What can one say about Yor? This is classic B-Movie, 80’s cheese and if you like these kinds of films then as far as I’m concerned, any discussion of Yor has to start with the director. Listed in the credits as Anthony M. Dawson, this is really an American pseudonym for Italian filmmaker Antonio Margheriti. If you were the type to flip through your TV dial in the middle of the night during the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s in search of an old, cheesy flick whether it be horror, sci-fi or just anything weird, then trust me, you know this guy. Along with Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci, Margheriti was responsible for the wave of low budget horror, sword and sandal, spaghetti westerns and science fiction films coming out of Italy in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. His best-known films were a series of 4 awesomely psychedelic science fiction films made in 1965 and known collectively as the Gamma One series. All four films (Wild, Wild Planet, War Of The Planets, War Between The Planets and The Snow Devils) were made in three months using the same sets and many of the same actors playing the same characters. Think of a crazy, Italian version of Star Trek’s cheesiest third season episodes and you have a pretty good idea of what the Gamma One films are like. Derivative? Yes. But this is one of the things that always makes a Margheriti film so fun.
By the beginning of the 80’s, most of these filmmakers had greatly slowed their output but some were still in the game. Margheriti was still making films and would continue all the way up to the early 90’s. In 1983, he would make his last really crazy genre film, after that making TV movies for young people and various westerns and Euro Spy flicks.
Yor started out as an Argentine comic book and actually aired as a four part min series for Italian television before being cut down for an American theatrical release which is how we all know it and the version that’s on DVD which is a good thing because I don’t know if I can handle 3 and half hours of Yor.
As soon as the film begins the corny 80’s vibe is established with a dated synth pop anthem for Yor that’s clearly trying to imitate Queen’s Flash Gordon theme and score from a few years earlier. We are introduced immediately to our brawny hero Yor (Reb Brown), bounding around the prehistoric countryside all oiled up in nothing but a loincloth and a million dollar smile. In no time at all, he finds himself coming to the rescue of a hot cavewoman with a great 80’s perm, Kala (Corinne Clery) and her grizzled, old protector Pag (Luciano Pigozzi) who are attacked by a carnivorous Triceratops (I thought they were herbivores. Oh well) and not a stop motion model or a dude in a suit but a full sized puppet. Margheriti was also an accomplished model maker and effects man and did all of the special effects in these films himself so he probably built all of these full sized dinosaurs too.
After letting out a hilarious victory yell over his kill and drinking it’s blood, the two take Yor back to their peaceful tribe where they’re just in time for the big celebration feast. Kala dances for Yor, which puts that big shit eating, grin back on his face as the two start a weird game of foreplay consisting entirely of goofy facial expressions. But the party gets cut short when seemingly out of nowhere, a different group of purple faced and very hairy cavemen show up to rape and pillage. I can only assume these are supposed to be Neanderthals because if there’s one thing that cavemen movies have taught me, it’s that Cro-Magnon’s were good looking, blonde and peaceful and Neanderthals were big, hairy, dicks who love to crash everyone else’s good time.
Anyway, Yor escapes with Kala and Pag where Kala takes note of the amulet Yor wears whose origin is a mystery even to him. More on that later.
It isn’t long before the Neanderthals find Kala and Yor. They waste no time in knocking Yor out, stealing his amulet and his girl right before throwing him over a cliff, which he of course, miraculously survives to find Pag.
Pag actually turns out to be quite the little badass himself, taking out a lot of guys with his bow and arrow. He’s kind of a Paleolithic, sharp-shooting sniper. These skills come in handy when the two are trying to figure out a way to save Kala from being gang raped by the Neanderthals when it just so happens, a flying pterodactyl-type thing flies over and Pag brings it down with his Rambo skills.
Yor uses the creature as a HANG-GLIDER and flies into the tribes cave to the triumphant chorus of his own theme song, knocking the leader out and grabbing Kala. They run into the back of the cave pursued by the Neanderthals but luckily, they come across an underground lake which is easily breached by dislodging a few rocks which sends a giant flood to knock out all of the cannibalistic party poopers in a sequence that reminds me a lot of the tunnel flood from Temple of Doom.
With another unmotivated, random adventure behind them and teaming back up with Pag, Yor and company enter the land of the Tusken Raiders…I mean Sandpeople. No, Sand Dwellers. Yeah. Anyway Yor gets into it with them but they capture him (you know, Yor gets captured a lot) and take him to their leader: a hot blonde chick that makes Yor flash that jackass grin that I thought was just for Kala but apparently Yor just grins like an idiot whenever he gets a boner.
But what’s really important is that the mysterious blonde woman, Roa (Ayshe Gul, and no that’s not a villain from a Nolan Batman movie) has an amulet just like Yor but of course she doesn’t know why either, just that the Sand Dudes worship her because of it. Too bad she can’t use that power to stop the Sand Dwellers from trying to sacrifice Yor to “the gods” but it’s okay because it’s been a full five minutes since Yor’s been able to kill anybody and he’s good to go. Roa and Yor escape to find Kala and Pag, forcing Yor to face the ancient dilemma which any anthropologists will tell you was common to early man: Blonde or brunette. Well, Yor wastes no time in kicking Kala to the curb and making out with Roa which leads to a sexy cat fight between the two girls but unfortunately this is broken up by yet another random incident when the Neanderthals show back up out of nowhere after being killed in that flood earlier. Yor takes them all out, finally killing the lead asshole but Roa has taken a fatal blow to the head and dies, freeing him up for Kala again who seems to totally forget being left in the dust for the first new piece of tail to show up.
From there, the trio take a trip to the beach where Yor has to battle another life-sized dinosaur puppet, this time attacking yet another hot, young girl named Tarita (Marina Rocchi) which really makes you wonder if Kala can ever catch a break with this guy.
Tarita leads them back to her people’s village on the beach where her father informs Yor that for saving her life, he now has to bang his daughter. But Yor has learned his lesson and informs Tarita that he’s not into underage women and Kala breathes a sigh of relief.
It’s here where the story begins to go off in a completely unexpected direction. This sharp, left turn begins when Tarita’s father and chief Kay (Sergio Nicolai) takes Yor to a cave where they show him a strange “talking box” left behind by a “stranger from the sky” who descended in a fiery bird that blew up and all that was left was the futuristic radio. That night while celebrating (and you know this leads to bad things), the village is suddenly attacked by laser beams from out of nowhere, burning the village to the ground. That’s right. In the third act of this caveman movie, science fiction shit is abruptly tossed in and just like that, we go from When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth to bad Star Wars rip off.
Tarita tells Yor of a mysterious island surrounded by violent storms so naturally, Yor and his buds head out to find the remnants of the Starcrash prop house. After being washed ashore on the island, Yor is captured by black, stormtrooper robots that look suspiciously like Ming’s soldiers in Flash Gordon, another Italian production. Hmmm. A weird albino guy in good-guy white shows up to help out Pag and Kala.
Yor wakes up on Goldfinger’s examination table where a woman named Ena (Carole Andre) gives all the exposition to Yor and the big “twist”. The amulet Yor wears is some sort of information disk that records his life. Ena tells him he was born on this island and that his real name is, get this…Galahad. Get it? Yor’s… oh sorry, Galahad’s dad was banished from the island for standing up to the Overlord (John Steiner) because every futuristic society has to have it’s own Darth Vader and Overlord has filled the role just fine with his robot arm and dark cloak. It turns out that the future people are the sole survivors of a nuclear war that destroyed all life so what we’ve been watching this whole time aren’t really cavemen but the descendents of an atomic fallout. Pretty trippy huh? Of course, I’m not sure if that means this is all in the distant past or in some future where man has been knocked back into the Stone Age and the dinosaurs are really radioactive mutants but whatever. Someone can double check the carbon fossil record later.
Yor, Pag and Kala are reunited after a weird funhouse mirror sequence and hook up with a rebellion against the Overlord whose only apparent motivation according to one of the rebels, is to “do evil”.
The rest of the movie consists of Yor and the good guys shooting laser guns at the black stormtroopers in what looks like a DWP pumping station. Yor totally impales The Overlord, blows up the “atomic pile” and escapes the island with the rebellion, Pag and Kala on a spaceship just as the Island goes up in a fireball, along with The Overlord and his robots.
Okay, that’s a hell of a lot of plot for a flick that runs an hour and a half. This probably has to do with the fact that it was originally a three and a half hour mini series but still. There’s a ridiculous pacing to the events that makes it feel like Yor is just going from one random fight to the next with no real impetus. Normally, this would make one question any further viewing but it’s so over the top here that it becomes the reason TO watch this. It’s not like this is a foreign thing to a Margheriti movie. This guy specializes in ridiculous plots and clunky exposition and like those films; here it’s so bad that it becomes entertaining.
In fact, all of the director’s trademarks of cheapness and campy fun are here. Yor’s wig looks absolutely ridiculous and is a star in it’s own right, it’s so distracting. The direction is so in-your-face, it becomes a comedy routine in itself whether it’s weird dutch angles in action scenes or hand held shots that get way too close to the subjects. The life-sized dinosaurs, while impressive, can’t help but remind one of a cheap theme park ride. But the true fun lies in the films desire to be two rip offs for the price of one. Who would have ever thought to make a Conan/Star Wars mash up? After seeing the two genres’ clash here, it’s pretty obvious why it was never attempted before or since. But no Margheriti film for me is truly complete without a horrible English dub that takes the campiness way past ridiculous to ludicrous. It’s the cheery on top of this fun sundae, if you will. The model work too, is at times hilarious. I’m thinking specifically of a handful of shots where Margheriti opted to build models for shots that were too epic to build a set for but still needed Yor and others in the shot for scale. His solution was to have what are clearly “action figures” of the performers in the model shots, which are so obvious, I nearly spit out a mouthful of wine trying to hold in my laughter. Even better, these shots also consist of Yor doing impossible stunts that would have been too dangerous for the live action performers/stuntmen to pull off so naturally, Yor’s theme song blasts over the action ala Flash Gordon. I believe the blaring chorus is singing “Yor! He’s the man!” And about that music, it’s awesomely cheesy Euro Pop that has that distinctive 80’s feel of such German Glam Rock bands that remind me of stuff like “The Final Countdown”, right down to the weird English pronunciations of certain words that probably sounded edgy to them but always makes me chuckle. Really guys, leave this stuff to Iron Maiden.
The performers do the best they can but their performances say to me that they are fully aware that they’re in an Antonio Margheriti film. Reb Brown in the title role of Yor is probably the most recognizable actor to an American audience here. Way before Chris Evans stepped into the role, Brown played Captain America in 1979 for two TV movies. Before that, he had appeared in John Milius’ Big Wednesday and had an interesting little cameo in The Sword and the Sorcerer. The same year he flew off to Turkey to film Yor, he would also star in what is the most serious of the Vietnam, POW films that were made in the 80’s: Uncommon Valor which starred Gene Hackman. Later, he would go on to star in the infamous Space Mutiny (1988) which went on to become one of the best MST3K episodes ever made. In Yor, Brown does what he was hired for and plays the role with his trademarked All-American optimism and football-quarterback brawn (which is appropriate since he was a football player). I got to give the guy points for keeping a straight face through some of the ridiculous situations he’s put in here and of course, for wearing that wig. It’s pretty hilarious to see Brown play Yor’s strange mood swings here, like when his anger explodes at the futuristic transmitter on the beach that caused the destruction of yet another peaceful village, tossing it aside suddenly while yelling “Damn talking box!”
French actress Corinne Clery does her best as Yor’s long suffering love interest here. She is best known probably for this and her role as Drax’s assistant in Moonraker. If you’re going to put a woman in caveman skins for a movie, a Bond Girl is a pretty good way to go in casting.
The real star here though is Pag, played by Margheriti’s close friend and collaborator, Luciano Pigozzi. Known as the “Italian Peter Lorre”, he would make 17 films with Margheriti. Personally, he reminded me of an “Italian Frohike” which makes sense because just like the X-Files regular who not only played a Lone Gunmen but was also the Assistant Director, Pigozzi also doubled as a Production Manager. In Yor, he has a wonderfully sarcastic presence and really contributes to the action enough to make me think he might actually be more of a badass than Yor himself. His comedic presence is right on the money like when Yor offers Pag the blood of a freshly killed Triceratops saying “ The blood of your enemies makes you stronger”, to which Pag replies “Then I’d rather stay weak.” Seriously, I could have watched a whole movie with Pag as the star.
Altogether, Yor falls under the category of “so bad it’s good” and really doesn’t fail to live up to that label. This is classic Margheriti and in that vein, it doesn’t disappoint and for those of you who can take it, here’s the full movie.