“No. Never touch that drape.”
Hate to nitpick, but Ator is never called The Fighting Eagle. Also, the cover art promises a saber-toothed tiger, a triple mace, and a woman in a bikini. None of those make an appearance. So don’t let those things tempt you into a purchase.
Better known for porn and horror, director Joe D’Amato (The Blade Master) wanted a piece of the sword and sandal pie. So he wrote, directed, and shot this little film called Ator the Fighting Eagle (under the pseudonym David Hills) and released it the same year as Conan the Barbarian and The Beastmaster.
Ator’s (Miles O’Keeffe, The Unknown) biggest problem is whether or not he can marry his sister Sunya (Ritza Brown, Grand Larceny). When their father happily gives consent, Ator is naturally confused. But that’s when the other shoe drops…he’s adopted. The audience already knows this, as well as the secret behind Ator’s birth and subsequent exile. Destined to become a champion, his people have suffered for 1000 years under the rule of The Spider, whose human representative is The High Priest Dakar (Dakkar, Pierino Strikes Again). Dakar spends most of the movie allowing tarantulas to climb all over his head and generally being creepy. That is, when he’s not ordering the genocide of an entire village. Ator’s village, to be precise.
The only survivors of the attack are Ator, his sister/bride Sunya, and their freakin’ adorable pet bear cub Kiog. But Sunya is taken by the High Priest which sets Ator off on his destined path where meets the man who once saved his life as a baby, Griba (Edmund Purdom, I cavalieri che fecero l’impresa), and Roon (Sabrina Siani, Classe di ferro) a warrior thief with her own motives who becomes his traveling companion for the rest of the journey.
Here the film begins to lag a bit, as we are launched into an overly-long training montage before Ator and Roon go off on their own “adventure.” I use that term loosely, as our heroes face off against foes like blind swordsmen and shadows. The predictable ending features a final battle that ends much quicker than you’d expect, especially given the length of some of the earlier less intense scenes.
Fans of Conan the Barbarian will recognize several storytelling beats. We’ve got the boy whose parents are killed, a quest for revenge, and some top-heavy women. And those are just the broad strokes of similarities.
Ator is not without its charm, though lacking the copious T&A offered by Conan. For one thing, O’Keeffe is much easier on the eyes than Arnold Schwarzenegger, and both men display about the same level of talent. Plus, all of the actors seem to know exactly what kind of movie this is, and they commit to it wholeheartedly. It’s hit-or-miss, as far as the results, but at least they tried.
But Ator spawned three sequels, so it can’t be all bad. Right?
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer may be re-mastered in a new aspect ratio, but it still carries the same flat palette and grain typical of the era. Even with a slight amount of digital artifacts from the compression, it really does look better than I’ve ever seen it. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track is slightly off, thanks to the English dub. I can only hope when (or if) there’s an Ator box set, Scorpion Releasing goes back and remasters the original Italian language track.
The only special feature is the ability to watch the film in something called “Katarina’s Kat Skratch Cinema Format.” For the uninitiated, this is merely a featurette in which WWE’s Katarina Leigh Waters briefly reviews the film. You’re not really missing anything, should you decide to skip it.
To enjoy Ator the Fighting Eagle you need to appreciate what it is and not be bothered by what it isn’t. I’m a fan of sword-and-sorcery movies, and will watch pretty much anything the genre has to offer. Throw in the fact this is an ’80s movie — made with the kind of unrealistic costumes and props that only appeared during that era — and I’m sold.
Guilty of not living up to its title.