1976) and Caligula (1979), and Mario Bava’s Shock (1977).
Aside from the impressive roll call, I’m honestly not that big a fan of Yor. I think part of the problem is that we just got off on the wrong foot. In the opening scene of the film, Yor kills a dinosaur - a triceratops protecting its baby - which made me instantly hate everyone in this movie, particularly Yor himself. You have to understand that I was the person rooting for the velociraptors at the end of Jurassic Park (even though the dinosaurs portrayed as velociraptors more closely resemble Deinonychus).
I also really hate peplum, barbarian or sword and sorcery films with tribes of humanoids that run around in loin cloths, only communicate by grunting and are basically fodder for the hero, who saves some scantily clad hussy from their filthy clutches. This appalling plot device is the same reason that I hate a lot of cannibal movies and when a film introduces this element, it’s really hard for me to get past it. More about this later in the week when I review Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta’s Fire and Ice (1983).
You have to decide for yourself whether or not you should watch Yor. There are some truly fun and outrageously cheesy elements that will delight a lot of fans of trashy movies. For example, my favorite scene involves Yor’s theme song blasting while he HANG GLIDES ON A GIANT, DEAD BAT to rescue Ka-Laa. Yes, I did just say there’s a theme song, “Yor’s World” by Oliver Onions.
If you decide to subject yourself to the agony that is Yor, there is the most basic DVD imaginable from SPE, though hopefully one day it will get better treatment, possibly a pairing with the original miniseries.