‘Life is an illusion. Death is real.’
Brothers Ator and Trogar are being raised as protectors for the kingdom’s future Princess when wicked witch Phaedra kidnaps Trogar and turns him into a soulless beast. Exiled for her crimes, the witch returns 20 years later to complete her plans, but she has reckoned without the posing prowess of Ator, the Fighting Eagle!
In the early part of the 1980s, the U.S. and U.K. thrilled to the exploits of Conan the Librarian in the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But audiences in continental Europe had their own warrior hero: the mighty mulleted Ator, The Fighting Eagle (1981); slayer of giant rubber spiders. Ator was Miles O’Keefe, whose stateside film career had begun – and pretty much ended – in the title role of Bo Derek’s ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’ (1981); a film mercilessly crucified by critics and public alike. ‘Ator’ on the other hand, shifted enough box office tickets to prompt an almost immediate sequel: ‘Ator, the Invincible’ (1982). It was utterly dreadful, but actually not as bad as the first one. Both these epics were brought to us by director ‘David Hills’ (actually better known as Joe D’Amato, although both names were 2 of the 68 professional pseudonyms used by Aristide Massaccesi).
Hills/D’Amato/Massaccesi jumped ship for Ator’s belated third adventure; replaced in the director’s chair by ‘Al Bradley’(actually Alfonso Brescia). He was known for a series of cheap, interchangeable ‘Star Wars’ knock-offs from the late 1970s. But something far more important had happened in the intervening 5 years than just a change of director! Something that was the biggest cultural change-up since the Renaissance. What was it? Why, MTV, of course! As a result this film resembles nothing so much as the ‘vague story bits between the performance footage’ of a hair metal music video. We get soft focus! Blue tinting! Low angles! Coloured smoke! Wind machines! And lots and lots of slow motion!
The plot? Well, O’Keefe and heroine Savina Gersack wander about a bit looking for something or other. She has one red eyebrow and a dress that never tears. Every now and then Trogar turns up. He wears a shiny metal skull mask and wants to kill Ator. He and Ator fight. O’Keefe and Gersack wander about a bit more. Some horsemen turn up and attack them. Halfway through there’s a strange ‘vision’ bit and her dress changes colour. Trogar turns up again. Ator fights him. There’s a couple of lines of dialogue. The horsemen ride right under O’Keefe and Gersack when they are hiding in plain sight on a rope bridge. Trogar turns up again. In a ruined city, Ator lets her go first into a dungeon. What a gent! Only she gets trapped underground and chased by exploding bowling balls. Way to go, Ator! O’Keefe and Gersack find a golden chest. But it’s not the real one. And, hang on, here comes Trogar…!
The film is very different from the first two movies in the series, but there’s absolutely nothing else to recommend it. O’Keefe and Gersack are possibly the least engaging screen couple ever; struggling to muster even one significant facial expression between them. The brief dialogue is pretty appalling too: ‘But what if they kill you?’ ‘Then I’ll be dead. But they won’t.’
The action scenes can’t save it either; the big fights mostly play out in slow motion and aren’t even remotely convincing. Elisabeth Kaza hams it up unmercifully as the evil witch, providing what entertainment value there is, but it’s not all that much!
Ator returned for one last hurrah in ‘Quest for the Mighty Sword’ (1990) but O’Keefe didn’t! It was sacrilege – how could they make an Ator movie without Ator!? But not to worry – Hills/D’Amato/ Massaccesi returned to the director’s chair to ensure that the legend stayed in a pair of ‘safe’ hands…