Cheesy movies are a special joy. Despite an earnest attempt to create compelling stories, filmmakers often miss the mark. Some movies turn out simply mediocre. Others become entertaining in spite of their flaws or authorial intent. They become cheesy. In Your Weekend Cheesy Movie, we’ll examine some of these misguided efforts for what they fail at achieving and what they manage to do right.
This week: Yor: The Hunter from the Future
As I’ve mentioned before, the film industry went nuts in the wake of Star Wars. The market was rabid for material and European producers were more than happy to make the quickest, cheapest film with the barest hint of Star Wars to it. And when Conan: The Barbarian became a hit, the same producers flocked to the sword-and-sandal genre. Occasionally, they would even reformat television series to meet the demand; such is the case of this week’s cheesy flick, Yor: The Hunter from the Future.
Based on the Argentinian comic book Yor by Eugenio Zappietro and Juan Zanotto, the series (and film) stars Reb Brown as Yor. He’s a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world — sorry, that’s Knight Rider. But Yor is initially presented as a lone hunter. He comes to the aid of Kala (The Story of O‘s Corinne Cléry) and her mentor Pag (Italian genre movie mainstay Luciano Pigozzi) when they attempt to kill a dinosaur. Quickly ushered to their village, Kala’s people offer Kala as payment for Yor’s great deed. But just as the wedding ceremony appears to begin — seriously, it’s vague if that is in fact what is happening — blue whooly men from a nearby cave system kidnap all the women and kill all the men except for Yor and Pag. Their journey to save Kala will take them to other struggling civilizations and, ultimately, the shocking secret of their world and Yor’s people.
But I bet you’re wondering why he’s called the Hunter from the Future, right?
To be honest, I’m fairly certain that subtitle only exists because it looked good on the poster, thought it may reference the truth about Yor’s people. Originally presented as Yor’s World, the project was originally a five-episode Italian television program. I’ve never been able to see it in its original form, but it presumably makes more sense than Yor: The Hunter from the Future. Each sequence sees Yor, Kala and Pag breathlessly enter a new region and just as quickly sees them fleeing from the flaming cauldron of annihilation left in their wake. I don’t think it’s intentional on the part of director Antonio Margheriti, but Yor inadvertently destroys every village he enters. I’m also pretty sure he drowned all the women from Kala’s village while rescuing her.
Of course, the extreme reduction in runtime is part of the film’s charm. The film version of Yor’s world often exists without context. We’re not sure why the blue woolly men attack. We’re not sure why Yor apparently avoided contact with anyone for thirty years. I’ve watched this movie at least five times now and cannot tell you why a race of mummies worship another member of Yor’s people as a goddess.
In its way, Yor: The Hunter from the Future is a fever dream built of all the space novels and Conan comics a kid could find while getting sick on their first rum and coke bender. Without the context the television show presumably provides, Yor and his companions hazily move from incident to incident only becoming vaguely aware of an island where Yor’s people live. The movie also seems vaguely aware of sex — Cleary was something of a sex symbol in the 1970s — but never really confronts its existence or why villages keep throwing nubile young women Yor’s way. It reinforces the overall feeling that this a boy’s dream of goofy-looking rubber monsters and the pretty lady that he knows he’s supposed to care about for some reason.
Oh, and then there’s “the Future” part of this strange story. Yor, Kala and Pag make their way to the island of Yor’s people only to discover an advanced, atomic age civilization run by Overlord; a bad Darth Vader cosplayer who really likes twirling in his cape. Once hero and villain meet face to face, Overlord announces everything was part of his plan to lure Yor and Kala to the island so they could breed a new race of androids for him to dominate.
No, go ahead, read that sentence again.
Overlord’s intention is to replace the remaining humans on the island with something which sounds more like Replicants than robots. Somehow, intermingling Yor’s perfect genes with the wildness of Kala will produce a more docile and pliable android or clone. Or something. The film picks up on the madness of the plan and introduces a resistance group within Overlord’s society. Unfortunately, they all look like Martin Short impersonators and aren’t much help. It’s ultimately up to Yor and Pag — using ray guns — to save the day … er, destroy another civilization.
Guiding us through this madness is the ever-appealing Reb Brown. Make no mistake, he’s a bad actor. But his lunkhead quality and surfer-dude smile make him a winning presence in a movie like this. He also yells like nobody’s business and legitimately looks like He-Man throughout. I don’t think the movie would be half as enjoyable if Margheriti used an Italian bodybuilder in the title role. And yeah, that might be slight praise, but a truly bad performance is unwatchable. A misguided performance, though, is what you want in a cheesy movie.
Sadly, I can’t say much for Cléry. She’s there to be beautiful and strangely possessive of Yor; even when Pag says it’s her duty to share him with other women. Oh, there’s a book to be written about the screwed up sexual politics in cheesy movies. But since the notion of polygamy is tossed aside as quickly as its introduced, we’ll take a closer look at that another time.
Additionally, it’s tough to get a line on the other performers in the film as they are all dubbed with American voices. Despite the expense, it just adds to the overall cheap feel of a production that must’ve spent more than a few Lira flying to Turkey to film shots of the Cappadocia Mountains and a nearby jungle. Both elements further add to the fever dream feel of the movie.
It all adds up to a wonderful 88 minutes of dinosaur puppets, Reb Brown screaming and civilizations getting destroyed by a blonde oaf. If you enjoy third-rate Conan rip-offs, this one is hard to beat. In fact, a scene in which Yor hang-glides under a giant bat to save Kala might be better than any moment in a legit Conan movie.
Yor: The Hunter from the Future is available for rent or purchase via Amazon Prime Video. It is also available as a manufacture-on-demand DVD title from Sony Picture Home Video.