“He is from a future world. Trapped in prehistoric times. Searching for his past. A hunter of incredible power and strength. In his quest for his origin, he and the woman he loves must fight hostile tribes. Battle deadly beasts. And try to survive the violent forces of a newly born Earth.”
The first time I saw the trailer for this movie, – at the long-lost to a tornado Spotlite 88 Drive-In in 1983 – I exclaimed to my father, “We have to see this movie. It has to be the best movie ever.”
He replied, “It looks like a piece of shit.”
34 years later, I am here to tell you that my father was completely correct. He also couldn’t be more wrong.
Face facts — I cannot hate this movie. It’s too insane and obviously made by maniacs who have no concern whatsoever for rational narrative structure to throw bon mots at. If this was made as an art film, people would celebrate the incongruity and sheer madness of it all. Because it’s an Italian exploitation film — nonetheless one distributed in the US by Columbia Pictures — it gets looked down on as a load of feces. Which it surely is. But it aspires to be so much more.
Please note: as you read this — and if you haven’t seen Yor — you may wondering, how much stuff is in this movie? And once you read this, you’ll wonder how so much can happen in just 88 minutes. Consider me a witness. I have watched this movie three times in one day just to confirm that yes, so much stuff happens in this movie. Literally, twenty movies worth of crazy happens in this movie.
When we meet Yor (played by Reb Brown, TV’s Captain America, the blondest man who ever lived), he’s jumping all over a prehistoric desert (which is really Turkey, but please, let’s not quibble. Let’s stop being so snarky and just give way to the majesty which is Yor) until he runs into the luscious Kala, played by Corinne Cléry from Moonraker and The Story of O, and her old man protector Pag, who we of the before time know as Luciano Pigozzi from Blood and Black Lace. They’re out hunting and start playing with a little dinosaur when a bigger one attacks them. Luckily, Yor has his axe and goes buckwild on the stego beast, making it bleed everywhere. Seriously — I have never seen a dinosaur with a crimson mask before.
After the battle, everyone begins to celebrate and Yor proves why he’s a little bit different than your average barbarian hero. He just starts lapping up the blood pouring out of this prehistoric beastie. Keep in mind, nearly everyone else is tripping out as this happens. He ignores them and just keeps on drinking blood. It’s also worth noting that this monster is made from some of Italy’s finest papier mache.
YOR: YAAAAAAA! Drink! Drink it!
KALA: It burns like fire!
YOR: The blood of your enemy makes you stronger! Drink!
PAG: I’d rather stay weak.
YOR: I’m Yor the Hunter. I come from the high mountain. Help me cut the choice meats.
That’s how we meet Yor — running at full speed down a mountain until he kills a dinosaur, drinks its blood and cuts up the choice meats. I wish that I had a butcher pattern of a dinosaur showing me where the best cuts are so that I start serving it properly.
Everyone asks about Yor’s medallion — yeah, your boy is sporting a total 70s style gold piece — and a wizened old man smartens everyone up: “I have seen a similar medallion. Beyond the mountains it is worn by a woman who lives among the desert people. I have seen it glint on her chest when the sun’s rays strike it. She is the daughter of the gods. They say she descended to the earth in a tongue of fire. And now she is worshipped as a queen.” Kala is like, um, alright, so, welcome to my village, we have some travelogue mondo style footage to show you here, so can we drop the Erich von Däniken shit? And with that, we’re in the village. No one in this movie asks questions all that often. In fact, stuff just seems to happen to the main characters. And by stuff, I mean senseless death and destruction. PTSD does not exist in the world of Yor.
After Yor takes in Kala’s Paleolithic-era twerking, blue-skinned cavemen attack the village. They kidnap everyone but Pag, Yor and Kala. If you’re wondering how, in this hero’s journey, why said hero can blunder on such a monumental level, let me inform you: you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Kala and Yor forget all about the village being kidnapped and have a romantic walk, which is interrupted by the blue skins, who steal Kala and chuck Yor off a cliff. At this point, my scratched up library copy DVD froze for ten minutes and I believed that it was an artistic choice to focus on Yor’s moment of pain. Once I cleaned the DVD off, I realized my folly. I also realized that I wasted ten minutes of my life staring at a still frame of the star of Space Mutiny. Such is life.
Yor climbs up a mountain to rejoin Pag. Tracking the blue skins back to their cave, we discover that they’re all battling over who gets to sleep with Kala first — because the law whoever wins in combat gets to have her. Yor isn’t having it, so he shoots a giant bat and uses it to hang glide into their base. He escapes with Kala, but along the way releases a tidal wave through the cave, killing every single blue skinned caveman and Kala and Pag’s entire fucking tribe! This is never called out or referenced or even discussed. Yes — Yor has fucked up on a monumental scale, but it’s never discussed. We just move on.
Let me reiterate: the hero of this movie just killed nearly everyone the woman he loves has ever known or loved.
Why, at this point, anyone would follow Yor is up for serious discussion. But hey — their entire village was killed by a blundering maniac, so why not strap in for the ride and see what’s next. And what’s next? Oh yeah – the land of the disease, the world of fire, where death rules this land, where people do dark rituals. Basically, the most awesome place on Earth. Kala wants Yor to stay, because he’s going to find that crazy witch woman out there, but he casually brushes her off and is on his way to the coolest place ever — one that sounds like every Dio album cover come to life.
Nope. It’s just more Turkish mountains filled with sand mummies, who run with fire against all logic and safety standards, chasing Yor until he sets all of them on fire. Because that’s what Yor does best — accidental mass genocide. Oh wait, what he really does best is fail on a monumental scale, which he does here again, as he’s defeated by a net and brought to the queen of the sand mummies, Rua — who has the same amulet that he does! Stuff just happens to this guy — he can keep failing in spite of himself and end up exactly where the story needs to go. Yor and Roa have a moment, surrounded by dead people encased in ice.
YOR: Where’d you get that medallion? What does it mean?
ROA: They say I came here together with those men, there, caught in the ice. Why I am alive and they are dead I don’t know, and why the ice has formed in this parched desert is a mystery without an answer, but the little water that comes from it is vital to these people and they worship me, as a divine goddess.
At this point, Yor could just live in an ice cave and make sweet love for the rest of his life. But nope. Even though the poisonous vapors in the desert sands will only be placated by the death of every stranger who comes to this land, Yor decides that they need to leave and live in peace. He demands to be released or killed…now!
Yor, of course, wasn’t thinking again, as Rea decides to just have him killed. If you think Yor is going to find some fire and kill everyone else, you’ve seen this movie, too. Of course he does, screaming and flexing and shouting the entire time. All sorts of mummies get set on fire and blown up in dramatic slow motion and Roa gets a bunch of ice dropped on her head. Somehow, Yor doesn’t muff this one up and escapes, finding Kala and Pag in the process.
Seriously. Yor has met and wiped out three civilizations in the last thirty some odd minutes. He is nothing if not efficient.
Now, however, he’s in for the worst battle of his life. Two women want his Yor-meat and they’re willing to kill one another for his veiny manroot. Just when Kala tries to slay Roa, those blue cavemen attack again. Yor fights them off, but in the ensuing brawl, Roa gets hit in the head. Again. But this time, it’s fatal and she dies in Yor’s arms, asking for a kiss. Forget the kiss. Instead, you should be screaming at him for being the worst hero ever! Roa dies, but not before this immortally translated and dubbed soliloquy:
ROA: You see? Dreams are only dreams. Things are coming back to me. I see an island and in the middle a big sea. In the middle, a big castle. That is where we come from. Take my amulet and give it to Kala. It is the emblem of our world. She loves you. Kiss me. Kiss me off quickly! My gods are calling me!
Cue the strings. Cue the last kiss, ala J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers.
Yor reflects for a moment on this senseless death, but soon, he hears some screams. Which means that it’s time for the gang to run into some kids who are being menaced by a dinosaur, who Yor tries to kill with his axe. Because after all, that’s the one heroic thing he did well in this entire movie. He, of course, fails and is saved by Pag and Kala. Of course the kids invite Yor to their village.
Of course, you’ll scream, “No, you’ll all die!” but no one will listen. Of course.
The folks he saved, well, they meet their cuckholded dad, who is all like, “Well, you saved my wife’s life, so she’s yours now.” Yor is like, “Yeah, well, that’s cool and all, but let’s talk UFOs instead.” We learn that flying saucers have been blowing stuff up, but first, the women have prepared a feast in Yor’s honor. So forget all the gods from the stars and death and worry — we got food to eat! Choice meats, am I right?
Let’s pause for a second. Will the fourth race of people who met Yor also get wiped out? Of course they will.
Unseen flying saucers (budgetary reasons) set the whole village on fire. People are screaming and running and on fire, because it’s an Italian movie and either an animal needs tortured or a woman’s head has to go through glass or someone has to be set on fire every fifteen minutes.
Yor gets in a boat to follow them and finds a storm-surrounded island. There, we discover the twist to this film. That said — the twist is given away in the movie’s title, so it’s not that much of a spoiler. Yor’s world is actually our Earth post-nuclear war and his parents died fighting the Overlord (John Steiner of Shock, Caligula and Salon Kitty fame; side note he now sells real estate in LA and seems like a kindly old chap). Yor gets captured, as you knew he would, and meets the rebels who have been plotting to overthrow the Overlord and his nuclear powered minions (who use the same costumes as Aldo Lado’s The Humanoid).
Turns out Yor’s real name is Galahad and his medallion tells his entire life story — his parents fought the Overlord and were killed as they escaped to wherever we are now. Yor is less from the future and more from an island a little across the way, but that would be an absolute shit title for this movie.
Theremin music plays as the Overlord reveals his plan: use Yor’s genetic material to make genetically perfect androids and to get his mind operated on, so that Yor can be perfect. This explains why Yor bungles up everything he sets his mind to.
It’s at this stage of the movie that we pivot from a Conan ripoff to a straight Star Wars clone. I’m always fascinated by the mix of barbarians battling future technology, so this pleased me greatly. It’s no Thundarr, but what is?
The Elder, the blind leader of the scientists, helps Yor and the rebels escape. The Overlord fights back, kicking Yor’s ass for a bit, until Yor comes back and impales him. The Overlord somehow survives this and struggles to blow up his base, but Yor’s ragtag crew escapes and the entire remainder of human civilization goes up in flames. Instead of a dream race of hybrid clones, future people and cavepeople are about to get it on, all fallen angel Nephilim style.
As we see the spaceship fly away, a narrator intones, “Yor returns to the primitive tribes on the mainland. He is determined to use his superior knowledge to prevent them making the same mistakes as their forefathers. Will he succeed?”
If the last 88 minutes were any indication, a resounding no is the answer.
How does one sum up a movie like Yor Hunter from the Future?
Well, I’d be remiss were I not to mention the theme song to Yor. It sounds like a sub-Queen cover band, yet it is all that is wonderful about cinema. Here are but some of the lyrics:
“Yor’s World, he’s the man! Yor’s World, he’s the man! [Yor’s World!]
Lost in the world of past, in the echo of ancient blast. [Yor’s World!]
There is a man of future, a man of mystery. [Yor’s World!]
No tribe to lead the way, in his search for a yesterday. [Yor’s World!] Misty illusions hiding, his famous destiny. [Yor’s World!]
Yor, the touch of fire. Yor the proud and free desire. He never sees the sun, he’s always on the run, him and his days are gone. They say he will go on, his search goes on and on.”
This movie isn’t boring, that’s for sure. So many of the movies that followed in the wake of Conan certainly are. Credit — or blame — for this movie’s direction goes to Antonio Margheriti. Yor is based on a popular Argentine comic book and what we saw in America was an 88 minute cut down version of the worldwide 98 minute release (which in itself is a cutdown versus of four 55-minute TV mini-series episodes). So in case you wonder why this feels like one of those Heavy Metal magazine stories that make no sense at all, that could be some of the reason. Antonio’s career is marked by a ton of films that cut across a swath of genres, like the Lee Majors-starring Killer Fish, The Long Hair of Death and Castle of Blood. There’s some argument that it was Antonio — and not Paul Morissey — who directed Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. Hopefully, it was he who helped with that movie’s most memorable line (“To truly know life, you must fuck it in the gallbladder!”)
An interesting tribute to Antonio Margheriti can be found in Quentin Tarantino’s The Inglorious Basterds, as Eli Roth’s character Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz uses the assumed name Margheriti when he poses as an Italian.
Even better — or worse — there’s a new Yor in the works. The only info I can find on it states that, “Reboot fever continues as this highly underrated early 80’s sci fi / fantasy classic finally gets the treatment it deserves. Original actor Reb Brown is onboard as an older Yor recounting the classic adventures of his younger self played by genre veteran Matt Vogel.”
Should you watch this? After reading all that I wrote about it and you still don’t, well then why are you even reading a site about films? Yor Hunter from the Future is a lot of things, but it certainly isn’t normal. It’s worth experiencing at least once in your life, that’s for sure. After all, if you just listen to the song, you know one thing: Yor is the man.