35 years ago Antonio Margheriti gave birth to Yor, the Hunter from the Future. This incredible movie is worthy of a huge birthday celebration.
Italian genre cinema is an art form all its own. Somehow many Italian films manage to both be wholly original and unique works of cinematic glory while also heavily ripping off popular and existing titles. It seems like a nearly impossible balance to maintain but they’ve managed to pull it off a lot of the years and were particularly successful back in the 80’s. One of my favorite original rip-offs is Yor, the Hunter from the Future, which recently turned 35.
Yor, much like love, is a bit complicated. The basic premise of the film seems quite simple — Yor (Reb Brown) is a warrior living during a prehistoric age where early man is living amongst dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals and monsters. Yor spends his days trying to discover his origin while partaking in your average barbaric activities.
Yor does all of this solo until one day he runs into a primitive cavewoman named Kala (Connie Cléry) and her protector Pag (Luciano Pigozzi). Kala and Pag are out hunting when they are attacked by a dinosaur that looks to be some sort of stegosaurus, but not quite a stegosaurus. Yor steps in, saves the day, kills the dinosaur and drinks the dinosaur blood like the total badass he is to celebrate his victory.
Kala and Pag take Yor back to their village to celebrate and he’s immediately treated like a king. The celebration doesn’t last long, however, because the village is attacked by what I’m assuming is a rival tribe. Yor, Kala, and Pag are the only three that survive and they embark on a journey across a prehistoric desert in hopes of finding out who Yor truly is. Along the way, Kala quickly falls madly in love with Yor and he seems whatever about it. Like he’ll make out with her, but if he doesn’t it’s whatever.
Where things really start to get interesting is that while they encounter other tribes and more prehistoric monsters they also come in contact with advanced technology and a spaceship. This makes one question what world the movie takes place in. Does the film take place in a true prehistoric age? Or have we gone so far into the future that Earth has destroyed itself with the luckiest humans escaping the planet via space travel while the rest of the globe is sent back to the beginning of man? Or maybe the film involves time travel and all the advanced technology and the spaceship found in this prehistoric world is from someone that traveled back in time? And how exactly does Yor factor into all of this?
Like all great science fiction films, Yor presents a lot of questions, and I guess that is sort of the point. Yor is trying to discover himself and all these possibilities are in play. The problem is that when the film resolves Yor appears to have discovered his answer but we don’t ever really know what that is. He eventually leaves on the spaceship he finds, which he immediately knows how to operate, so I guess he’s from space? Which presents another possibility — maybe Yor isn’t human but just part of a more advanced alien race that travels to Earth during the prehistoric era? But if that’s the case, why is Yor so confused the whole time?
The fact that I have so many questions and am generally confused about what the hell is going on in Yor, The Hunter from the Future may lead you to believe I don’t like this movie but it’s actually the opposite. I love Yor! And why wouldn’t I? It’s all kinds of incredible!
The film was based off a 70’s Argentine comic but as I stated up top Italian genre cinema tends to borrow heavily from popular films and Yor, despite having original source material, borrows quite heavily from some of the 80’s most popular franchises. Conan the Barbarian is the most obvious, on the surface rip off. Yor is like the swap meet version of Conan — he’s a muscular, greasy, half-naked warrior, but he’s not exactly Conan. Both take place in similar prehistoric worlds. In Conan’s case, he has to deal with sorcery while Yor squares off with science and technology.
That science and technology lead us to the next big source of “inspiration” — Star Wars. There are elements within Yor, like when they discover the spaceship and we meet the bad guy goons that are sort of Storm Trooper-ish that feel a bit like Star Wars. It’s not quite Star Wars like we know it though. It’s like if someone heard about Star Wars, saw an image or two and was like, ‘yeah, I got it,” which is probably what happened with Margheriti.
Part of what makes Yor so god damn charming is the fact that a movie like this has almost no shot of being made today. Not only would it be harder to rip off pre-existing properties in this day and age, but a lot of what makes Yor enjoyable is the practical nature of it all. A lot of the effects may look clunky or silly, but they’re practical. There is an element to them that is real and today that wouldn’t happen. When Yor fights the dinosaur at the top of the film it’s an animatronic sort of beast. The dinosaurs in this movie feel like something you would see on that train ride at Disneyland that takes you into the time of the dinosaurs. They obviously don’t look like real, breathing creatures, but they are real things you can touch. Today those would be digital and garbage and the movie would go from low budget and fund to cheap and trashy.
Another highlight of Yor is the award-worthy, Shakespearean like dialogue that is standard in all Italian films. Kala isn’t the only woman to fall in love with Yor. In fact, every woman he meets falls in love with him instantly. At one point Yor saves another girl, Tarita, and her father is grateful. In fact, her father is so grateful that when he meets Yor he says, “According to our customs Tarita’s life now belongs to you. She will be your mate.” Tarita is all for it, throwing herself at Yor, “Take me with you, stranger!” Yor passes because he already has a woman.
Yor is a blast, it really is. It’s one of those movies that should be more highly regarded amongst genre fans. We should all be gathering with our friends and midnight screenings and watching it together, some dressed as prehistoric warriors, others dressed as space travelers from the future. Fortunately, the film was recently released on a gorgeous Blu-ray courtesy of Mill Creek, so at the very least you (that’s right, I’m talking to You!) can pick up the Blu-ray and gather your friends at your place for your own midnight screenings. Costumes optional in this case.
And finally, if my words have convinced you to dedicate your life to the teachings of Yor, I leave you with the film’s theme song which will undoubtedly have you preaching to your new god!