Yor, the Amusingly Adept Dreck from the 80s!
By Paul Mavis
Things are moving here at the fastest-growing movie site on the net, and that means boxes and boxes of studio discs just itching to get review-ified! The fine folks at Mill Creek Entertainment recently sent the Movies & Drinks editors a holiday basket of goodies, so after finally sobering up (the secretaries here are animals…), we’re going to first tackle 1983’s grade Z Italian peplum TV miniseries/Columbia Pictures pick-up Yor, the Hunter from the Future.
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Based on Eugenio Zappietro’s and Juan Zanotto’s Argentinian comic, directed by old hand Antonio Margheriti (under his better-known English alias, “Anthony M. Dawson”), and starring Reb Brown, Corinne Clery, Luciano “Alan Collins” Pigozzi, John Steiner, Carole Andre, Ayshe Gul, Marina Rocchi, and Aytekin Akkaya, Yor, the Hunter from the Future mixes peplum sword and sorcery with Star Wars sci-fi kitsch for a speedy, frequently wacky, always entertaining B-actioner. Mill Creek has put out a spiffy new Blu-ray transfer of this beloved cult title, highlighted by a commentary track from none other than Reb, the Hulking Good Sport from the Past!
On a savage, brutal desert land (just minutes from convenient downtown parking…), blonde barbarian dreamboat Yor the Hunter (Reb Brown) jogs along, stone axe at the ready. He soon comes along sexy antediluvian p.o.a. Ka-Laa (Corinne Clery) and her grizzled fatherly protector, Pag (Luciano Pigozzi), who are rather getting the worst of it from a rampaging stegoceratops (of the “gigantos falsus dinosaurum” genus). Before you can say, “Yor, Paleo-Dentist from the Future” Yor busts that dino in the chops and its Flintstone “Bronto-Burgers” for the whole clan.
Unfortunately, the hairy Blue Caveman Group weren’t invited to this primordial bar-b-que, and they’re pissed; their leader, Ukan (Aytekin Akkaya), orders a hit on his neighbors and carries off all the women, including Ka-Laa. Yor, the Hang Gliding Brah from the Future kills a giant prehistoric bat and glides in for the rescue, before flooding the BCG’s cave. In flight, Yor, Ka-Laa, and Pag come to “the Land of the Diseased” (Hollywood), where Yor meets Rhoa (Ayshe Gul), a busty bombshell who wears the same mysterious amulet that adorns Yor’s even larger chest. Rhoa tells Yor he and she are of the same race of star children who come from a mysterious island forever shrouded in violent storms. Yor’s Boner from the Future immediately switches allegiance from Ka-Laa to Rhoa, but before you can say, “Yor, Threesome from the Future,” Rhoa is out of the picture and the trio are again on their way.
At a seaside village, Yor saves yet another insanely hot number, Tarita (Marina Rocchi), who is then offered by her father to Yor to be his mate…a sweet deal like you wouldn’t believe that adle-patted Yor turns down. Before you can say, “Is Yor the Homosexual from the Future?”, he’s in a boat headed for his hometown, but what he finds there will blow his barbarian mind: the sinister Oveloard (John Steiner) and his race of murderous androids (yes, androids) are looking to take Yor’s seed (yes, seed) and with it produce a hybrid breed of killer robots to vanquish the inland barbarians (yes, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon).
When I was single and had two nickels to rub together and was positively religious about going to see every new movie on its opening weekend, there would inevitably be dilemmas over which one to choose on a crowded release schedule (today? My wife tells me to calm down when MeTV comes in clear on my rabbit ears…). I can’t recall every coin toss, but I do remember skipping Yor, the Hunter from the Future the weekend of August 19th, 1983 in favor of Rodney Dangerfield’s Easy Money (I honestly can’t summon up one frame of that in my memory…just the song) and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (did 3-D blow back then or what?). Yor’s wonderfully goofy one-sheet looked enticing, but I must have figured I could always catch it at the drive-in…where it would no doubt wind up.
Yor, the Hunter from the Future came in seventh at the box office that August weekend, barely beating out Metalstorm (which, to be fair, was only on a little more than a third of the number of Yor’s screens), before it disappeared off the top twenty b.o. charts. When I did finally see it in a second-run house, I recall being a bit put out by its PG-rated lack of skin, but not minding at all the quick pace and the goofy, cartoony action.
From what I can gather online, Yor, the Hunter from the Future subsequently gained far more fans during its numerous cable and VHS runs than it ever did at the theaters (on this disc’s commentary track, Reb Brown confirms this, indicating he still gets healthy fan feedback after nearly 35 years). It’s easy to see why, after catching this again so many years later on Mill Creek’s bright, clean Blu-ray transfer.
While Yor, the Hunter from the Future wouldn’t rate alongside superior examples of the resurgent “sword and sorcery” actioners that proliferated during the 1980s, such as Clash of the Titans, Dragonslayer, Excalibur, Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Krull, Ladyhawke, and Highlander…it frankly doesn’t look too shabby alongside iffy but still higher-budgeted titles like Hawk the Slayer, Sorceress, Deathstalker, 1983’s Hercules, Hundra, Conan the Destroyer, Sword of the Valiant, and The Warrior and the Sorceress (…while Yor bests—at least in entertainment value—big, big-budgeted crap like Legend and Willow). Combining Conan-like “barbarian on a quest” tropes with a third reel bent-over ankle-grab to Star Wars, with a little bit of Irwin Allen, Kevin Connor, and John Boorman 1970s fantasy/sci-fi vibes thrown in for good measure, Yor, the Hunter from the Future should be a write-off because it’s so openly derivative.
However, Yor’s main saving graces are a trim running time and a complete lack of solemn pretentiousness—one of the fatal flaws of the sword and sorcery subgenre—in its script, direction, and acting. Veteran exploitation director and co-scripter Antonio Margheriti (Wild, Wild Planet, Mr. Superinvisible, Take a Hard Ride, Killer Fish, Cannibal Apocalypse, Code Name Wild Geese) doesn’t have the time or the money to screw around here. Each set-up—regardless of the script’s logic…or lack thereof—is cleanly and efficiently mounted with what’s at hand, as the actors deliver a bare minimum of lines amidst all the well-executed pummeling and leaping about. That isn’t to say everything’s everything here. Silliness threatens to overwhelm the project whenever we look too closely at the storyline or some less-than-careful moments (my favorite: when Reb gets zapped by laser guns, after falling down unconscious he manages to sit up a little and re-position himself on those uncomfortable-looking stones).
Much more works, though, than doesn’t in Yor, thankfully. The location work in Turkey is suitably diverse (desert, woods, mountains, seaside) and impressive (the stone towers of Cappadocia in the opener are stunning), while the sets, minimal as they are, get the job done, as do the surprisingly impressive miniatures by Margheriti and his daughter (that cave flood looks as good as anything you’d see in a A-budget Hollywood film at that time). You can laugh at the big-scale models of the dinos that are rolled out onto the sets on wheeled pallets, but they’re dealt with in such a straight-forward, unaffected way that the result for the viewer is delighted laughter, not scorn, with Margheriti covering up the seams by ladling on the blood (my two younger kids were in stitches when that first stego lolled out its rubbery tongue…but they kept watching, while my teenaged son opined, “What the hell was that?” before admitting, “It was more fun to watch than the last three Star Wars. Awwww…bless).
1983 was probably Reb Brown’s peak visibility year with moviegoers (by the way: are we still allowed to say “Reb?” Has Ebay and Amazon pulled all material bearing Reb’s name? Can we get arrested for having Reb’s Happy Days episode in our DVD collection?). After Yor, the Hunter from the Future’s leading bow, he finished off the year with a solid supporting turn in the audience pleaser, Uncommon Valor (you knew it was good if both the big girls blouses over at At the Movies gave it a “thumbs down”). Here in Yor, looking ripped while fighting his biggest opponent–an ill-fitting Bobby Sherman wig–Brown isn’t given a whole lot to do in terms of actual acting…but he physically fits the part, and moves well in the action scenes (he never addresses it in the commentary track…but is he selectively dubbed here?). He gets good support from Italian veteran Luciano Pigozzi and the beautiful Clery (her seductive dance is indicative of Yor’s zero budget charm: simple, not too fancy…and effective).
Except for a very nice turn in the 1986 Australian courtroom drama, Death of a Soldier, Yor, the Hunter from the Future didn’t give Reb Brown the boost into higher profile roles he deserved, as Conan the Barbarian had done for Arnold Schwarzenegger (for that matter, it’s a shame Reb didn’t get a full season out of those Captain America TV pilots). Who knows though? Maybe the Blu release of the fun, chintzy Yor, the Hunter from the Future might spawn a belated, equally squirrelly sequel (recent pics of the still-impressively brawny Reb show he could handle it…).
Just a short note on the Mill Creek Blu. I haven’t seen Yor, the Hunter from the Future in a good long time, but I don’t remember seeing it look better than this nice Blu transfer. Colors are reasonably bright, fine image detail is adequate, and screen anomalies are present but not distracting. As for the bonus commentary track, Reb Brown takes exactly the right tack in regards to the movie: self-deprecating amusement. He’s well spoken and frequently quite amusing. What’s missing here is a moderator. There’s a lot of silence on the track, but more importantly, there’s not a lot of detail concerning the production given out when Brown is talking. A moderator could have facilitated that. For instance, Reb alludes to some kind of work stoppage and then a possible influx of money from Columbia, before filming resumed in Rome…maybe? That’s a guess, because he drops the subject. A moderator would have brought that out (Mill Creek: you can contact my editor for all DVD commentary moderator requests). All in all, it’s still great to hear the star of Yor, the Hunter from the Future discuss this B cult classic.