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Ator The Fighting Eagle
There are plenty of names in the EuroSleaze movie circuit - those movies featuring sex, violence, fantastic themes, and horrible special effects - but there's no name that stands more defiantly for pure, unadulterated crap than good old Aristide Massaccesi, or as we prefer to call him, Joe D'Amato. Yet, not even the name D'Amato can encompass the sweet ineptitude that is Ator, so here, Joe credits himself as David Hills. Full of rambling fun, inane dialog, lame characters, and a complete lack of blood or boobs, this Conan The Barbarian clone will give you a nagging sugar headache.
As a child, Ator witnesses his parents killed by an evil warlord or something. Time chisels Ator into Miles O'Keefe, a big-haired piece of beefcake with a headband and leather boots. Soon enough, Ator runs into his adult stepsister Sunya, leading to this oft-quoted dialog classic:
Ator: I love you.
Sunya: And I love you.
Ator: Why can't we marry?
Sunya: Ator, we are brother and sister.
Ator: I'll talk with our father.
Ator then decides to take revenge on The Spider King (Dakkar), who killed his family, and also to assert his right to marry his sister. Personally, I want to kill The Spider King, too, since he's a really annoying character. One: He's played by an actor named Dakkar. Two: He wears gold eye shadow. Three: He lets a tarantula crawl on his bald head. Dakkar, you ain't no James Earl Jones, you're not even Sid Haig, who would have been perfect for this role, and two tarantulas don't equal the giant snake in Conan either. No, these woeful aspects of low-rent villainy are just annoying. Seriously, thank god The Spider King keeps his screen-time to a minimum, because he's stupid as all get-out.
Sadly, there's not much else to fill in the vacuous time we can now spend simply being thankful to not have to look at Dakkar. This is the most bloodless, boob-less, monster-less sword-and-sorcery flick I've ever seen. I think there is one mush-faced witch who makes an appearance, but other than that, there are lots of scenes of Ator sparring with his crusty mentor or running through the fields while his adorable baby bear sidekick follows. Yes, about the best part of Ator is the fact that the title character has a cute baby bear. It's almost as if the Hallmark Hall of Fame made a barbarian movie. And yet this movie comes from Joe-freakin'-D'Amato, the director who pretty much invented the horror/porno movie.
Just as you're ready to pass out from boredom, D'Amato, I mean Hills, brings out his ace-in-the-hole. Yes, he does have an answer to the giant snake in Conan in the form of a huge spider that makes the bearskin-rug-covered-VW in The Giant Spider Invasion look like advanced CGI. The spider seems to live in an amphitheater, presumably because it loves Greek drama, and you get to see its legs waving around for a bit before it briefly rears its ugly head. I think Ator kills it, but the movie so thoroughly destroyed my brain cells that I can't be sure. Eventually, Ator, his sister, and the baby bear run off into the forest in wedded bliss, and viewers can relax knowing they've witnessed one of the worst sword-and-sorcery movies ever made.
Our professionally mastered check disc comes in retail packaging, but it's a check disc nonetheless, so we'll deliver this rating with a grain of salt. Speaking of grain, the 1.78:1 widescreen ratio picture has a lot of it, both film-grain and what looks like digital grain. The brand new transfer is probably better than previous VHS editions, but there is plenty of damage to be found if you're looking, especially near reel-change points. Otherwise, detail levels are moderately acceptable, the image isn't all that sharp, but is pretty good for a movie of such lowly station, and colors are subdued but naturalistic.
Dolby Digital English Mono Audio isn't anything to get anyone excited, but it's pretty clean and free of damage, so you can hear all that corny dialog clearly.
Extras are limited to Katarina's Kat Scratch Cinema Format - which is an optional playback feature - touting Katarina's low-key humor as she introduces the movie in a sexy warrior costume.
Metaxa Corporation originally presented this Joe D'Amato movie, but not even they were comfortable using the venerable director's name, so everyone went with, "Directed by David Hills." Now Scorpion Releasing brings us this bare-bones DVD in a new 16 X 9 master, and the verdict is: Baby Bear. Yes, the most remarkable thing about this low-wattage schlockfest is Ator's cute baby bear companion. Absent that, poor performances, zero nudity, (the movie is rated PG) zero blood, 2-minutes of bad special effects, and less, make this a Conan rip-off that only a tarantula could love. It is so bad real devotees of crud will want to say that they've at least watched it, and sickos like me will be kind-of proud to say we have it in our collections, but sane humans should probably Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke