Jim Vorel and Kenneth Lowe are connoisseurs of terrible movies. In this occasional series, they watch and then discuss the fallout of a particularly painful film. Be wary of spoilers.
Jim: Simple question for you, Ken: Have we ever done a movie in this column that featured more villages and societies being left in ruins thanks to the protagonist’s actions than Yor: The Hunter from the Future? I submit that we have not.
Ken: This certainly rivals our portfolio for highest body count thus far, Jim. Certainly for most over-dubbed dialogue, even including things like R.O.T.O.R. But is it odd that I honestly think this might be Reb Brown’s best feature?
Jim: Admittedly, with Space Mutiny and 1979’s Captain America on your resume, this is not a particularly high bar to clear, but you may be right. Yor is undeniably “bad,” but it’s competently put together, and its badness only increases the giddy joy of watching it. It’s like a particularly cheesy ’80s era Saturday morning cartoon come to life.
Ken: You know, I was going to argue that if it were less campy-bad, it would actually spoil the experience of watching it. This is as close as I think we come on Bad Movie Diaries to a full-throated endorsement from me. Congratulations, Yor, the Hunter from the Future. So as always, Jim, I have to know: How on our pre-apocalyptic Earth did you find this thing?
Jim: I actually caught this film once before, during a 24-hour bad movie film festival, some six or seven years ago. I was half asleep when I watched it, but you better believe I perked right up when it began with the immediately iconic “Yor’s World” theme song. I feel like I dipped in and out of consciousness afterward, but I always knew I’d revisit Yor someday, and now I’m glad I have. God bless Conan the Barbarian for coming along in 1982 and inspiring so many insane Italian rip-offs like this one.
Ken: I read only a little bit about the production after sitting down with this one, Jim, so maybe you can enlighten our readers about what led to this U.S.-Italy-Turkey project. It’s clear, throughout, that actors were saying English lines and then sheepishly dubbed over afterward, right?
Jim: I always assume in these cases that even if they were speaking English in the initial line-readings, they didn’t have decent enough sound equipment on set to use any of what they captured. As for its provenance, this film has one of the odder multicultural stews going that you’re ever going to see: An Italian B-movie director, who wanted to rip off an American sword and sorcery movie by adapting an Argentinean comic book and shooting that film in Turkey, with an American chunkhead actor (Reb Brown) in the lead role. How could things possibly go off the rails?
Ken: And yet, bugshit as all that sounds … they kind of made a treasure? This movie is like the world’s silliest, most casually misogynistic D&D campaign, but I can think of no stretch of it that isn’t fun to watch. Why don’t you set the scene for us?
Jim: The year is 00002. Dinosaurs roam the Earth. Tribes of cave people bury axes in each other’s backs for no discernible reason, and men are free to marry as many wives as they want. Lo, out of the darkness there comes a redeemer: Yor! He is a mighty warrior and hunter who will take no sass from dinosaurs or inexplicably blue-skinned cave people alike. And you know he’s mightier and more noble than all other men because he’s the only blond person in the world.
Ken: Lord, the subtext at play here. You don’t really get a moment to think about any of it because the beginning rushes by in the blink of an eye. Did I miss a more concrete explanation of where Yor came from and why he’s such a novelty to the regular, ignorant tribesmen, or does he literally just show up?
Jim: He just came “out of the North” like any good hero, searching for his destiny, wondering why he’s clearly superior to all other men. We’re told from the beginning that it probably has something to do with the amulet he’s had since birth, but that’s it. He has no memory of his mother and father, and delights chiefly in the smashing of dinosaur skulls. His exultant look after saving French actress Corinne Cléry from a Triceratops really tells you everything about this dopey lad. He’s just a big, dumb brick of meat.
If you take a rambunctious five-year-old and put him in a 6’3’’, 250 lb body, you get Yor.
Ken: I guess we don’t need to get into the whole issue of triceratops being herbivores, right? The lovely, permed Ka-La (Clery) and her surrogate uncle guy Pag take Yor back to their village. This is a great time to mention that Yor’s two main tricks are
1.) fighting with bad dinosaur puppets, and
2.) female endangerment and the resulting jealous cat-fighting that causes more female endangerment.
Because no sooner does Ka-La start making eyes at Yor than the entire village gets slaughtered by cavemen! Who carry off all the women!
Jim: Other, hairier, bluer cavemen. They basically look like if you took the Klingons from Star Trek: The Original Series, blue-tinted them and then tripled the amount of body hair. But thankfully, they all speak perfect English. There’s something inherently hilarious about this—everyone in the society speaks exactly like it’s 1983, as if the idea of them trying to do “archaic” accents or anything of that sort was far too much work to consider, even for an instant.
Looking like he got caught halfway through a shitty werewolf transformation.
Ken: That would require way, way too much effort that could have been going into the wigs they’re all wearing, Jim.
Jim: My pre-history perm!
Ken: So, despite Pag telling Yor that these bad cavemen won Ka-La fairly (because women are property, right), Yor decides to go get her back. I thought this was going to be the plot of the rest of the movie, but it turns out one blond dude with a stone axe is more than enough to kill basically a whole tribe of these guys and flood their cave society. Speaking of: How would you describe the fight choreography in this movie, Jim? We need to paint a word-picture for our readers because it really is something sometimes.
Jim: There’s a lot of accidental Yor-ass in it, I can tell you that. One scene that REALLY stands out, though, is the bit when, in order to make his daring entrance into the evil caveman lair, Yor shoots a pterodactyl out of the sky, cold-cocks it with his fist after it hits the ground, and then USES IT AS A HANG-GLIDER to sail into the encampment, all while his theme music blares in the background. It’s like a sequence conceived and described to the director by an exuberant, dinosaur-loving 10-year-old.
Ken: That needle drop is so unintentionally hilarious, and it comes leaping into the movie when you least expect it every time. Yor is truly an experience.
Jim: Every time “Yor’s World” starts playing, you know something amazing is happening. I would have killed for even more of those moments.
Ken: This climactic incident occurs maybe 20 minutes or so into the film, by the way, and then Ka-La’s destroyed tribe is basically never brought up again, and Yor, on the vague advice of a tribesman who once saw an amulet similar to his, goes questing off in search of his parents. And Ka-La and Pag just go with him because his motivations are the only ones in this movie that matter at all.
Jim: It’s almost half an hour—I just looked. That’s the most incredible thing about Yor—it’s like three episodes of a Yor, the Hunter from the Future TV series that have been haphazardly stitched together. Each chunk is almost entirely unrelated to the chunk that came before it.
Ken: You have to believe they probably adapted several arcs or issues of the comic book and just abridged them or something.
Jim: It plays like a film and its own two sequels, all within the span of 90 minutes.
Ken: For our second stretch of the movie, Yor goes to a desert, where he runs into a society of kill-crazy fire worshipers. Jim, were you as shocked as I was to learn their leader is a nubile priestess?
Jim: Very nubile, indeed. Not one of these guys gets a line beyond going “YAAARRRRGHHHH!”, but I love the design aesthetic of a clan of desert mummy people who wield flaming swords. They’re like Dune’s Fremen, if they were half-unwrapped Egyptian corpses.
We don’t just make up these descriptions, you know. They are literally desert mummy men with flaming swords.
Ken: It’s pretty metal. Of course, being that she is also blond, like Yor, she comes from the same mysterious race of people. Her compatriots are somehow frozen in an umelting block of ice in the desert cave, despite it not seeming any colder there than anywhere else. She doesn’t wield enough influence to actually stop the mummy men from just trying to straight up sacrifice Yor to the fire, though, so he’s got to kill all of them with the flaming buster sword they have lying around. This is, as you point out, the second society of which Yor’s arrival has ushered in the destruction.
Jim: Society three, if you count the evil cavemen.
Ken: Damn, I’m already losing track!
Jim: Like Yor, this woman (her name is “Ena”) is also plagued by memory loss, with no knowledge of where their people come from. She’s really of remarkably little use to the party in the end, her primary contribution being to drive Ka-La into a frenzy of deadly brunette vs. blonde jealousy. It gets real Betty v. Veronica, real quick.
Ken: It does, even though Pag admonishes Ka-La that Yor can have as many wives as he wants! Ka-La isn’t going to stand for that, though, and just tries to murder Ena, leaving them both distracted enough that the evil cavemen come back again, and Jim I am already broken by this movie. This is some Grade A regressive bullshit. I feel like the misogynist cop from Ninja 3: The Domination had a well-worn VHS copy of this movie.
Jim: Haha, oh lord, if only we got an erotic V8 juice sex scene with Yor and his ladies in this film as well. Anyway, Ena ends up dead, and Yor, Ka-La and Pag head toward the sea because Ena’s dying memory is having come from “an island.” There, they save some more damsels in distress, are taken to a small fishing village, and … what does the Yor formula dictate must now happen?
Ken: Well, I thought they might change it up, but no, sir. Yor is offered the hand of the cute girl he saved in marriage! Then the society is completely destroyed and nearly every citizen slaughtered. But, Jim, this time they do it with LASERS!!!!
This, some 45 minutes or so into the film, is finally where we discover the first inkling that there’s more going on here than a sword-and-loincloth movie.
“Sorry, I probably should have mentioned that every village I visit immediately gets destroyed.”
Jim: You’re giving them more credit than they deserve, out of the kindness of your heart, Ken. This happens a full hour into the movie. AN HOUR, sir. It’s 60 minutes of Conan the Barbarian, and then it suddenly and extremely abruptly becomes Starcrash out of nowhere. The whiplash is neck-breakingly severe.
Ken: There’s not even any foreshadowing at all, either. We don’t see a shattered skyscraper in the distance, or people wearing metal bric-a-brac that must have come from an industrial society long-gone or anything like that at all.
Jim: A sudden firestorm of lasers is a much more fun way of making that kind of discovery, clearly.
Ken: It turns out that somebody in a freaking spaceship crash-landed near this village and these hyper-advanced humans just bombard the place with lasers after the tribesmen killed the pilot.
Jim: Good on the tribesmen, for getting one up on a guy with a spaceship, honestly.
Ken: Yor and his companions take a boat out to the island where these “gods” come from, Yor is captured by a guy named “The Overlord,” and in something like 20 minutes we need to resolve the plot of this beast. Tell our readers the twist, Jim. It’s a doozy.
Jim: Hoo boy. Where to even begin? As you say, the island is operated by “The Overlord,” who has a scary, synthesized voice, metal arms and inexplicable teleportation powers, while otherwise being dressed as a wizard. He explains that his people (who serve him out of fear of his android enforcers) are the survivors of a futuristic society that was destroyed by “a great atomic blast.” He’s told them all that the outside world (on the mainland) is irradiated and unlivable. In truth, we know that it’s just full of dinosaurs and cavemen for some reason.
Watch out Yor, he wields the chest hubcap of invincibility!
Ken: Great place to visit, but getting a visa can be a drag.
Jim: Which is to say: It’s a scenario where nuclear winter is implied to have somehow caused the de-extinction or re-evolution of the dinosaurs, thrusting the world back into cartoony prehistoric times.
Ken: And it also reveals something else: Yor is not from the future! Rather, this is the future relative to us, but like, Yor is not any more futuristic than the other characters. The title of this film is a lie, Jim.
Jim: I’m sitting here, beginning to type various attempts at a response and then just deleting them. This movie has bamboozled me. I submit this incredible poster, though.
Ken: Yeah, these are largely lies.
Jim: We don’t even get the promised “axe vs. UFO” showdown this poster implies.
Ken: Anyway, in the span of just a few minutes we learn about this entire society, learn that Yor’s father was a rebel against The Overlord who tried to escape but died, and that there’s still a resistance movement that seems like it’s made up of all two dozen of the remaining humans. Oh, and the Overlord has robots. Ah, and Yor also has no trouble wielding a laser gun like he’s Rambo.
Jim: The last 10 minutes of shooting lasers at robots and running around on platforms covered in railings and catwalks is incredibly similar to Reb Brown’s famous starring role as Big McLargeHuge in the MST3K episode Space Mutiny. It’s as if it’s literally happening on the same sets.
Also, I definitely want to mention that here we’re treated to one last hurrah of the Yor theme music during an incredible sequence where Pag—a doughy, greasy senior citizen—hangs upside down on what is essentially a tightrope in order to carry Yor across a chasm.
Ken: I have to say, I’m surprised that the woman who was treating Yor in that medical chamber when he first arrived didn’t also fall head over heels for him and demand to be his third wife.
Jim: The woman in the fishing village was my favorite, in that vein. Her husband is like “You have saved my wife; now she’s YOUR wife.” And she turns to him and literally says, “Take me with you, stranger!”
Ken: Ka-La is the only gal for Yor, though. Some other old man who is barely introduced ends up shutting down all of the Overlord’s robots. They plant a bomb during that awesome rope sequence, then blow up everything even though it would probably be okay to just oust The Overlord and keep their fancy city. Yor then flies off with everybody in a shuttle and that’s it, bam, end title.
Jim: I think you meant to say, “Yor flies off with the surviving few, having left his fourth or fifth society in ruins.” But it’s okay, because the end narration says he’s going to “use his superior knowledge to prevent them making the same mistake as their forefathers.”
Fill me in, because I may have glanced away for a moment and missed it: Did he receive superior knowledge at some point?
Ken: Absolutely not. Reb Brown needs only one kind of knowledge, and that is whose skull needs caving in at any particular moment.
Jim: Maybe he’ll prevent the numbskulls on the mainland from building a stone-age atom bomb, thereby averting disaster.
Ken: So now that we’ve thoroughly summarized this, I think people can see the absolutely ironclad Mighty Whitey narrative we’ve got going on here. I just want to point out, Jim, that there is nothing special about Yor apart from being from this society and a ripped blond dude, and yet the movie implies he’s Really Super Special. He explicitly got zero training or teaching that would explain that. He’s just better than you. Better at killing dinosaurs, better at shooting laser guns.
Jim: Yor, Übermensch. You’re right, though. Any normal film like this would involve the naturally gifted hero meeting some kind of mystic sage and doing all kinds of training. Maybe getting a magic sword. All that shit. It’s right out of the kung fu chopsocky playbook.
Ken: Any other impressions you got from this? There are so many hilarious details in any one scene it’s hard for me to isolate, apart from that dead giant bat hang-glider you brought up.
Jim: The jarring nature of the transition from Yor’s shipwreck to the Spaceballs-style androids in the Overlord’s throne room cracked me up a fair deal. Actually, I have a lot of questions about The Overlord in general. Why does he even have powers? Nobody else in his society seems special or unique, other than being blond. This dude has robot arms and can TELEPORT. None of this is even mentioned or remarked upon by another character.
Ken: Yes, and why does he suddenly just stop teleporting when people are chasing and shooting at him?
Jim: Why does he dress like Radagast meets Dr. Doom? These are the questions, Ken. Questions that will never be answered.
Ken: And yet I declare this among one of the best features we’ve spotlighted here, just for the fun factor alone. Is it poorly dubbed? Yes. Are the puppet-dinosaur battles chintzy looking? Yes! Is the plot disjointed and repetitive? YES! Are its underlying gender politics regressive fucking bullshit? HELL and also YES!!! But I still had a great time.
Jim: It’s Yor’s World, baby.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer, and you can follow him on Twitter. Kenneth Lowe is a contributing writer for Paste, and you can read more of his writing at his blog.