Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)

I remember really wanting to see Conan the Barbarian (1982) when it first came out, but it was rated A.P.G. – which meant that I couldn’t go unless an adult (presumably a parent) accompanied me. Somehow I talked my Dad into it, and he declared it to be the worst movie he’d ever seen. A distinction that may have changed when I convinced him to take me to Friday the 13th Part III (1982), but that’s another story.

Conan… may have been the first of many movies of it’s type that I watched over the next few years. Having a VCR helped greatly with this, as I don’t think I could have convinced my Dad to take me to any more movies like Conan… Thankfully the video store clerks never seemed to worry about how old you were when they took your money and allowed you to rent R-rated films on VHS and Beta. 

When I refer to movies of the same type as Conan…, I’m actually talking about a few different genres. There were the fantasy films, with swords and sorcerers – like The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), Conan the Barbarian, The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984) and Deathstalker (1983), 

There were also the post apocalyptic variants like She (1984), Phoenix the Warrior (1988) and Warriors of the Apocalypse (1985). Movies like Land of Doom (1986) and 2020 Texas Gladiators (1983) weren’t far off in their own way, but
the characters tend to use guns instead of swords.

Then there were the prehistoric fantasy films, like Quest for Fire (1981), Ironmaster (1983) and The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), I suppose. 

Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983) is a movie that almost defies description, but it’s kind of a combination of all three of the above genres. I did not see it back in the ’80s, when I was renting strange fantasy and post apocalyptic movies on a regular basis. I remember Yor… hitting the theatres back in the day – and it wasn’t even R-rated, so my friends and I COULD have gone to see it. But the reviews were pretty bad, and the poster didn’t inspire confidence in me at the time, so I guess just passed it by. And I continued to walk past it in the video stores for the rest of the decade. 

When I was at university in the ’90s, I would often come home late at night, sit down in front of the TV and watch whatever movie happened to come on at midnight. I had a strange schedule one year, and all of my classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This meant I had a lot of days off, which was great, but it also meant that I had very long days twice a week. Classes started at 8:00 AM, which was a couple of hours before I generally ever liked to be awake. And I needed to leave about an hour early if I expected to catch a bus and make it all the way out there in time. Needless to say, watching a midnight movie the night before was not a good way to ensure that I would stay awake and alert all day.

It seems impossible to me now, but I believe that on one particular night, I finished watching whatever midnight movie had been on and was about to head up to bed when a second movie started. It was Yor, the Hunter from the Future, and I had still never seen it. I knew that there was no way I could stay up and watch it. Not when I needed to be up before 7:00 AM. I was already going to get less that five hours of sleep. I couldn’t cut that down the three. No way. 

Yor… caught my attention immediately. It was impossible to look away. It was jaw droppingly, mind-blowingly bad – in the best way possible! I knew it had been panned back the day, and I expected it to be bad, but this was something else. It was a celluloid miracle. I was majoring in film studies at the time, so I was used to watching and analyzing films (sometimes on three or four hours of sleep), and I admit that sometimes I would nod off while watching a certified masterpiece. But this ridiculous, over the top, indescribable thing that was flickering on my TV screen had me completely mesmerized. Every time I  thought I thought I would be be able to turn off the TV and walk away SOMETHING ELSE would happen that was even more ridiculous than the last thing – and I would keep watching! What was wrong with me? I had to get up in four hours. I needed to stop!

Just in case you doubt my first experience of Yor…, and even I have trouble believing it when I think back on it, here is what L.A. Morse had to say in Video Trash & Treasures: 

“The first half of this is so vigorously inane and astonishingly cheap and shoddy that it’s a complete hoot, with technical incompetence combining with utter brainlessness to produce as shabby a spectacle as is ever likely to pass in front of your glazed eyes.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And the first half is exactly how much I sat through before I forced myself to turn it off and have a brief nap before classes started in the morning.

When I saw my friend Ian in class the next day, he said “You’re not going to believe this movie I started watching on TV last night…”

It was Yor… and he had had the exact same experience as me.

We were both film students who loved Martin Scorcese, Charlie Chaplin, and classics like His Girl Friday (1940) and The Bicycle Thieves (1948). But we had found a new cinema god, and his name was Yor.

For reasons I can’t explain, I did not watch Yor…  again until last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. I always intended to, but somehow it never happened. Perhaps a part of me knew that I could never have that same experience again. Now that I knew what to expect, it couldn’t catch me off guard and make my jaw hit the floor. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve watched a lot of bad movies in the intervening years. A LOT of bad movies. And probably many that were way worse than my old friend Yor… It’s possible that he would pale in comparison to my memory of him, and maybe I didn’t want that to happen. But you can only go so many years without knowing how a story ends. So, I finally invited Yor…  back into my living room.

Did it live up to my memory? Not exactly. I expected it to be shoddier and more ridiculous. But the good news is that I really enjoyed it. It had a charm and an energy that only a campy bad movie can have. And in some ways, it actually looks more lush than a lot of the no budget crap that has been produced in the past ten years. This was a movie that played theatres, after all. And it had practical effects that I find way more pleasing to the eyes than the bad CGI that has plagued modern genre films. It’s fast paced, the characters are likeable, and it’s just plain fun. It’s a #NotQuiteClassicCinema masterpiece that I will without a doubt be watching again in the future – and I won’t wait twenty plus years to do it.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Evils of the Night (1985)

I have a few friends who share my taste in movies. And every once in a while I get together with one of them and watch a movie. Or two. Or three or four. I have an annual all day movie marathon with my friend Brian every December. Because of his crazy work schedule, it is often our only chance to do something like that. I have another friend with whom I used to watch movies more often. Two, or three, or maybe four times a year we would get together and have a “bad movie night.”

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but just in case someone reads this someday and gets all bent out of shape… We call it a “bad movie night” but this doesn’t mean that all of the movies we watch are “bad”. We usually watch movies that we’ve never seen before, so we can’t be sure where they will fall on the spectrum of Truly Bad to So Bad It’s Good to Actually Quite Good (and everything in between).

My friend took a job way up north for a few years, which meant that we would not be able to see each other as often. As a result, whenever he was in town (which was often unexpected, and for work purposes), he would call me up and say something like “hey, I’m in town tonight – let’s watch some movies.” And because this might be our only chance for months, I would cancel all other plans and host a bad movie night.

The funny thing is, he started to call me more and more often. “Hey, I’m back in town… Could be the last time this year… ” So, I continued to drop everything and invite him over the watch movies. At one point, he called me three weeks in a row.

“You’re back again?”

“Yeah, work is crazy.”

This was getting ridiculous. I was now seeing my friend more often than when he lived in the city. And more than than my OTHER friends who lived in the city. I enjoyed watching movies with him, but how could I justify cancelling all other plans whenever he called?

The punch line of the story is that he moved back to the city and now I don’t see him as often.

But back in the heady days of frequent bad movie nights, my friend picked up a VHS tape from a Movie Village shelf and said “What about this one?”

I looked at the cover art for Evils Of The Night (1985) for the first time. It looked like a typical slasher film to me. And I love slasher films, so I was pretty much sold without knowing anything else.

“I could use a John Carradine fix,” my friend said.

“Huh?” I was still mesmerized by the thoughts of typical slasher movie action, and didn’t know what my friend was talking about.

“John Carradine is in this movie, and I could use a John Carradine fix,” he explained.


John Carradine was in this movie? I took a closer look at the box and saw names like John Carradine, Julie Newmar, Neville Brand, Tina Louise and Aldo Ray. This wasn’t like the cast of any slasher movie I’d ever seen.

Aldo Ray? I think the first time I saw that name was on the front of a VHS box I rented called Dark Sanity (1982). Notice it is the exciting “pre-cinema” release of the movie. This was before “direct-to-video” was a thing, so I guess they were trying to find a way to make “too-crappy-for cinemas” sound good. The first name listed was Aldo Ray, and because the box featured a woman (and talked about a woman on the back), I actually wondered if the lead actress was Aldo Ray. I should have known better, because I was aware of Canadian rocker Aldo Nova (and I loved his song “Fantasy”). Perhaps I thought the name Aldo was a bit like Jamie, or Kim, and could be either male or female. 

I eventually figured out that Aldo Ray had to be the older man in the movie, and I asked my Dad if he knew who Aldo Ray was.

“He was a Hollywood star very briefly,” my Dad told me. “I think he had a drinking problem and faded away pretty quickly.”

I’m not sure how accurate my Dad’s summation was, but it certainly could fit the career path of several Hollywood actors. I started to notice Aldo Ray’s name popping up on a lot of low budget 1970s and ’80s movies, like Hollywood Cop (1987) and Haunts (1976). Oddly enough, I thought Haunts might be the same movie as Dark Sanity for a few years. I had already accidentally seen Dark Sanity twice, because I rented it under the title Straight Jacket, so when I saw the box for Haunts with a woman and Aldo Ray’s name on the cover, I got suspicious. It is, of course, a completely different movie, but it took me years to find out.

I eventually saw Aldo Ray in some major Hollywood classics like Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) and Pat and Mike (1952), and it was hard to accept that this was same guy who I got to know in Not Quite Classics such as The Centerfold Girls (1974). Interestingly, both of those 1950s films feature Charles Bronson in a supporting role. He was beginning his slow journey to superstardom while Ray was, perhaps, beginning a long descent that would lead him to…

Evils Of The Night (1985), which is not a typical slasher film as I had originally thought. It’s more of a weird SciFi vampire movie, which could also qualify as a sexploitation film in some ways. There is a lot of (high quality) nudity in the film, as well as some pretty explicit sex scenes (featuring actual adult film stars like Amber Lynn and Crystal Breeze). The old Hollywood stars, like Julie Newmar (most famous as The Catwoman on the original Batman TV series) and John Carradine, play aliens who are experimenting on human teenagers. Aldo Ray and Neville Brand (known to horror fans for unforgettable his turn as Judd in Eaten Alive (1976), but also in classics like D.O.A. (1949) and Stalag 17 (1953)) are the human gas station attendants who help procure victims for the aliens. 

In case you haven’t figured it out, Evils Of The Night is a very strange little movie. But it is strangely entertaining, and, as my friend summed it up at a “bad movie night” all those years ago, it really delivers the goods. If you have a taste for #NotQuiteClassicCinema that’s high on sleaze and low on sensibility, then look no further for a perfect addition to your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Prowler (1981)

I first saw The Prowler (1981) with a couple of friends back the ’80s. We were all blown away by the Special Makeup FX by Tom Savini. We had seen The Burning (1981) and been disappointed that most of the gore had been cut out. We had also seen plenty of other slasher films with sub-par gore FX. So, The Prowler was quite a mind-blowing experience for us.

We also liked the story of The Prowler, and the mystery aspect worked for us. In other words, we did not figure out who the killer was and were legitimately surprised by the revelation. This was not so common when watching the less accomplished slasher films of the day.

Fast forward a few years, and I had become a collector of movies on VHS. They had been too expensive at first. And not that many places would even sell them. But by the ’90s there were a lot of video stores that would routinely sell used movies for a decent price. Every once in a while, I would borrow the old beat-up station wagon from my parents and my friend Brian and I would drive all over town, visiting video stores and looking for good deals on used movies.

We popped into one store that we had never visited and my friend excitedly grabbed a box from a shelf. It was VHS copy of The Prowler released by Astral Video. We had never seen a copy of the movie on sale before, and we had never seen this particular box. The price sticker said $15.00, which was a little high for a used VHS tape at that time. My friend took the box up to the counter and asked the owner if she would consider taking $10.00 for the movie. She thought about it for a minute, letting us know that this was a really difficult decision. Then she said “Ten dollars plus tax?”

My friend agreed and he went home very excited that night, with one of the holy grails of horror movie collecting (at least to us). He reported back to me that the tape was in perfect shape, and the movie was uncut, with all of Tom Savini’s beautiful gore intact. I must admit, I was a just a little bit jealous.

The next time we went out video store hopping, we came upon a second location of the store where Brian had found his cherished copy of The Prowler. We went inside and discovered a second, identical Astral Video VHS box of the movie on sale for the same price of $15.00. I did exactly what Brian had done last time, and wound up paying ten dollars plus tax for my very own copy of this slasher classic.

Later that night, when I slipped the tape into my VCR and prepared to have my mind blown all over again, I made a horrifying discovery. My copy of the The Prowler was censored – all of the gore was cut out! What the hell? I examined the box closely. It was identical to the box that Brian had purchased. Often one version would say R-rated, and the other would say Unrated. Or the listed running times would be different. There were no tell tale signs on my box that suggested it would be anything other than the complete, uncut film. I was not happy.

Brian came up with an idea: what if we put our VCRs together and copy his uncut movie onto my censored tape? It sounded like a plan to me. I was somewhat worried that the quality of my copy wouldn’t be as good, but it’s not like I was ever going to watch the censored version anyway. It was worth the risk.

Thankfully, it worked beautifully. And for years it was what I would watch whenever I had a hankering to see that film again. I eventually picked up a second VHS tape, this one by VCII. And now I have the blu-ray, which is what I watched last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

The movie still works for me. Aside from the things I already mentioned, I was always impressed by the fact that it starts with a pretty convincing period sequence set in 1945 (right after World War II). They had period automobiles and everything. This is, I believe, a unique achievement in a low budget slasher filmmaking.

Many people cite their admiration for the “final girl” of this movie, and I like her, too. Pam, played by Vicky Dawson, seems to be a more active main character than many. She finds out very early on that something is wrong and she spends the rest of the film, with the help of equally likeable Deputy Sheriff Mark, trying to solve the mystery. In a lesser slasher film, her character would have simply waited around to get attacked in the final reel.

Legendary (notorious?) Hollywood actor Lawrence Tierney, who had been in films like Dillinger (1945) and Back to Bataan (1945), appears in The Prowler as Major Chatham, who seems to run the college. His part is ridiculously small, so this was clearly from the period when his name still meant something, but his career was on the skids. He made a bit of comeback later with Reservoir Dogs (1992) and an appearance on Seinfeld as Elaine’s scary father.

The Prowler (1981) will always be a special movie for me. I’m not sure how successful it was originally. It never spawned sequels or a remake. Some people don’t care for it as much as I do, and I can understand that. But it’s one of my favourite slasher films, and a piece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that I will treasure until the day I meet a masked psychopath in an empty college dorm. I could watch it anytime, anyplace, any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)

Back in May of 2020, I wrote about my first cinematic encounters with Klaus Kinski. I may or may not have said it then, but whenever I see Klaus Kinski’a name in the credits of a movie, it is always an added incentive for me to watch it. I don’t think I have ever made mention of Ewa Aulin. In fact, I don’t recall ever having heard or seen the name Ewa Aulin prior to watching Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973) last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. This may not quite be true, as I have seen at least one of her other performances. She only has eighteen listed on the IMDb, but one of the titles sticks out like no other: Candy (1968).

I have not seen Candy, but I am very familiar with it. This is mainly because I read the book by Terry Southern (and Mason Hoffenberg). Don’t ask me why, as I had never heard of it or Terry Southern at the time. I think I picked up five paperbacks for dollar in some used bookstore and Candy was one of them. It was amusing, but I can’t say that I particularly loved it.

Then a few years later I saw VHS Collector’s Editions of the movie version of Candy and I was surprised that it even existed. I was tempted to buy it, as I have always been a sucker for nice looking Collector’s Editions of movies – even ones that I had never heard of…

I didn’t buy it, because I recalled not loving the book, and most often when people see movie adaptations of books they say “The book was better.” So if the book was better than this movie, I didn’t think I needed to see it.

A few years later, I met a nice old lady in New York who told me that a relative of hers had once produced a terrible movie that had embarrassed his whole family – and it was called Candy. I told her that I knew about Candy and she was amazed.

“I haven’t seen it,” I told her.

“Don’t” she said.

But this is really another story. My point is that I probably saw the name Ewa Aulin on the nice VHS box of Candy, but if I did, I don’t remember.

Incidentally, Terry Southern was a successful writer who, among other things, co-wrote Easy Rider (1969) with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda (which is a favourite of mine) and The Cincinnati Kid (1965) which is a very good movie. So, he was clearly a good writer. And I don’t mean to suggest that Candy was a bad book. It was very popular and I’m sure some people loved it. Somehow it just didn’t speak to me.

Oddly enough, many years later I was writing a play for a major Canadian theatre, and they put me together with a dramaturge who they thought could help me “shape my play into something that would work in their theatre”. The dramaturge read my latest draft and said:

“This seems to be a picaresque story.”

“A what?” I said.

He went on to explain, in his own words, what that was. I can’t recall exactly what he said, but defines it as “an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero.”

This did describe my play quite well, actually.

The dramaturge went on to mention that the French novel Candide by Voltaire, was an example. As he talked about the book, it slowly dawned on me that Candy was a version of Candide.

I’ll be damned, I thought. Maybe there was more to that book than I had realized. Maybe I needed to read it again…

I never have. But I do want to see the movie – especially now that I’ve seen Ewa Aulin in Death Smiles on a Murderer

Death Smiles on a Murderer was directed by Joe D’Amato, who had primarily been a director of photography early in his career. He started directing movies under assumed names, because he didn’t want to jeopardize his reputation as a cinematographer. He started with spaghetti westerns, then did some comedies – always under other names. The first horror film he made was Death Smiles on a Murderer – and he used his real name, Aristide Massaccesi! For some reason he continued to make horror films but under the name Joe D’Amato. D’Amato became known for gore films like Beyond the Darkness (1979) and Antropophagus (1980), as well as erotic films like Emanuelle in America (1977) and  Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980), which obviously crossed over with horror.

In fact, D’Amato made over a hundred hard core erotic films as well. He has a total of 196 directing credits on the IMDb. Quite remarkable. I’ve seen a number of his films, but I’ve hardly scratched the surface of his total output. I was excited to finally get a chance to see his first horror film, Death Smiles on a Murderer last week, and it didn’t disappoint me.

I had been expecting it to be a giallo, and it does have some very giallo-like moments, but it is more of a gothic horror story at heart. It’s also got a very unpredictable plot, with a few unusual twists and turns. It’s hard to say exactly what it is, and yet somehow it works.

The atmosphere and the cinematography are top notch, and the film features several nods to Edgar Allan Poe, which are always welcome.

I don’t want to say too much more about it, because I believe it’s better to go in not knowing what to expect. If you’re a fan of Joe D’Amato, Klaus Kinski, horror films, giallos, Ewa Aulin, or movies that are hard to categorize, give this one a shot. It’s a certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic.