Italy | 1982
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Miles O'Keefe
Sabrina Siani
Laura Gemser
Color | 93 Minutes | PG
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Scorpion Releasing
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Review by
Doug Red

A child of the gods is prophesied to bring about a new era restoring the true god Torren, thus ending the rule of the evil Dakkar, high priest of the Spiders and thus restoring good to the world. Dakkar eventually decides that being killed and his cult decimated will be bad for business, so he sends out his arachnid-worshiping minions to kill all the babies in the land where it is said the fabled child will be born. The child in question, however, is none other than that renowned legend of B-movies, Ator, who escapes the carnage with a little help from his friends to grow up and fulfill his destiny — or die trying. Such is the humble beginning of Ator the Fighting Eagle (known in Italy as Ator l'invincibile), a grand example of the exploitation side of the '80s Sword & Sorcery genre that popped up in cinemas around the world in the swaggering wake of John Milius' Conan the Barbarian.
    Ator grows into a strapping young lad (Miles O'Keefe of Bo Derek's Tarzan fame) who wants to do what comes naturally to all young men in ancient times, which is to marry his comely sister Sunya (leggy Ritza Brown). This causes great angst on Ator's mighty brow until his parents inform him that his sister isn't really his biological sister. He was adopted (which is how he escaped slaughter as an infant), so their feelings of more than brotherly/sisterly love aren't unnatural in the least. Ator (heaving a manly sigh of relief) and Sunya have a quickie ancient Las Vegas-style marriage ceremony, complete with feasting and interpretive dance, since they can't wait to consummate their love. Unfortunately for the young couple, they literally finish their vows seconds before terror interrupts their nuptials.
    Alerted by cosmic signs that their previous infanticide efforts came up short — as revealed by blood dripping from the eye of a giant eagle statue in his lair — Dakkar and his troops invade the village and kill everybody except Ator (who is bravely knocked unconscious) and Sunya, who is whisked away in her bridal regalia by the drooling Dakkar. Leaving the carnage of the village, Ator and his pet baby bear set out on the road to find Sunya and hopefully attain the promise of their married life. As he quests for Sunya, Ator quickly encounters Griba (Edmund Purdom), the gentleman who saved him during his infancy from certain death. Griba recognized Ator as the lad who must fulfill the prophecy and defeat Dakkar, so he sets about training him in the ways of battle. While deep within the "wax on, wax off" phase of battle training, Ator encounters a lithesome female thief with a heart of gold, the golden-haired Roon (Italian exploitation legend Sabrina Siani), a tribe of Amazons who want his sacred seed to sire more buxom warrior women, the hot and evil witch Indun ("Black Emmanuelle" herself, Laura Gemser) who wants Ator's power and life essence (though with all the face-smooching and body-pawing, it's a safe bet she wants his seed as well), and a land of dead zombie fighters ready to slay the living (who probably only want to eat the manly seed of Ator). All these adventures and more are encountered on the journey that leads ever closer to the web of horror known as Dakkar's spider temple — where he will find out if Sunya is still alive and ready for his wedded passions, or the bride of the spider!
    Ator the Fighting Eagle is a blast of '80s-era fun. There is no denying that it's derivative of the template forged by the fiery steel of Milius' Conan. However, Ator has low-budget charms not available to a high-dollar production with enough money to make any problems disappear. Great Italian set design and costuming make the film look like it has a bigger budget than it does, and they really stretch to make use of every lire since some sets are reused as if they were new again (noticeably an alleyway during the fight with the zombies, featuring our heroes running through the same place twice), and the climatic giant spider of the cult was optimistically framed to minimize the fact that it looked like an escaped animatronic from a small family traveling circus. But these defects in the eyes of some are manna from heaven for fans of nutty adventure filmmaking, who can see past the minuscule budget and get into the swing of this Saturday afternoon matinee adventure with an earnest and likable cast. Aside from O'Keefe's constant beefcake on display, there are three beautiful women in slim vixen Siani, exotic Gemser, and thigh-master Brown wearing the expected and eye-popping Sword & Sandal finery. Dakar (of Zombie and Zombie Holocaust) is in charge of evil as the high priest Dakkar and gets to play around with live tarantulas in many scenes. Technically there is nudity on display in Ator, but this female pulchritude is so barely there as to disappoint confirmed horndogs who will forever wonder about what might have been. It amounts to a single shot of Sabrina Siani taking a bath in a stream photographed a million miles from the camera, which reduces her exquisite beauty to a barely discernible blob. This is particularly frustrating after seeing her nearly completely au natural for the entire running time of Lucio Fulci's Conquest, save for a gold mask and a teeny bikini bottom. Frankly, the PG rated Sheena with Tanya Roberts had more compellingly bodacious naked female-in-nature action, so who knows what the producers of Ator were thinking.

Ator the Fighting Eagle is the debut title in the Katarina's Kat Skratch Action Cinema line of B/cult movie offerings from Scorpion Releasing. The DVD presents Ator in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen (the print has some dings and scratches in a few places but is in good shape) with an English mono soundtrack ripped from the primordial soup of an earlier age. The mysterious Katarina — in real life WWE pro wrestling minx Katarina Leigh Waters — is something of a horror host who dispenses fun factoids about the film in between playacting scenes inspired from the movie (thrill as Katarina attacks a small plastic spider with a faux battle axe!), resulting in a maximum of cheesy fun and sexy sweetness. Fortunately for purists, she does not interrupt the film once it starts, instead opening with about five minutes of hostess duties beforehand, then returning for a brief wrap-up. If so desired, the viewer can bypass Katrina's shtick altogether and just watch the film, but to my way of thinking having a fine midriff-baring hard-bodied woman knowledgeable about horror and having fun with the film without obscuring it is all bonus and a must-view for outré film fanatics.
    The other extra that Scorpion has thoughtfully included is a series of trailers, which must be viewed as a block. No, you don't get a trailer for Ator, or even another Sword & Sorcery film; instead, you get a bewildering grab bag of unusual trailers. Those included are Puppet On a Chain (two-fisted action thriller); Malibu High (30-year old busty high school students in '70s sexcapades); Quest for Love (30-year old busty Joan Collins in some kind of weird time travel love triangle/reincarnation flick); Savage Streets (leather-clad Linda Blair sans demon looking for revenge against '80s street punks); Mortuary (the Christopher George shocker); The Return (space alien hijinx involving lots of blue screen and explosions); House On Sorority Row (classic college slasher fare) and The Survivor (Ozploitation with a far-too clothed Jenny Agutter). 7/14/12