Here it is: the movie Bad Movie websites everywhere are obliged to review if they want to flesh out the “Y” sections of their archives. It’s certainly worthy, nominated for three Razzie Awards, including Worst Original Song, Worst Score (it “lost” both to The Lonely Lady) and quite-unfairly-named Worst New Star (he “lost” to Lou Ferrigno).
Not that Reb Brown isn’t a star in his own, strange right. But by 1983 Brown was a long way from “new.” He built up quite the career catching bit parts on every 1970s TV show you might actually remember. Scratch The Six Million Dollar Man, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Rockford Files or Happy Days with enough force and you’ll find Reb Brown already there. But fame is a fickle bitch, unwilling to give Reb the time of day even after he played Captain America. Twice.
The 70s were a spiteful decade, driven by desperation…but at least that drove innovation. Occasionally, a truly weird experiment in movie lunacy (like Reb Brown’s first movie, the turning-men-into-snakes epic Sssssss) escaped the wreckage of Hollywood’s old studio system. But the 80s saw Reb slumming more and more as the character of the times changed. The desperate spite of 70s gave way to the angry spite of the 80s, a trend exemplified in the rise of the American Action Movie. Like an intergalactic race of cyborgs, Action Movies rose to international prominence by assimilating everything in its path. Our culture adapted to service theirs. Resistance was futile. And Reb didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing.
Embracing the new Overlord of Genres, Brown starred in a series of films that have since made him famous…even if only in the darkest corners of the internet, where Bad Movies go to die and have their corpses picked over by shut-ins with blue robots and made scientist alter egos. The most famous of these are Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, Robowar (the first name in Predator rip-offs) and the film you’ve been trying to think of ever since you first read Brown’s name, Space Mutiny.
Behind all of them lies a cinematic abomination so terribly goofy I could only find it on a rapidly-decaying VHS tape. Produced by a Rolodex of late-70s Italian exploitation filmmakers and directed by Cannibal Apocalypse‘s Antonio Margheriti (under his anglo pseudonym, Anthony M. Dawson), Yor, the Hunter from the Future began life as a four part TV miniseries, stapled together for international consumption.
We open with that song the Razzie Award’s snubbed, “Yor’s World”…which lets us know in no uncertain terms, that Yor is “the ma-aan!”
He never sees the sun, he’s always on the run, and they say he will go on…and on…so at least we have that in common. But unlike Roll Fizzlebeef, I’ve never even tried to make a loincloth and a pair of fur-lined booties look manly.
Nostro direttore cuts to a Stone Age village just in time for the ritual child-raising “in homage to the Gods.” The cave people have reached a fertile valley and plan to celebrate with a day of “feasting and hunting.” Two such intrepid hunters, Ka-Laa (Corinne Clery) and her father-figure, Pag (Luciano Pigozzi, a.k.a Alan Collins) – who seem to be having way too much fun snaring a mutant reptile/household-pet-with-things-taped-to-it’s-back – are set upon by…a dinosaur. A strange stegosaurus/triceratops hybrid with the same disease that infected the saurians of Skull Island, forcing even herbivores to crave human flesh.
Enter Flint Ironstag, who makes a bloody mess of the dinosaur, endearing himself Pag and Ka-Laa’s tribe. After declining to drink the monster’s blood (“The blood of your enemies makes you strong!”) Slab Bulkhead introduces himself as “Yor, the Hunter.” Pag inquires about the gold medallion around Yor’s neck. Fridge Largemeat’s worn it all his life and has no idea of its origins. But a Wise Old Village Elder declares he’s seen one other like it in his time: worn by “a woman who lives among the desert people…the daughter of the gods” who “descended in a tongue of fire” and is “now worshiped as a queen.”
You might be thinking we’ll soon depart on some variety of quest to discover the identity of this queen. But first, the village must celebrate Yor’s victory over the Stegoceritops with a dance number…featuring Ka-Laa, to Yor’s (and our) considerable pleasure. Hypnotized by Ka-Laa’s twisting hips, the valley people are unprepared for an attack by a rival tribe of purple-faced, extra-harry sods who speak exclusively in villain platitudes. (“Take him!” “Kill ’em!”) Not even the superior ax-swinging skills of Pack Blowfist can save the men from death or the women from captivity.
Ka-Laa, Pag and Yor escape…but not for long. Soon, the Purple-Ass-Faced Tribe find their cave, kidnap Ka-Laa, and throw Yor off a cliff…but since we’ve already established Yor is “the man,” he not only survives the fall, he climbs right back up as soon as he regains consciousness. The fuck is this guy, Wolverine? Pag welcomes him back with all the equanimity of a guy who sees people wake up from hundred-foot-falls every day of his life.
This sets up the most-famous sequence in the film. In order to sneak past the PAFT’s guards and rescue Ka-Laa, Buck Plankchest kills a giant bat and uses its corpse to hang-glide right into the Purple Face’s cave, kicking their leader in the face. Sure, you knew Yor was “the man,” but did you know he was this much man? Man enough to let loose an undeground lake the Purple People have dammed up, drowning all of them…and, presumably, all the women of Ka-Laa and Pag’s tribe they were holding captive…but forget them. He saved the hot girl!
Now it’s time to head off to that Queen of the Desert the Wise Old Villager mentioned. We just saw Yor jogging around in it during the credit sequence, but he acts like this is his first time here…going so far as to leave Ka-Laa and Pag in his dust so he can get kidnapped by white people. Turns out they’re the desert dwellers the old codger mentioned fifteen minute back. And there’s that medallion-encrusted queen…though being a queen to these Fire Worshipers isn’t all its cracked up to be. Introducing herself as Ro-aa, the queen reveals herself to be captive of her worshipers. Yet she recognizes Yor as belonging to “the same race” as she. He asks her for help but she waffles. The Fire People believe sacrificing strangers (other than Ro-aa, obviously) with flaming swords is the only way to placate the gods, and guess who’s next on the chopping block?
Crunch Buttsteak won’t stand for that, and his manly fighting abilities convince Ro-aa to make a break for it. Their escape (somehow) destroys the Desert People’s cave, because even Mother Nature trembles at the sight of Reb Brown wielding a flaming sword! Ka-Laa’s nonplussed at this new addition to Team Yor…as well she should be, since Crud Bonemeal proves to be a fickle man. After coming upon Yor and Ro-aa in post-coital bliss (guess loincloths are built for easy access), Ka-Laa insists that “one of us must die.” This leads to the shortest, lamest catfight I have ever seen…so lame that the Purple People (or their few surviving members, at any rate) return just to break things up. They also provide a guilt-free way to kill Ro-aa off and give Yor someone else to pummel, since it’s been ten whole minutes since we last saw something like that.
As she lays dying, Ro-aa begins to suddenly remember “an island…in the middle of a big sea…on the island there’s a magnificent castle. That is where we come from. Where our race lives. Take my medallion and give it to Ka-Laa. It’s the emblem of our world. She loves you.” Sappy music plays, Our Heroes bury Ro-aa…and that’s it. She’ll never be mentioned again.
Still, at least our Terrible Trio makes it to the sea without annihilating another tribe. Guess wiping two out of existence in as many days is enough even for Gristle McThornBody. Luckily, Team Yor overhears another animatronic dinosaur attacking a woman and her two children, allowing Our Heroes to sate their bloodlust by killing the creature.
The woman they rescue is Tarita (Marina Rocchi), wife of Kai (Sergio Nicolai, with dubbing by Larry Dolgin), head of the Sea People. Oblivious to the fact Yor’s very presence has led to annihilation of every single group of people he’s crossed with paths with, Kai throws a feast and tells Team Yor a fireside tale. Not too long ago, a strange man-god fell from the sky on a flaming bird. He killed one of Kai’s men so Kai’s men killed him back and he exploded in gout of flame, leaving only a small metal box behind. “I think the man killed because he was as much afraid of you as you were of him,” Dirk Hardpeck says around a hunk of dinosaur meat, “and you didn’t understand each other.” Since when did Brick Hardmeat become a diplomat for the United Federation of Planets?
Misunderstanding or not, “the gods” soon bring great vengeance and furious anger down upon the Sea People, destroying their village. (Told you! Yor is Death on Two Legs! Worse than Jamie-Lee Curtis’ character in The Fog. At least she left Antonio Bay standing.) Slate Fistcrunch comforts Tarita in the wake of the carnage and she directs Team Yor to the Mysterious Island. So great is Tarita’s misplaced survivor’s guilt she even gives them her father’s boat.
Already we can see the distinctly made-for-TV quality of Yor, the Hunter from the Future as a whole. The formula’s simple: Yor goes somewhere, does something manly, and someone gets themselves kidnapped, forcing Yor to do more manly things and, inevitably, commit genocide.
But here’s where Yor gets weird (yeah, I know…but believe me, it’s true). A passing storm knocks Rock Heartthrob off the boat. Washing up on the Mysterious Island, he’s quickly surrounded by…robots. They zap him with their stun phasers and cart him back to the Overlord (John Steiner), a mad scientist who controls his robot army from his Evil Castle. Turns out “this is the land” Yor “left” when he was a child. Turns out Fist Rockbone’s real name is “Galahad” (oh bru-ther) and he’s “the son of the rebel Asgard. Your ship was destroyed when you left many years ago.” Now that he’s back, the Overlord plans to use Yor’s DNA to breed a race of atomic supermen, with which he shall conquer the world “and exterminate all barbarians.”
Frankly, the Overlord is one of the worst ee-vil overlords this side of Fu Manchu. Not only does he allow Our Hero and His Chick to run around the castle and reunite, he monologues at them, at length, laying out his entire plan in exhaustive detail (and this is me talking here). Making things worse, for all his talk of having the power to eliminate “every thought that is not right” inside his subject’s heads, the Overlord’s already dealt with one rebellion and let another one breed right underneath his nose. So he’s a blowhard and an idiot, and you might be able to get away with that in a world where Reb Brown is just an actor in crappy movies…but in a universe where he’s The Man? Your ass is grass.
So, at long last, it’s time for Yor to rip-off Star Wars the way the gods intended. See, this is Yor: dinosaurs, cave-men, and androids in cast-off Cylon masks having laser battles with blond, blue-eyed resistance fighters. And suddenly, Yor looks takes on a very icky character.
Throughout the film, Ka-Laa asks Pag what makes Yor “so different from other men,” even though blond hair and badassery are the only real qualities Yor has to set him apart from everyone else. Ro-aa speaks of she and Yor’s “race,” as do the people of Overlord Island. Eventually, the resistance triumphs, the island’s destroyed, and Yor flies into the sunset with Ka-Laa, ready to found a new race…just not the one the Overlord monologued about. Don’t you see? It’s all about cleansing the earth of inferior peoples! This is a post-apocalyptic movie from one of the several shitty parallel universes where Fascism won World War II. Even the concluding narration, with its rhetorical question that implies Yor and Ka-Laa’s efforts could wind up dashed on the rocks of miscegenation and mongrelization, is a little too Nazi for my taste:
“Yor returns to the primitive tribes on the mainland. He is determined to use his superior knowledge to prevent them making the same mistakes as their forefathers.”
Like say, letting him within five hundred yards of their settlements.
Apart from that, Yor‘s laughably cheap. Its costumes and characters are cast-offs from other, better sci-fi, pre-historical, and post-apocalypsio films. It’s stapled-together nature means no one has any time to stretch their acting muscles…which is fine, since this is Reb Brown we’re talking about here, an actor whose dramatic range can only be expressed in microns.
Trunk Slamchest’s not helped by the script’s reliance on action scenes, most of which seem to bore the cast as much as they excite me with their cheesiness. They’re a lot of them, evenly spaced somewhere at the beginning and end of this movie’s four discreet acts, so at least that keeps the show going. Thanks to its one-damn-thing-after-another style, I’ve heard this flick compared to everything from Hawk: The Slayer to Flash Gordon. Really, it reminds me of Space Mutiny. Both combine the episodic nature of an old Republic serial with the episodic nature of a movie Frankensteined out of a TV series (or miniseries, as the case may be). Plus: laser battles.
At least Yor‘s ambitious – outrageously so for its time and budgetary constraints. That counts for something, because everything else failed spectacularly. It’s at least as bad as Battlefield Earth – to which I kept flashing back – and even more outrageous in its own way. Battlefield Earth had bad writing down to a mad science, but Yor sees that and raises you a dubbing job to make Gamera films seem to sensible.
Its another one of those films: a lost classic so honest-to-God bad that it deserves a DVD release. It deserves a two disc Blu-ray. It deserves a director’s cut. Hell, this movie’s so (in)famous there’s a ready market for the original two hundred minute miniseries, complete and unabridged. Someone should steal the masters out of Silvio Berlusconi’s basement. This strange, freakish show really would be worth it. It’s honestly that outrageous. That balls-out and unashamed of being so totally shameless. A Must See classic of Bad fantasy cinema, it’s a film that could make someone a whole pile of money if you buy up the rights. Just remember to send me a free copy for giving you the idea. That’s all I ask.