Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Yor, Hunter from the Future (1983)

Part prehistoric adventure movie and part futuristic science fiction, the creative team of YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE decided to merge two fantasy genres in order to see if they were indeed two great tastes that taste great together. The result, directed by Italian exploitation veteran Antonio Margheriti (using his American pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson) is truly one of the loopiest and enjoyable bad movies ever made.

Fresh from his stint in two Captain America telemovies, Reb Brown plays Yor, a bleach blonde caveman with designer fur booties who enjoys wandering aimlessly around the prehistoric landscape accompanied by his own heroic theme song (sung by Oliver Onions). After saving the beautiful Ka-Laa from a rampaging triceratops Yor is adopted into her tribe and invited to a victory feast. No sooner is Yor wowed by Ka-Laa's impromptu victory dance (think QUEST FOR FIRE meets FLASHDANCE) that she proves herself to be very high maintenance by being kidnapped by a tribe of nasty ape people. This leads to the best scene in the movie where Yor uses a dead pterodactyl as a hang glider i order to fly to the rescue.  All would be well except for Yor's nagging feeling that he's not really from around these parts. As it turns out (and as hinted at by the film's title) our story is not really taking place in Earth's prehistoric past but instead its post-nuke future. You see, Yor's parents were killed while trying to escape from the one island left untouched by the bomb, which is now ruled by a tyrannical overlord named, um, Overlord. Now it's up to Yor to defeat Overlord and his android army and restore democracy to the planet.

As you can probably tell by the synopsis, YOR is quite a film.  Apparently the 88 minute film released to US theaters was edited down from a 200 minute version that aired as a miniseries on Italian TV. I'd love to see that version to see if it answers any of the several hundred questions left unaddressed by the theatrical cut, such as how a nuclear war could result in the return of the dinosaurs. It probably doesn't and that's okay. Anyone watching this movie looking for logic is completely missing the point.   The pleasure of this movie comes from watching it start off weird and crazy and then watching it become progressively crazier as it goes along. It has so many things to satisfy the bad movie connoisseur, from Ka-Laa's decidedly unprehistoric hairstyle to the unconvincing dinosaur puppets to Overlord's android henchmen who look like they're wearing modified Darth Vader helmets. And then there's that theme song.  YOR is tons of fun and I defy anyone to watch it without laughing out loud at least once. To put it in culinary terms, YOR may not be a full course meal but if all you're looking for is a cheesy appetizer you really can't go wrong.

For more overlooked film and a/v visit Todd Mason's blog.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Daisy Town (1971)

Virtually unknown in the United States, Lucky Luke has been a popular cartoon character in Europe since his first 1946 comic book appearance. Designed to be an affectionate parody of American westerns, Luke is a self-described "lonesome cowboy," traveling the west with his faithful horse, Jolly Jumper, defending innocent settlers against evildoers. Although quick with a gun, Luke tends to prefer to outwit his adversaries rather than kill them. DAISY TOWN, an animated feature produced in France in 1971, was the first attempt to bring the character to the screen.

The film follows Luke as he rides into the city of Daisy Town, once a peaceful community but now under constant siege by criminal elements. After running the undesirables out of town, Luke becomes the new sheriff. He's then faced with his biggest challenge in the form of the Dalton Gang (recurring villains in the comic and made up of brothers Joe, William, Jack and Averell). The Daltons convince a neighboring Native American tribe to declare war on Daisy Town (by telling them if the settlement were allowed to developed they would eventually be forced off their own land, which of course turned out to be completely correct) but Luke is able to quickly negotiate a truce, foiling the Dalton's plans.

The animation rarely rises above the level of Saturday morning TV but the film still manages to succeed based on the affection the filmmakers obviously had for the genre they were satirizing. There are countless sight gags based on well known western tropes such as the bartender sliding a beer to a customer at the other end of the bar to the townspeople locking themselves indoors as outlaws ride into town. There is also a terrific, almost silent sequence near the beginning of the film showing the development of Daisy Town from a dusty settlement to a crime-ridden center of industry. For the English dubbed version that I saw the filmmakers made the odd decision to hire celebrity impersonator Rich Little to voice every role. thus we have the surreal experience of hearing Little's version of well known voices acting out major roles such as the film's narrator (James Stewart, and for some reason spoken completely in rhyme), Luke (Gary Cooper), the town undertaker (Boris Karloff) and Joe Dalton (James Cagney). Luckily, the film tries to get by without dialogue whenever possible so this doesn't get too annoying.

Although DAISY TOWN was the first cinematic Lucky Luke adventure it was by no means the last. There were two more animated features, a few animated shorts and a cartoon TV series. In the 1990s these were followed by two live action films and a TV series starring iconic spaghetti western actor Terence Hill. The most recent Lucky Luke film was made in 2009 with THE ARTIST star and flavor of the moment Jean Dujardin. However since that film committed the unpardonable sin of being shot in a language other than English the chances of seeing it in an American movie theater are practically nil. Maybe we'll have better luck with the inevitable US remake.

For more overlooked film and a/v visit Todd Mason's blog.