It’s a sad day in the movies world for geeks and manly action fans. Peter Yates, director of the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt and the cult fantasy adventure Krull, died yesterday in London at the age of 82.
I’m not terribly familiar with Yates’ work outside of the two movies named above, but you don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of a man’s career to mourn his passing. Bullitt and Krull are childhood favorites for me, and it is saddening to know that the creative leader behind both of those is no longer with us.
Yates started out his career with a stint on the old Roger Moore-starring UK TV series The Saint (later adapted into a 1997 film starring Val Kilmer). He directed a number of films in his home country before taking on his first Hollywood production, the Steve McQueen-starring road action flick Bullitt. It was far from McQueen’s first role, but it was one of his most memorable. Bullitt went on to eventually win an Oscar for Best Film Editing. The movie also features an incredible soundtrack from jazz musician Lalo Schifrin.
It’s Krull that I remember most fondly however. Released in 1983, a time when B-grade fantasy was the norm — Ladyhawke, Beastmaster, Excalibur and, of course, Conan the Barbarian were all early/mid-’80s efforts — Krull managed to stand out, largely for it’s super-cool five-bladed throwing weapon The Glaive (not to be confused with the real polearm-like weapon) and imaginative world. The story, which follows a group of adventures who are out to rescue a distressed damsel from a black, teleporting, mountain-shaped fortress of evil, is pure Star Wars, right down to the unlikely hero’s unique weapon and the army of white-armored, laser-toting bad guys who pursue him.
So today I will raise my glass to Yates as I watch Krull and think of the fun work he did as a filmmaker. It maybe isn’t the movie he’d want to be remembered for first, but it’s the one that I identify with him most strongly and also one that I think of fondly. Rest in peace, Mr. Yates. And thank you.
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