The 80s saw a big boom in sword and sorcery flicks, with Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian being the real kicking-off point for the genre, but unlike Conan, most of those films were shot with incredibly low budgets and even lower-ranked stars. Such was the case with Yor, the Hunter from the Future a film that was loosely based on an Argentinian comic book by writer Eugenio Zappietro and artist Juan Zanott but director Antonio Margheriti kind of decided to go in a different direction than what was found in the source material and so instead of solid Conan rip-off the third act of this film turned into a Star Wars rip-off.
The movie opens with our hero Yor (Reb Brown) running across a desert landscape while his own power ballad blasts the airwaves, “Yor’s world, he’s the man! Yor’s world, he’s the man! Yor’s world! Lost in the world of the past with the echo of the ancient blast, there is a man from the future, a man of mystery, Yor’s world!” Certainly not the most scintillating theme songs ever produced but it does clearly establish that Yor is “the man” and throughout the film’s eighty-eight-minute running time we will have many action-packed moments to supposedly back this claim up, many of these moments will be punctuated by Yor yelling out how awesome he is.
One has to really sympathize with actor Reb Brown as not only does his wardrobe consist solely of furry boots and a loincloth but he was also forced to wear one of the most unfortunate-looking wigs ever made, yet somehow he manages to pull it off without looking completely ridiculous. I know Reb Brown mostly from my repeated viewings of Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon and it’s his affable goofy charm that sets him apart from the other muscle-bound actors of the time. I certainly wouldn’t want to run around the chilly Turkish countryside dressed like that, all while over-enthusiastic extras try and smack you with rubber clubs, but I guess that’s the actor’s life.
Yor, the Hunter from the Future does look at first to be more of a Quest for Fire-type film rather than a sword and sorcery one, for when we first see Yor as he saves two somewhat primitive cavemen types from what at a glance looks to be a triceratops, one that strangely enough has a view attributes of a Stegosaurus, but as most of us know that man and dinosaurs were separated by about sixty-five million years of evolution, so this combat is more in the vein of the 1966 film One Million Years B.C. starring Raquel Welch than say 1981’s Quest for Fire. That a normally herbivorous triceratops is trying to eat people may seem odd to modern viewers but this was the norm for cheesy genre films aimed at audiences raised on episodes of The Flintstones, but before you ridicule this anachronistic moment too much, be warned that this film has a startling twist for its third act that explains all.
The cave people that Yor saved were the beautiful Kalaa (Corinne Cléry) and her grizzled protector Pag (Luciano Pigozzi) and they introduce Yor to their people and it’s here that a tribal elder recognizes the strange metal medallion that Yor wears. He is told of the mystery surrounding a woman with a similar trinket, a woman who apparently descended to the Earth on a tongue of fire and was worshiped as a goddess by the local desert people. She sported the exact same medallion that Yor does and so our poor hero, who has no memory as to where he comes from or who his people are, decides to go on a quest to find this strange woman, but not right away as he hangs around for a tribal celebration where Kalaa makes it clear that she has the hots for the big blonde hunk.
Before Kalaa has time to properly seduce Yor the “village” is attacked by a group of blue-skinned (or blue painted as one really can’t tell the filmmaker’s intent here) Neanderthal types who kill the men and children while making off with the women. Yor puts up a bit of a fight until he realizes that this shit is dangerous and he flees with Kalaa and Pag.
One will take note that as the film progresses the heroicness of Yor comes into question time and time again, and sure, he’s a big strong dude with a nice axe swing but the amount of actual saving of people in this movie is rather slim. In fact, he is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of many innocent parties which would result in most protagonists losing their hero cred. A prime example of this is when shortly after fleeing the Blue Man Group our hero tells Pag to head back to the village to look for survivors (that he sends an old man back alone to face unknown forces is another indicator that Yor is a bit of a shit hero) and while Yor and Kalaa look for a good hiding spot they are attacked and the blue Neanderthals make off with Kalaa. Epic Fail. Poor Yor is knocked unconscious and then tossed off a cliff and only survives because of the timely intervention of the returning Pag. The two men track the group that kidnapped Kalaa to their cave lair where Yor comes up with a brilliant plan of attack; he shoots a passing giant bat and uses its corpse as a glider.
With the Yor’s power ballad getting a reprise our hero makes a startling appearance as he flies through the cave entrance where after a few kicks and punches he quickly makes off Kalaa deeper into the caves. This is where his heroism comes into question again because to stop their pursuers he dismantles a dam that is holding back some kind of underwater reservoir, this results in a torrent of water that floods the cave and washes his enemies away. But how is that not heroic you ask? Well, all those other women who were snatched from Kalaa and Pag’s village were also in this cave and when it is flooded they are all drowned alongside their captors. It’s great that Yor was able to save the life of the woman most likely to sleep with him but I must say killing off all those other poor women just to make your escape is not only a dick move but also makes Yor a bit of a mass murderer. What makes it almost worse is that shortly after this “heroic” moment he encounters the mysterious goddess who wears the matching medallion and he pretty much immediately trades up for the new hot blonde over his “old” brunette squeeze.
How did this all come about? Well, Yor gets captured by some mummy-looking dudes in a place Pag called “The Land of the Diseased” and he is brought before their goddess to be sacrificed. The beautiful blonde goddess Roa (Ayshe Gul ) motions to a section of the cave where two shadowy figures can be seen frozen in the ice and she explains to Yor, “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.” That is a pretty interesting mystery it’s just too bad the film doesn’t have the time to ever explain or solve any of this and before you can say “genocidal maniac” Yor sets fire to the cave’s interior which causes the ice to melt and the cave to collapse. Yor escapes with Roa while the men of the desert are either burned to death or buried alive.
Kalaa is not too pleased with the sudden addition of competition for Yor’s attention, we even get the perquisite catfight between the two women as a jealous Kalaa attempts to murder her rival, but before either of them can work out who gets to sleep with Yor they are attacked by the surviving members of The Blue Man Group. The resulting skirmish ends with Yor killing the last remaining Neanderthal but unfortunately, during the fight, Roa was mortally wounded. Wait, that can’t be the case, can it? So Yor’s whole mission was to find this woman and yet the screenwriters kill her off after a meagre thirteen minutes of screen time. What kind of sense does that make? She barely had time to develop any kind of character other than being a useless exposition machine and providing a pointless element of jealousy for Kalaa. With her dying breath, she informs Yor that she is getting back some of her lost memories, “I see an island in the middle of a big sea. On the island, there is a magnificent castle. That is where we come from, where our race lives.” She tells Yor to give Kalaa her medallion and with a final kiss to the big lug she dies.
Our valiant trio buries the poor girl and then quickly goes on their merry way, and moments later they find the “Big Sea” just in time for Yor to save another pair of people from a random dinosaur attack. Pag saves the day with some well-placed arrows to once again prove how lacking our supposed hero is. Our band of misfits are then brought to a nearby beach village (and who the fuck builds a village on a beach?) where Yor is given a “hero’s welcome” and is offered to keep the chieftain’s teenage daughter as his mate. Yor kindly turns down the offer, I’m assuming he was afraid Kalaa would knife the poor girl on the spot if he’d said yes, and then our group learns that two moons ago a “god” dropped from the heavens on a “Strange fiery bird” and that they were forced to kill the god with thrown clubs after he struck down one of the tribe members with fire. Yor investigates the crash site (if you haven’t figured out that the supposed gods in this movie are just dudes from an advanced culture you can go sit at the back of the class) and he picks up a strange metal artifact which he fails to notice had become activated by his touch. Soon an invisible craft is laying waste to the village.
The village is wiped out by laser fire from this unseen aircraft, one can assume it wasn’t so much invisible as out of range of the film’s budget, and though the chieftain’s daughter is mourning the death of her father it doesn’t stop her from enlightening our band of idiots that off the coast is a strange island surrounded by storms. This, of course, sounds like the place Roa had mentioned and so they take the Chieftain’s boat to investigate. The Chief was dead and not using it so that’s cool. Soon our brave heroes cross the perilous sea to the mysterious island, and the village girl isn’t wrong about the storms as soon the trio are being tossed by murderous waves and Yor is thrown overboard. Yor is quickly captured by a bunch of Stormtrooper-looking robots and while tied to a table he learns that his parents were from a small band of nuclear holocaust survivors and that this small island is ruled by a ruthless tyrant called the Overlord (John Steiner) who with his android army plans on wiping out all the primitive societies that populate the mainland.
So that’s the big twist? We weren’t watching a cheesy caveman movie but instead a post-apocalyptic science fiction one, a movie where the hero discovers he’s Luke Skywalker ten minutes before the end credits roll. I’m betting the shift from cave dwellers fighting with axes to robot Stormtroopers engaging our heroes in laser battles must have given audiences whiplash back in 1983. The movie ends with Kayla and Pag teaming up with a group of rebels who were once led by Yor’s now dead parents and the following action scenes are beyond moronic and dull at times as they mostly consist of a bunch of scenes of people running around dodging laser fire. Yor and his cavemen friends are quick studies and appear to a better shot than their rebel friends. There is an insanely silly scene with Yor and Kalaa finding themselves trapped in a hall of mirrors that is straight out of the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon, and then we get the most ridiculous trapeze stunt ever orchestrated as Yor and Pag try to place a bomb on the fortress’s atomic stockpile. Pag, of course, has to save Yor’s life by swinging over and alley-ooping his friend back to safety, once again proving Pag is the true hero of this movie.
Yor catches up with the Overlord but because he is such a macho asshole he tosses aside his laser blaster so that he can take on the villain hand-to-hand in a mano-a-mano fashion, but no one informed our lunkhead hero that villains don’t tend to play fair and so Yor finds himself being blasted back by the Overlord’s power glove.
The Overlord tries to escape by jumping into an elevator but Yor grabs a nearby pole and impales the Sith Lord wannabe with a mighty javelin throw. Yor, Kalaa, Pag and a group of rebels flee for their lives as the mortally wounded Overlord tries to reach the bomb and stop its detonation. He fails and our heroes fly off into the sunset as the fortress explodes behind them as narration informs us that, “Yor returns to the primitive tribes on the mainland, he is determined to use his superior knowledge to prevent them from making the same mistakes as their forefathers. Will he succeed?” I’m not sure what “superior knowledge” the narrator is referring to because even though he is the son of one of the advanced holocaust survivors he wasn’t raised by them so his knowledge doesn’t expand much beyond hitting dinosaurs with an ax and random genocide. If anyone should be leading the world towards a brighter future it’s Pag as he has shown more intelligence and bravery than our supposed hero.
Yor, the Hunter from the Future is easily one of the more oddball movies out there as it strides two genres and gives us a hero who is a bit of a jerk. The stunt work on display is amateurish, the dubbing is pretty bad, the plot if one can call it that veers from the banal to the ludicrous without warning, and though I do love me some Reb Brown his hero Yor is just too big of an asshole for me to get behind. This film kind of falls into the “So bad it’s good” category and if you and your friends sit down with the right attitude and a good amount of alcohol you will most likely have a lot of fun watching this thing.
Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)
As low budget caveman meets Star Wars movies go there isn’t a lot to compare it to, it gets points for originality at least, but overall it’s a mess from start to finish with a twist that never gets around to explaining where the hell dinosaurs came from in a post-apocalyptic world.