If you hear the phrase "Italian caveman epic" and your heart doesn't sing at least a little bit, then I pity your sad and joyless existence. Yor, the Hunter from the Future, is just such an epic, and its colossal failure as cinema makes it a gift from heaven for the MST 3K crowd. Where else can you find bad dinosaur puppets, cheesy ray gun effects, prehistoric girls in furry bikinis and a monosyllabic hero whose shining blonde locks leech his ability to deliver coherent lines? It was definitely designed with undemanding eight-year-olds in mind, but thanks to its utterly inept execution, the eight-year-old in all of us has reason to rejoice.
The title, unfortunately, kind of gives the game away from the beginning. Yor shares this in common with Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, which was coincidentally released on the same day. That one, however, doesn't have the sheer preposterous goofball factor that this one does. Our title character lives in a time of savagery, when bearded cavemen and Nair-enabled cavegirls suffer the depredations of rubber triceratops attacks in a savage battle for survival. The heroic Yor (Reb Brown) fends off depredations from The Mummy People, The Blue People, and his own hypnotically expressionless face on a quest to find where he came from. His path eventually involves an army of robots rescued from Darth Vader’s recycle bin and an evil overlord who wants to take over the world (presumably to corner the lucrative chicken-bone-necklace market flourishing right under his nose).
So yeah, there’s a bit of idiomatic whiplash going on here. Or there would be if the film weren’t cheerfully drooling all over its chest hair the whole time. The difference between pteranodons and X-wings gets awfully blurry when they’re all hanging from the same piece of fishing line, so who cares if it makes no sense?
Yor’s mash-up becomes all the more bewildering when we witness the enthusiasm with which it explains itself: like Rod Serling if Serling had spent his childhood getting hit on the head with a frying pan. We get to hear about how man’s hubris destroys civilization and how Yor can rebuild society based on kittens and warm fuzzies, and how much better things would be if only we learned to give up our destructive ways. It’s all the more adorable because it really, truly seems to mean it… and decided that a live-action He-Man cartoon was the best way to deliver it to our impressionable young minds.
In the interim, there’s lots of silly exposition, a few bad effects shots, and a subtle shift from skeezy guys in oily marmot fur to clean-shaven Eurotrash in sparkly silver jumpsuits. None of it’s convincing, but that’s not the point. Indeed the film seems to flaunt its incoherence, daring us to call it on its staggering array of sins just so it can laugh in our faces. And in so doing, it enters a realm of ridiculousness that borders on the mystical. Cavegirl catfights and preachy anti-war speeches are a dime a dozen. But how about a circus trapeze act in the finale? Lines like “we’ll need a lot more hemp before we’re through?” Or the sight of Yor, having just downed a giant cave bat, now riding the corpse of said bat into battle like a hang glider? Moments like these reduce us to a kind of slack-jawed wonder: immortal in exactly, precisely the opposite way that the breakfast table montage in Citizen Kane was (and frankly a lot more fun to watch after an evening of heavy drinking).
Yor was based on a series of graphic novels, and in fact was pared down for American audiences from a four-part cut originally shown on Italian TV. Somebody, somewhere, needs to find this cut and release it on Blu-ray, complete with ten hours of extra features and a too-intense commentary from director Antonio Margherti (aka Anthony M. Dawson) claiming that it’s all a metaphor for the life of Jean-Paul Sartre or something. A film this gloriously bad deserves no less. It does the same thing that genuinely great moviemaking does – puts a smile on our faces while ensuring that we will never, ever forget what we have seen. That it achieves this end through sheer brazen incompetence is beside the point. Cinematic immortality, whatever its form, comes at a heavy price… a price that Yor will happily pay any way it can.