Some achieve stardom after a long struggle. Others blaze forth like a supernova on the first attempt. So it was with Miles O’Keeffe. By playing the titular role in Bo Derek’s critically lauded Tarzan the Ape Man, O’Keeffe garnered instant fame, unfathomable riches and, if memory doesn’t fail me, an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Cheated of his Oscar by his jealous ‘peers’ (who scandalized the world by fobbing off the award to Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond), O’Keeffe realized that more than sheer, radiant artistic genius was needed to succeed in this benighted world. Having already attained the pinnacle of show business megasuccess, O’Keeffe cannily sought to nurture it further by going to Italy and making a multi-lira knock-off of Conan the Barbarian.
The result, Ator l’invincibile (I don’t speak Italian, so I don’t know what that means in American), so captured the public’s imagination that O’Keeffe subsequently played Ator on two further occasions. As well, he went on to deliver equally compelling work in dozens of films no human being has ever heard of, while also assaying a small guest role on an episode of Murder, She Wrote. In doing so he became the actor that the other great thespians of his age, men such as Reb Brown and Dack Rambo, would be measured against.
Italy’s film industry boomed in the ’70s and ’80s—by comparative standards, anyway—as every American genre film that struck the public’s fancy was cheaply and inexhaustibly regurgitated back onto continental cinema screens and American video rental shelves. Alien, Star Wars, Escape from New York, Day of the Dead, The Road Warrior and others ventured forth into this fertile land and sired literally hundreds of inbred bastard progeny. This is one of those.
The stage is set with the inevitable exposition, here provided via narration rather than a Star Wars-esque text crawl. This presumably was largely an economic decision, as dubbing in new dialogue is cheaper than creating crawls in various languages.
According to Our Narrator, the Land—these things are always set in ‘the Land’—is currently beset by the tail end of the 1,000 year reign of the Spider God, a period which in a truly original touch is described as being an “Age of Darkness.”
Because it’s cheaper to describe stuff than to actually show it, the narration continues at length. Thus do we learn of the rise of the warrior Toran, who challenged the Spider God’s dominion. It’s all rather numbing, especially as it all proves merely a prologue to the tale of Ator. Toran fails, you see, to depose the Spider God kingdom, but before dying ensures that there will be a son to follow in his footsteps. This, naturally, is all part of the inevitable prophecy, and blah blah blah. Frankly, it’s bad enough we have to watch all this guff about Ator, without a seemingly fifteen minute prologue about his pappy.
With the opening of the film largely cribbed from The Beast Master, we turn to the hut of a woman giving birth. The realization of life in a tenuous and primitive time is surprisingly well captured, and the woman’s labor as portrayed is so intense that it quite nearly causes her ancient mascara to run. On the other hand, considering that she gives birth to a plump, eighteen pound, five-month old baby, it ends up a remarkably smooth delivery.
And indeed, she’s basically up and around about ten minutes after given birth to Baby Huey there. At first I thought the infant’s case of Juvenile Elephantitis was the “Sign of Toran” that everyone keeps gasping on about, but no, that’s revealed to be an axe-shaped birthmark. Here a grim, yak-furred mystery man named Griba appears, and handily turns the Sign of Toran invisible with a sprinkling of Mystical Talcum Powder.
Dakkar, the High Priest of the Spider God—a bald black fellow who looks like he is at any moment going to start evangelizing about “Un-co-la Nuts”—is alerted to the Coming of Ator by the prophesied Cheap Lighting Effect, as well as other literally Earth-shattering natural phenomena that they skip showing entirely and merely have a guard talk about. The guy who plays Dakkar, by the way, clearly got the job for one reason, which is that he would let tarantulas run up and down his bare arms.
Having apparently read the Bible (or Joseph Campbell), Dakkar naturally orders his men to sally forth and slay every newborn male they find. Presumably Ator survives this culling because of his enormous size, which belays the idea of him being born at any point during the previous two years.
If nothing else, the movie provides a very entertaining moment when Ator’s mum, who providentially is a Joyce DeWitt look-alike, gets whacked by one of Spider Goons. Now if they could just run across some villagers who look like Laverne and Shirleyâ€¦.
Sadly, young (if massive) Ator escapes his mother’s fate when he’s spirited away by Griba, Hirsute Barbarian. Being the film’s Obi-Wan Kenobi surrogate, Griba subsequently gives the child to Owen and Beru Skywalkeâ€¦, er, some villagers, to raise alongside their own infant daughter, Sunya. In return, the couple will receive foods and “herbs” (with a hard ‘h’) with which they may cure the husband of his illness.
Cut to 18 years later. (Actually, O’Keeffe was nearly 30 at the time, and looks older that that.) I was sort of hoping that Ator’s initial size would remain a constant, and that he’d now be revealed to be about nine feet tall and weigh 600 pounds. Sadly, this isn’t the case. His ‘sister’ Sunya, however, herself shows signs of gigantism, at least beneath her surging leather tunic.
The two kids hie themselves off for some rather sickening Aren’t We Happy! Scenes. During this, Ator gives Sunya a bear cub with a dyed skunk stripe he purportedly grabbed up from the woods. Following this tender moment, the two siblings, at least as far as they know, admit that they feel, well, unnatural yearnings towards one another. Well, that’s Alabama for you.
Since Ator is played by Miles O’Keeffe, we are unsurprised when he petulantly furrows his brow and grouses, “Why can’t we marry?” Sunya, with the air of someone who has answered a question many times before, responds, “Ator, we are brother and sister!” Yes, andâ€¦. Ator! No! Hot stove, Ator! Hot stovâ€¦ Oh, never mind. Stumped by his brainteaser, Ator furrows his brow again for several seconds, before declaring, “I’ll talk to our father.”
Ator heads to the Village, which is all peaceful and prosperous, and hence doomed to be razed any time now. Ator stops to chat with the man he believes to be his father, who asks, “What is wrong, Ator? You have sad eyes.” Apparently the tender feelings in this family extend beyond Ator and Sunya.
Ator reveals his feeling for Sunya, and Pop in turn explains the truth about his adoption. This is good, because Ator was in fact planning to ask whether it would be OK for him to marry his own sister. Perhaps this film should have been entitled Ator l’nauseato perverso.
Ator furrows his brow for a moment or two upon getting all this sprung on him, but his parents wisely distract him by reminding him that now he and Sunya can do the deed get married. His smiling ‘sister,’ for her part, accepts the news without a second thought. Or, from the look of her, even a first one. These two make Ashton Kutcher look introspective.
The expected Spider God’s Wrath against Ator’s home is set into motion, meanwhile, when a guard informs Dakkar of having seen Griba “by the village that lies on the edge of our kingdom.” Oh. That one.
In the meantime, though, the happy villagers prepare for Ator and Sunya’s wedding. Before the nuptials, they are, uhm, treated to a, er, loosely interpreted ceremonial frug by the village’s Ye Solid Golde Dancers. I’m no student of anthropology, but from the evidence presented here, I’d have to say that choreography was invented at a later date than iron swords.
Ironically (yawn), the happiest day of Ator’s life becomes the saddest, while at the same time Dakkar ironically (zzzzzzzzz) sets into motion the very prophesy he wished to avoid. And thus the couple’s first kiss as man and bride is interrupted by a murderous raid led by the Main Man himself. What follows is a horrifying orgy of villagers quite nearly being hit by giant Q-tip Swabs and tin swords passing under armpits, until everyone Ator has ever known lies on the ground pretending to be dead. Except, of course, for Sunya, whose exceedingly lame attempts at personal defense made me hate her all the more, and who is swept up by the bad guys in such a way as to give her black spandex panties a good look.
Ator, knocked (even more) unconscious in the melee, now wakes up—me too, actually, as this isn’t exactly the most exciting fight scene in movie history—to find everyone he knows dead and the village razed. Normally one might scoff that Ator would be the only one to survive the massacre, but in this case the facts support the idea. First, he was struck in the head with a ‘war hammer’ comprised of a stick with a ball of yarn mounted at the end. Second, even a head blow by a far more lethal weapon would certainly be foiled by Ator’s enormous helmet of hair. Third, frankly, I’m not sure there’s much of anything in Ator’s head the loss of which would noticeably impair his already rather limited functionality.
Ator sets forth in a fur coat that I think he stole from Super Fly, presumably to seek revenge and free his wife. (Actually, I may be giving him the benefit of the doubt by assuming he has such clear-cut goals.) Joining him is “Skunky, The Bear Cub That We’re Supposed to Say “OOOOHH!!” Every Time We See It.”
Being a putz, Ator immediately goes for a guy he sees by a pond, who I guess maybe is wearing armor like the Bad Guys. However, his would-be victim is Griba, who after initiating the destruction of everything Ator holds dear is now ready to begin his training. You know something has gone awry when you watch two supposedly doughty warriors hacking away at one another, and your attention is instead drawn to the scenic waterfall behind them.
After a rather inept clash of arms, Griba announces to the defeated novice, “You have learned to fight like a tiger!” Given the evidence just presented, I assume he means Tigger. Also, the idea that Ator, as played by Miles O’Keeffe, must also “learn to use your head!” doesn’t exactly inspire a boatload of confidence either.
Because he’s the Yoda guy, Griba says all sorts of vague and elliptical things. Of course, he’s speaking with Ator, so most statements, such as “Water is wet!”, would no doubt sound vague and elliptical in any case.
Griba takes Ator to his personal version of the Batcave, where they will commence Our Hero’s training in earnest. Proving that he has traveled widely, Griba has on display a European suit of plate armor (!) and bamboo Japanese samurai armor (!!!). Ator, presumably needing to prove something after losing his sister/wife before, er, demonstrating his manhood, immediately grabs a ludicrously long broadsword. “That belonged to Chung the Terrible,” Griba boasts. Given his nickname, one can only wonder if Chung directed this movie.
Griba inevitably does that thing where he commands the sword-bearing Ator to attack him. Needless to say, Ator ends up on his ass. Still, wouldn’t it be great just once to see a scene like this were the trainee impales his teacher or something? In fact, it would be even greater if this were that movie.
Rule One of fighting, it turns out, is “Keep the legs apart, with the equilibrium of the body distributed equally.” Then, when Ator is confusedly trying to figure out what “equilibrium” means, Griba kicks him in the breadbasket. (It’s a lesson about surprising your opponent.) If only Griba had punted Ator right in the nuts, this would have been one of the ten greatest film scenes of all time. Again, though, it’s hard to bank on Ator’s success when Griba keeps telling him stuff like, “Keep your wits about you!” That’s hard, you know, when they keep rolling out your ears.
Then we get the scene everyone’s been waiting for, when Ator doffs his top to review the impressive abs and such that thespian O’Keeffe studiously honed for four or five hours a day. Admittedly, his immense buffness doesn’t necessarily make him look like he could really kill trained warriors, but it does at least suggest, for the first time in this movie, that he could kick my ass if the occasion called for it.
And so the training begins, and is followed at some length. This is because once you’ve dressed a set, there are few things cheaper than filming two actors waving swords and fists at each other. Admittedly, if their sparring bouts were actually choreographed, that would be another matter.
This sequence includes the inevitable “Griba slashes at a candle / It stands apparently unharmed / Ator jeers / Griba lifts up the invisibly severed candle top” bit. Seriously, isn’t there a statute of limitations on bits like that?
Worse, Ator is drinking wine when Griba lifts the candle top, and yet they mysteriously fail to have him do a wacky, Danny Thomas-esque spit take. Along with the previously mentioned “Didn’t kick Ator in the nads” scene, this film is quickly shaping up to be a milestone in the history of missed opportunities.
As the two wave their staves at each other (not like that, you perverts) on top of the waterfall, a hot blonde comes running down the road, pursued and then cut off by some Irate Dudes. She draws a sword and prepares to defend herself, while Ator launches himself into the water to swim to her aid. Laughably bombastic music booms as epic battle begins, with the woman demonstrating her prowess in the “swing high / clash swords / swing low / clash swords / repeat” school of combat.
However, the odds are stacked against her, and it’s only Ator’s aid that saves the day. (Although she does prove surprisingly proficient at punching guys directly in the face with her delicate little fists while somehow not shattering her finger bones.) Soon her three attackers are beaten, while Griba nods with satisfaction at his protÃ©gÃ©e being able to take on, as he does, a pair of generic schmoes.
The blonde, in leg-baring leathers and a rather fetching pony tail, (awkwardly) sheathes her sword and begins to walk away. Ator runs after her, presumably seeking the hero’s reward—I kid, he’s far too stupid to do so—and is mildly embarrassed to learn he has just saved a thief. Even so, he stands by and lets her ride off with two of the men’s horses.
By the way, it’s to the film’s manifest failure that this woman is about a hundred times hotter than Sunya. It’s not so much that her physical charms are so superior to Sunya’s. And it’s not so much that, unlike Ator’s Bride, she looks like perhaps she could walk and chew gum at the same time. No, it’s more like she looks like she could walk or chew gum, which is still more than I would wager being true in Sunya’s case.
In any case, Lady Thief rides off, sadly taking her magnificent thighs with her. However, the audience is secure in the knowledge that since she was so haughty and scornful, she will meet Ator again, secretly fall in love with him and tragically die whilst helping him save his True Love.
Having proved he can Punch Out Two Average Guys, which I guess is the test for being ready to topple the 1,000 year-old reign of the Spider God, Ator returns to the Batcave to find Griba gone. In his stead, he finds a huge, gaudy sword that Griba has apparently heavily worked upon with a Bedazzler. It’s like something from Queer Eye for the Barbarian Guy.
“The Sword of Toran!” Ator gasps. So that we ‘get’ this is a big moment and all, he holds the blade projecting out before his naked, oiled torso and the camera films him from below. In case I haven’t properly explicated it, in a movie rife with homoerotic imagery, this scene pretty much takes the cake. For his part, Ator looks as happy as a gawky twelve year-old girl who’s finally drawn a particularly longed-for card during a particularly competitive round of Mystery Date.
Soon Ator has again hit the road on his Quest for Vengeance. Pausing to fail to bring down a deer for supper—I think Griba may have awarded him the Sword of Toran just a tad early—Ator further embarrasses himself by falling victim to a dropped net. This is the phase of the movie where Ator will have a series of time-wasting adventures, which per tradition will have nothing to do with anything and be furthermore rather exceedingly lame.
This stage of things is kicked off with the inevitable Captured by Amazons sequence, which I think was mandated in these things by union rules. Also per tradition, these Amazons will prove visibly awkward with their weapons, but highly proficient with primordial curling irons, dental floss and mascara applicators. Meanwhile, they will also naturally react to the sight of the beefy Ator with a collective cry of, “A Ma-annn!”
I hope you’re sitting down when you read this, but this particularly tribe of Amazons proves to include Haughty Hot Blonde Thief Ator Saved Earlier. (Tired of not knowing what this character’s name was, I checked with the IMDB and learned that it is Moon.* Sadly, she fails at any point to live up to her intriguing moniker. In fact, this is easily the most T&A deprived ’80s Italian Barbarian movie I’ve ever seen.)[*Actually, the IMDB needs to be corrected. Maybe her name is ‘Moon’ in the original Italianâ€¦or perhaps notâ€¦but eventually it becomes clear that they are actually calling her ‘Roon,’ as is confirmed by the end credits.]
At the Amazon Queen’s command, Ator is tied to a tree. Meanwhile, in a bit that may have some larger Symbolic Significanceâ„¢, Our Hero’s sword is taken away and presented to the Queen, who gazes at it longingly whist running her hand up and down its length. Then she tosses it away and it lands sticking up from the ground, where it will handily remain so that Ator can easily reclaim it once Roon has freed him. (Oops, sorry.)
Ator’s seed, needless to say, is to provide the tribe’s next leader. Since we’ve already seen the time-wasting Village Dance, and the time-wasting Destruction of the Village, and the time-wasting Ator’s Training, now it’s time for the time-wasting Tournament of Amazons to see who the lucky recipient of Ator’s man-juice will be.
Four of the tribe’s most winsome warriors, including of course Roon, take up the challenge. Looking not entirely like Warriors Honed Since Birth in the Fiery Crucible of Mortal Combat—or, for that matter, like anyone who has ever broken a heavily lacquered fingernail or suffered from combination skin—the ladies rather ineffectually begin trading blows and such. Luckily, the urgency of their conflict is more successfully conveyed by a series of sound effects apparently borrowed from an old Three Stooges short. The only other thing that could probably help would be to blare “Tough Enough” by the Fabulous Thunderbirds over the scene.
Not to flabbergast the hell out of you, but Roon proves the victor. As such, she gets to boink Ator, become preggers with the tribe’s future Queen (hopefully) and then kill Ator with the sunrise. Well, if you’ve gotta goâ€¦.
Ator is left unbound with Roon, who frankly looks a lot hotter with her hair pulled back. Rather than trying to fight his way out, however, he instead pleads with her about how he loves another. What a putz. Normally I’m all in favor of True Love, but Sunya comes across as even dumber than Ator himself, if such a thing is possible. It’s like turning down a night with Halle Berry* because there’s this tree stump you’re going steady with.[*Well, OK, not Halle Berry, but you get the idea.]
Here we learn a couple of things about Amazons I did not know. First of all, their stony hearts get all squishy from tales of True Love. Second, they consider it insulting to refer to another woman as being a virgin.
Still, Ator’s stated plans to assail the temple of the Spider God get Roon’s interest, which is actually sort of credible. The Amazons of legend were nutty freakazoid warriors-types, and someone planning such an epically suicidal assault would certainly earn their respect. Still, I can’t imagine he helps his case when he maintains, “I’m well prepared, I assure you.” Yeah, this from the guy caught under a net about two hours ago.
In another embarrassing moment, Roon gets all moony when she figures out (for the first of several times) that Ator is the fabled Son of Toran. Yeesh, next thing you know she’ll be a groupie on the Lollapoolooza tour, screaming uncontrollably and throwing her panties up on stage whenever Green Day makes an appearance.
Admitting that he had saved her life earlier, she naturally agrees to aid him. “Altruism doesn’t suit you any better than maternity,” Ator replies. That’s a lot of big words for him, although it’s indicative of his great strategic prowess that he would insult the only woman who can help save his life. Anyway, in an attempt to add some credibility to her aiding him, she states it’s so she can raid the centuries’ worth of treasures contained in the Temple of the Spider God.
Outside, they prepare to split, but only after Ator reclaims his weapon. (If you know what I mean.) “That looks like the Sword of Toran!” Roon gasps. What, she would recognize it but her Queen wouldn’t? Whatever.
Prudently, Ator relies upon the savviest member of their band, Skunky the Bear Cub, to divert the Amazon’s attention away from the sword. “What’s going on?” one Amazon gasps as their dog starts barking. “Let’s find out!” another responds. This suggests how a lunkhead like Hercules was able to make such a fool of Hippolyte. The Amazons. Fearsome, yes. Smart, not so much.
Oh, and the bit where Roon knocks over three of her tribemates by smacking them with a large golden gong? That’s just embarrassing. Not to mention that Roon and Ator escape by hiding up a partially denuded tree a full twenty yards from camp. Or that the Amazons have a big mastiff which could presumably be used for tracking purposes—although as Amazons they shouldn’t need any help in this regard—but fail to set him loose to do so. Man, Thomas Bulfinch must be laughing his ass off right now.
Cut to the next day, as Roon bathes in a waterfall. She may be naked, but you can’t tell because she’s filmed from about a hundred feet away. Wow, this is the LAMEST ITALIAN BARBARIAN MOVIE EVER! Seriously, this film has less nudity than Sheena! What’s up with that?
Later, a pensive-looking Ator is roasting some kabobs over an open flame. (Don’t worry, Skunky is in shot, too.) Roon distracts him from his funk by narrowly missing him with an arrow, which is how girls in the 4th grade let a guy know they liked him, three thousand years ago.
A stock footage deer runs past. As beautiful and gentle “The Wonders of Nature” music plays on the soundtrack, Roon chases after it. However, the deer runs away before she can loose her arrow—I guess she and Ator really are made for each other—and it turns into a smaller deer and enters a cave. She follows. Inside the cave, however, the deer disappears via the cutting edge “Turning off the camera / moving the deer / turning the camera back on” technique. Take that, ILM!
You might think that a trained Amazon warrior, used to living in a world of black magic, would immediately gasp out a prayer to Artemis and retreat. Instead, Roon naturally steps forward with a confused look on her face. Boy, twelve hours with Ator and look at her.
Ator and Skunky run around for a while, because, you know, the Eating Up Running Time thing. That goal eventually accomplished, Ator is then distracted by what appears to be Sunya trotting past in a stylish new mini-dress. Via this image, Ator is lured into a cave also. I have to admit, if the trap is as deadly as the pacing of this scene, Our Hero is in definite trouble. However, in the more likely chance that the trap is as tedious as the pacing of this scene, then, well, we’re all in definite trouble.
Eventually Ator enters a silk-strewn bedchamber that seems to have been designed by Liberace in a previous life, and finds what he thinks to be Sunya. However, to his dismay the figure proves to be another beauteous woman after his booty, the sorceress Indun (a presumably highly embarrassed Laura Gemser). “You must be tired,” she notes, indicating that in ancient times ‘tired’ was a synonym for ‘utterly stupid.’
Proving my thesis correct, Ator goes ahead and drinks from a chalice she hands him. Is that ever a good idea in a Time of Darkness? Dude, she could have totally slipped a roofie in there. Sure enough, Ator soon appears as confused and muddleheaded as the average viewer of this movie.
Then, for no real reason, he turns and reaches out to an object covered by a silk sheet, eliciting a shrill “No!” from Indun. “Never touch that drape,” she commands. Oh, brother. So there’s a mystical object under there that’s the key to defeating her. Which, of course, she’d keep haphazardly secured in her own bedroom. Right. It’s like playing a D&D adventure written by a seven year-old.
Anyhoo, with the end of this amazing Adventure of Ator clearly in sight, we must now waste some time before getting to it. So Indun, who sports quite nearly as huge a fountain of hair as Our Hero himself, hauls Ator over to her bed. She offers him an immortal life of pleasure. “Time will mean nothing to you,” she promises. “You will feel as if you’ve stepped into eternity.” From this, I’m assuming Indun edited this movie, except for the pleasure part.
Ator, however, still thinks of Sunya. “Do you want to see your beloved?” Indun sneers. At this she walks over to your standard Mystical Brazier of Viewing, and by tossing in a little Whooshing Powder, calls up the webcam at the Temple of the Spider God. Ator stumbles slooowly after her for a look, because hey, why bother having to whip up another adventure for him to have when you can film the ones you’ve got real slow?
Continuing in this vein, we now watch a, shall we say, moderately-paced scene of Sunya meandering freely inside the Temple of the Spider God, which ends with her happily embracing Dakkar and letting a tarantula run up her arm. Ator is, like, totally bummed out by this vision, and refuses to believe it. However, his drugged state allows for no further resistance, and he slumps unconscious on Indun’s bed.
Meanwhile, Roon, who has been trapped in her cave by falling rocks, is rather implausibly freed when said barrier is dislodged by the teeny, perhaps fifteen pound Skunky. For his part, Ator is starting to lose his ability to resist Indun. (Dude, you totally know he knows what’s going on, and later will be like, “But Sunya, baby, I was all like bewitched and stuff! I couldn’t help it!”)
Luckily, though, the filmmakers ultimately want Ator to retain his virtue, so Indun wastes a lot of time anointing him with oil and, inevitably, cavorting with a snake. Because, you know, that’s the sort of thing a sorceress does.
Then she leads him before an owl, which if it’s meant to be a mystical symbol of Inexpressible Boredom, is spot on. Instead, actually, it’s supposed to be some dude who opposed Indun’s will, so she turned him into a bird. If you say so. “And, uh, that chair? Yeah, that was a king guy who wouldn’t let me, uhm, do something I wanted. So you better watch out.”
We cut to the freed Roon ambling about, and by now I fully comprehend the abject horror behind Indun’s prediction that time would have no meaning. Finally, though, Roon manages to stumble across Indun’s bedchamber, which was earlier in a cave, but now has a side to the open air. This fails to square with the previously dingy lighting in her bedroom, but whatever. Let’s just get moving here.
Spying Ator finally starting to make out with Indun, Roon sends Skunky in to do his normal job of diverting their attention. (Uhm, they’re intoxicated and about to have sex. I think their attention is pretty much diverted already.) So Skunky runs across the room, and sure enough Indun gets out and angrily tries to shoo him outside.
Then, with Indun in her clear line of fire, well lit and about twenty feet away, trained Amazon Roon lets loose an arrow that completely misses her intended target. Fortuitously, though, the shaft strikes the previously alluded to covered object. The sheet falls away to reveal a distorted mirror, which a screaming Indun looks into with predictable, Portrait of Dorian Gray-ish consequences. She then levels a curse at Ator (?) as he flees, but she better get in line. I’ve been doing that for an hour now.
This ‘adventure’ finally by the boards, it’s time forâ€¦another adventure. Ator and Roon approach a forest, which Roon calls a “jungle” (uh, no), and then, inevitably, “the Land of the Walking Dead.” Or, as I like to call it, the ‘Land of Like Everyone Else in This Damn Picture.’ Seriously, how come there’s never a Valley of the Slumbering Bunny Rabbits or anything in these movies? Always with the drama. If they invited you over to watch a game, it’d be all like, “Hey, who’s got the Ranch-flavored Chips of the Burning Damned?”
Anyway, perhaps in a highly dubious attempt to sell the ‘jungle’ idea (or to disguise the fact that they’re already filmed here), they crank the Dry Ice Machine up to 11. Eventually Roon and Ator stumble upon some Walking Dead guys, and we realize the fog is to obscure the fact that they didn’t spring for zombie make-up. Instead, they rely on the Walking Dead Stutter Step to sell the idea.
Somewhat counterintutively, Ator and Roon allow themselves to be herded from a broad, if fog-suffused, daylight clearing into a cramped cave. Yes, that would be my first impulse. Hmm, lot of folks spending a lot of time in caves in this movie. If anything, due to the zombies, this scene moves even slower than the previous ones, as if the director were protesting how speedy the zombies were in the Blind Dead movies*.[*Which, notoriously, were none too speedy. Hence the ‘joke.’]
So Ator and Roon run away through some ruins, or some damn thing, with the Dead following them. First, and I admit this might be a sexist observation, but should Ator always been seen running about ten yards in front of Roon? I don’t know, that doesn’t seem very sporting. Second, how is it possible they are not completely outdistancing the Walking Dead, given the latter’s rather rudimentary rate of speed?
Hilariously, it turns out they do. Sure enough, they just run until they leave the Land of the Walking Dead—which admittedly could perhaps be more accurately described as being the Half Acre of the Dead—at which point the zombies disappear. Here finally an answer to the eternal question, “Look how slow that monster is, why don’t they just away run from it?” It turns out the answer is, “Because it’s as anticlimactic as hell.”
Having Jogged out of Mortal Peril, our heroes end up in the same tavern we see in all these things. You know the one. Muscle-bound dudes with leather bracers arm-wrestling. Working girls in mini-togas gigglingly plying their trade. Etc. Still, this answers my foolish question about what other time-wasting scene they could supply us. That’s right, a barroom brawl.
This exact melee is motivated by Roon getting a gander at the sack of gold coins the bar’s Madam is carrying. (Yes, I’m sure the patrons of whores in a tiny village tavern, even whores as oddly clean and fulsome of limb and tooth as these, paid in gold.) “We need two horses,” Roon muses. “I’m sure the Cripple will know how to get them.” Here we cut to a guy with one eye, probably since otherwise we might not presume him to be named “the Cripple.”
When Ator wonders where Roon intends to get the money for said horses, she demonstrates by the completely unexpected tactic of starting a bar fight. Then she steals the Madam’s money bag, which goes unnoticed for all of about two seconds. In no time flat, unsurprisingly, Roon is surrounded by blade-bearing guards, all while Ator looks on with at best a look of mild interest on his face.
However, the odds change with the appearance of Griba, Ator’s mentor as introduced in the firstâ€¦wait a minute, this is the first Ator movie! Damn, how long is this thing?! Crap. Anyway, Ator apparently hasn’t learned a damned thing yet, and so when the supposed Griba turns and leaves, Ator runs after him. This leaves a chagrined Roon literally holding the bag. (On the other hand, Ator didn’t tell her to steal the gold, much less in such a retarded fashion, so to be fair it’s not really his responsibility to help her out.)
In any case, it really is Griba he’s following, and not another surrogate. We learn this after about a minute of watching Griba wander around with Ator following about twenty yards behind him. Eventually they hook up, and Griba is seen slowly and tenderly rubbing Ator’s chest with some Mystical Lotion, thus revealing the formerly hidden Sign of Toran. (At least, I hope that’s what he’s doing.)
Ator is totally caught off guard by this news of his parentage, since the only clues he had up to now was that Griba said he’d fulfill the Prophecy of Toran, and then later gave him the Sword of Toran. So, really, it must be a complete shock.
Somehow I’ve managed to go through this entire movie without angrily chucking objects at my television set. However, that state of affairs came to a quick conclusion when Griba ordered Ator to go to the Volcano of Shadows and arm himself with the “Shield of Mordor.” Wow. You’d really think Tolkien would have enough friends that some elves or dwarves or Ents or somebody would have risen up at this point and killed everyone associated with this movie. But I guess not.
Anyhoo, once he has attained this monty artifact, Ator will finally be ready to confront the Ancient One at the Temple of the Spider. Meanwhile, Dakkar is alerted to his peril via his mystical alarm system. This entails blood pouring from the eye of a giant stone eagle head whenever Ator is up to some mischief.
Following these revelations, Ator is seen thinking things overâ€¦well, OK, he’s probably just sitting there picturing dancing pinecones or somethingâ€¦when an irate Roon appears. (The guys in the bar basically just threw up their hands and let her leave after she killed a guard or two. Good security in that town.) She chews Ator out for leaving her behind, and he’s all like “Whatever, ho,” and she harrumphs and storms off.
What’s funny is that Ator is acting all super-smug and stuff here, presumably to illustrate how far he’s come from the bumbling neophyte he was before Griba came along. Hmm. Let’s examine his progress since being awarded the legendary Sword of Toran after punching out two random dudes:
Yes, with a rÃ©sumÃ© like that, I can certainly see why he’s suddenly so self-satisfied.
Meanwhile, now on red alert, Dakkar steps outside and rallies his mighty army ofâ€¦let’s seeâ€¦ten whole guys. The Guns of Navarone, this ain’t. Elsewhere, Ator and Roon approach the Volcano of Shadows. If I’m following this correctly, Ator’s village was razed about three days ago. Apparently, his village, Griba’s cave, the Amazons, Indun’s lair, the Valley of the Walking Dead, the Inn they stopped at, the Volcano of Shadows and the Temple of the Spider God are all within about three or four miles of one another.
As Ator prepares to stride forth and procure the Shield of Mor…well, you knowâ€¦Roon saves his bacon again. She does this by announcing that before he can get the Shield, he must first pass through “The Cave of the Blind Warriors.” Hopefully, though, he can still avoid the fearsome “Cavern of the Warriors with No Arms and Legs,” not to mention the dreaded “Grotto of the Warriors with No Sense of Balance Due to an Inner Ear Infection.”
Still, they will have a hard enough time getting past the Blind Warriors, since, as Roon explains (and, uh, how would she know all this, anyway?), “They have a highly developed sense of smell.” Since Ator quite obviously must use at least a canister of hair spray each day keeping his raging, mountainous coif under control, that’s really not good news. On the other hand, maybe the fumes will force the Blind Warriors to scatter.
Roon, however, possesses yet further handy folk knowledge. Pulling some foliage from a nearby brush, she orders Ator to rub the leaves on his skin, following which “they won’t be able to detect us.” (Yes, rubbing leaves on your skin results in a complete absence of smell, even if you’re wearing the same fur clothes you’ve had on for the last five years.) Following her advice, they proceed to lightly rub the leaves over a good, oh, 18% of their bodies.
It’s here that Roon notices Ator’s newly revealed birthmark. “The Sign of Toran!” she gasps, perhaps finally figuring out who the guy planning to assault the Temple of the Spider God with the legendary Sword of Toran (and, for all I know, the fabled Skunk-Headed Bear Cub of Toran) is. Yes, all the pieces are starting to come togetherâ€¦.
With some small percentage of their bodies cloaked by the Leaves of No Smelling, Ator and Roon enter the cave. First, they pass the dreaded Jets of Harmless Steam that Shoot Out of the Walls for No Apparent Reason. However, further dire perils await. Soon the two are sidling past the Blind Warriors, who are forging swords and axes and such.
Now, Miles O’Keeffe was no doubt a buff dude, but graceful he tweren’t. So it’s pretty funny watching him awkwardly (not to mention sloooowly) ninja his way past the Blind Ones, especially while holding a six-foot long sword out before him. Finally, though, Mr. Stealth manages to get himself and Roon down into the but whispered of Unfinished Basement of Papier-mÃ¢chÃ© Walls & Further Pointless Jets of Steam.
In the Chamber of Really, Who the Hell Cares?, they find the Shield of I Can’t Say It, which is just sitting there. Good security, I must say. The Shield, by the way, is basically just a big mirrored circle, so that they can make it ‘glow’ by training a spotlight on it. However, the interlopers are betrayed by Roon’s lust for gold, as she is distracted by a room full of booty. Normally I’d say “For shame!” However, since Roon is the only one who’s done squat in this picture, I’m going to give her some leeway here.
That’s right, Ator soon finds himself sparring with what I assume is meant to be his own shadow. (How else to explain that shadowy pillar of hair?) And, I must say, a more appallingly cheap, not to mention poorly choreographed, battle is difficult to imagine. In the end Ator is saved—at least from further audience jeers—er, at this particular juncture, that is—when Roon tosses her cloak over the Shield, the glow from which was casting the murderous shadow. Actually, it’s kind of odd. Roon never had a cloak before this scene. So its sudden appearance is kind of convenient. I’m just saying.*[*Jabootu proof-reading wizard Carl Fink found inspiration in this: “As an ex-gamer, I now want to write a B-movie role-playing game. If you’re in a tight situation and make your Luck roll, you suddenly have a cloak (staff, lantern, extra clip) that was never established in previous scenes because of bad writing. This rule only applies in mid-adventure, and can’t save you at the movie’s climax.”
I should note that this seems a distant cousin to what might be called “The Q Rule.” This states that any miscellaneous gadget James Bond is issued before a mission, no matter how random its purpose, will prove of vital use. Actually, James West may have established this with the various items he secreted in his hollowed-out boot heel over the years. Whichever one he carried on any certain day, it fortuitously would prove to be exactly what he found himself needing. Then there’s the Electric Company‘s Letterman, who always had the correct letter on his magic sweater, and thus never had to change an unwelcome object into something even more dangerous or malign.]
For those keeping track, this is the 87th time Ator has had his useless ass saved by Roon. I mean, would it have been that hard to have Ator shout, “Roon, cover the Shield!” At least then he would have played some small part in his own deliverance. This guy is like the Inspector Clouseau of Barbarian Warriors.
Anyhoo, Ator picks himself off the floor from where he was awaiting a death stroke from the Shadow Guy. Once back on his feet, he struts in an exaggerated fashion over to Roon, much like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in the “We’re Bad” scene from Stir Crazy. Dude, whatever. You completely suck, and everyone knows it.
With the Shield safely wrapped in Roon’s Suddenly Appearing Cloak of Mystical Plot Convenience (Dungeon Masters’ Guide, Fourth Edition; Chapter 6, pg. 237, Magic Items, Table B2), Ator and Roon make their way back up to the Forging Room. Apparently Ator cut one or something, because suddenly the Blind Guys can detect him. Silent but deadly, indeed. However, since their foes prove far less formidable than the designation “Blind Warriors” would suggest—and consider that one for a second—their peril is short lived. Moreover, by ducking out the back way, they skirt the fearsome “Wheelchair Mafia” entirely.
When they emerge, they are literally ten yards from the Temple of the Spider God. Good grief, it’s like this entire world is contained in a strip mall. “Once past the Valley of the Walking Dead, Ator, wilt thou sojourn past yonder Orange Julius stand, there to findâ€¦”
Ator and Roon sneak up on the two perimeter guards, who are chanting something I believe to be “The Knights Who Say ‘Ni'” sketch. In short order, roughly a fifth of Dakkar’s forces are laid low. Ator and Roon then stride past the camera. At this point, with the ever present danger that the movie will end too soon (by the filmmakers’ lights, anyway), the camera holds its ground for another ten seconds until Skunky comes trundling along behind them.
Inside the Temple, Dakkar waits with his personal guard. Not only are these presumably the same actors as the regular guards, but one is wearing the helm from the suit of armor we saw earlier in Griba’s cave. Waste not, want not, I guess.
Despite this fearsome security (and aided again by the fact that all the extras are inside now playing Dakkar’s Personal Guard), Ator and Roon easily penetrate his lair. Also helpful is that Dakkar and all his men are standing towards the chamber’s far wall, rather than watching the temple’s main passageway.
And so the two sneak past, presumably to look for Sunya. Prior to locating her, though, they come across Dakkar’s hoard of treasure, which Roon pauses to stroke lovingly. “Yes,” Ator sneers, “your blessed treasure!” Dude, shut the f*** up! When you conquer something more formidable than a turkey sub, then you can give that woman lip. Frankly, I’ve assuming at this point that only theater marquee space limitations kept this film from being called, Ator, the Getting His Lame Ass Repeatedly Saved by a Girl Eagle.
Anyhoo, this lesson in the Folly of Materialism is interrupted by the rather tardy arrival of some of Dakkar’s goons. Ator courageously defeats them by attacking them from behind as they approach Roon. Rather wimpily for a Barbarian Hero, his attacks are of the non-lethal variety. Note to the Dubbing Staff, though: When the hero smites the villains with what is purported a heavy gold shield, don’t dub in sound effects made with a light aluminum pan.
Somehow these hollow, tinny sounds reach the main chamber, resulting in a woeful chorus of watermelon, watermelon mumbling from the assembled guards. However, Dakkar manages to keep his head. “Kill them!” he commands, and the guards spring forth. Quite the strategic genius, that Dakkar.
Hearing (I guess) the approach of their enemies, Ator runs away. I don’t know, he seems to do a lot of that, all things considered. In any case, he and Roon somehow end up in the throne room, and are greeted by a sneering Dakkar. Normally I’d be saying, “What are you sneering about? You just sent away all your guards!” However, given that we’re talking Ator here, I frankly wouldn’t be all that concerned either.
And, in fact, Dakkar had additional (i.e., the same guys in different masks) guards hiding behind pillars, and at his signal a *cough, cough* mighty melee breaks out. Again we watch as Roon slaughters probably three guards for every one disposed of by the film’s putative hero, and he’s the one armed with a magic shield. (Although it’s still covered with that cloak. I’m not sure why.) Still, this is the first time we’ve ever seen Ator actually kill anyone, so I guess there has been progress of a sort.
Finally, all his henchmen dead, Dakkar draws a sword and attacks Ator directly. (I’m assuming this is his admittedly savvy way of opting not to fight the far more formidable Roon.) Ator’s ‘victory’ pretty much sums up his amazing credentials as a warrior. Dakkar quickly gets the better of him, forces him into a kneeling position and knocks the fabled Sword of Toran from Ator’s feeble grasp.
However, Ator is spared a richly deserved deathblow when the cloak falls off the Shield of Mordor and Dakkar, reflected in its surface, blows up. (???) That’s two times that someone menacing Ator has been defeated after seeing their own reflection in a mystical mirrored object. Is it just me, or is that some monumentally lazy scripting?
Suddenly, we hear screams from offstage. “It sounds like Sunya!” Ator needlessly explains. For a guy ruling over a mighty, tyrannical empire lasting 1,000 years, Dakkar didn’t seem to have many men at arms or prisoners or anything. Roon sends Our Hero off, and is about to (presumably) go for the treasure when she finds herself facing another half dozen henchmen. Well, again, it’s actually the same half dozen henchmen, or at least actors. That’s the advantage of making your henchmen wears face-covering helmets; you can recycle them ad infinitum.
And again, I feel compelled to point out that Roon finds herself in mortal peril about six times as much as Ator in this movie. And it’s not so as to provide the film’s hero a chance to rescue a damsel in distress. Quite the opposite, since he’s filled that role more often than Roon.
We cut to Sunya, who is in a giant “spider web” clearly made of knotted nylon rope (!!), indicating that the Ancient One has a charge account at Home Depot. This is festooned with your standard Fully Articulated Plastic Skeleton and cobwebs of the sort you create with an aerosol spray can. In this, Our Heroine (?) is being menaced by several tame tarantulas crawling on her arms and whatnot, although admittedly that makes the actress about a hundred times braver than I’d be. Ick.
We cut to a wideshot. Behind her, coming around a bend, are some giant furry marionette spider legs. That’s nearly all we will see of the Ancient One, a markedly inexpensive technique not seen since a similarly disembodied arachnid appeared in the similarly economical (not to mention similarly Italian) Robot Holocaust. In the end, though, we’ll see enough of it to mark it higher than the giant spider seen in the Gilligan’s Island episode “The Pigeon.” In that chapter of the precursor of the modern hit Lost, the cast finds itself threatened by what was basically a guy wriggling around in a black fabric sack that had floppy sock puppet ‘legs’ shown onto the sides.
Moreover, and to be completely fair, the Ancient One is at least more elaborate then the Giant Spider in Robot Holocaust, which basically was just a prop leg or two waved at the characters from off-camera. Here they basically built a large prop consisting of a furry plush black velour head (complete with fangs) and four connected legs which independently move up and down in a noticeably unsynchronized fashion.
In any case, Ator leans forwards to free his love. It’s here we get the film’s big ‘plot twist.’ As lame as it is, I hesitate to blow because, you know, at least they actually tried something here. Ah, screw it.
Before getting to the Freeing My Girlfriend from the Giant Spider Web Before the Giant Spider Eats Her part, Ator is confused to find Griba on hand. See, his old mentor is the real villain, one who was plotting against Dakkar. Griba was once the High Priest of the Ancient One himself, and with Dakkar no longer extant, Griba plans to reclaim his old gig. Ator was merely his unwitting (not to mention unwitted) tool.
Griba pretty much has Ator at his mercy—as, in fact, who wouldn’t?—but loses his advantage following a comparatively brief Blofeld Momentâ„¢ where he explains his part in the plot (duh) in lieu of killing the hero. This respite allows Ator to knock his sword away and draw his own. A predictably lame battle results, with Sunya screaming in horror as she waits to be rescued beforeâ€¦.
Well, I don’t know. It’s not like the Ancient One can actually come around the corner, since they failed to build a body for it. Personally, I’d be a bit more worried about a menace that could actually appear on camera, but what do I know? To be fair, I guess she could fall prey to a Giant Spider POV shot. Heaven knows lots of other people in other movies have.
Anyway, now that he’s a Bad Ass (sorta), Ator quickly finds himself in a similarly dominating position over Griba. However, he arrogantly gestures for his opponent to stand up, via that Bruce Lee beckoning with his fingers thing, so that it’s a fair fight. This might seem cooler if again his girlfriend wasn’t in imminent danger of becoming a Spider Snack, but then a Man’s Gotta Do what a Man’s Gotta Do.
And so the epic battle again commences. Swing high, clash swords. Swing low, clash swords. Bring swords together at mid-body level, pretend to strain behind them. Break off. Swing high, clash swordsâ€¦.
Ator ends the ‘fight’ by tossing Griba into the Ancient One’s web. For some reason, Griba actually sticks to this, despite the fact that Sunya’s arms are clearly tied to the ‘web’ with more rope. In any case, Ator unties her and she pulls free effortlessly, while two feet away Griba pretends to struggle futilely against the mysteriously sticky part of the web he’s trapped in. I don’t know, maybe it’s like combination skin or something. In any case, we’re supposed to appreciate the irony of the treacherous Griba falling victim to the very Spider God that he intended to feed Sunya to. Yeah. Wow. Makes you think.
Outside, Sunya throws herself into her husband’s arms and, concentrating every morsel of gray matter in her skull, manage to express a thought of sorts. “Ator,” she pleads. “Take me away from here.” Ator, however, still has a job to finish. And so he waits in the outside arena for the Ancient one to be rolled out. Er, sally forth.
His task, to our middling amusement, naturally involves killing the Ancient One in such a way that we needn’t see the body they didn’t build for it. With the Awesome Arachnid framed in a tunnel entrance, Our Hero approaches the camera, representing more or less the predicted Giant Spider POV Shot. (Actually, the camera is mounted right behind its furry head.) Upon reaching his mark, he awkwardly pokes and prods his sword towards the camera. Booming music plays in a markedly failed attempt to foster something more than severe audience apathy.
To be fair, they do during this scene give us a pretty good look at the giant spider (not that this is necessarily a very good idea), which is admittedly of the ‘Had kids built it for a high school parade float it would be fairly impressive’ variety. As a film prop, maybe not so much, although it would be amusing to see what it would draw on eBay were it still intact.
And so Ator proceeds to, I guess, blind the Ancient One with his magic shield. (Does being shiny technically make it ‘magic’? I guess.) Unlike Dakkar, though, it doesn’t blow up. Nor, for that matter, did Ator when he himself looked into it earlier, so I’m not sure exactly how the mirror works. Or rather, I know exactly how it works. It does whatever the script says it does.
In any case, Ator stands there for a minute or two, noodling his sword around, the music straining to impart excitement to the whole thing. Slashing sound effects are dubbed in, and eventually they drop the prop spider to the ground. With Ator’s epic quest finally at an end, the Shield of Mordor shatters, albeit for no evident reason.
Ator re-enters the Temple. There he naturally finds Roon surrounded by a heap of dead foes. She is, needless to say, mortally wounded in the traditional Just Hanging On Until She Admits She Always Loved Him manner. We can tell, because she has a slight amount of stage blood trailing from the corner of her mouth. Actually, this looks more like a ketchup smear one might get while eating a Big Mac, but anyway. Ator tenderly draws her close, and she more or less admits that She Always Loved Him, and expires.
Next up is a volcanic eruption (??). This is odd, because that’s how Lost World movies are supposed to end, not Barbarian Films. Ah, well. It does allow for the introduction of stock footage featuring effects and pyrotechnics far beyond those actually created for this movie.
Following a good stretch of molten lava and eruption footage, we inexplicably cut to a markedly serene forestscape. Skunky is seen cavorting around to the strains (and I do mean strains) of a pretty bad pop love ballad, no doubt entitled “The Love Theme from Ator, the Fighting Eagle.” This sounds to have been inspired by someone listening way too many times to Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only,” and moreover there are moments when I swear the song is being warbled off-key.
Sure enough, after a few lines of this serve as an intro, a smiling Ator and Sunya come running into shot. Their pearly whites gleam as they run hand in hand and generally act in such a nauseating fashion that you wish she’d stayed stuck in that spider web. Bonus points, meanwhile, for actually ending the film on a ‘romantic’ freeze frame. (!!) Blech.
Pam and Steve over at the superlative Gangrene Widescreen, my favorite review site alongside Liz Kingsley’s, did me the huge honor of inviting me to add a couple of comments to their own review of this film (a decision they’ve no doubt come to regret on several levels by now).
Unsurprisingly, the handful of brief comments they requested turned into an entire review. Wading through the chaff for a few sorry bits of wheat, they grabbed a few lines (which at least by comparison further illustrate just how good and hilarious their own stuff is). The following is the remainder of my ‘brief’ submissions.
Since the costumes were likely recycled from other, more expensive movies, they didn’t really stand out (at least to me) as being a particularly bad part of the movie. Ator’s outfit, designed mostly so as to frame his dynamite abs and consisting largely of a small bronze chest plate adorned with fur hot pants and booties, is certainly fairly risible.
In the end, however, I have to vote collectively for the women’s costumes. Not that there’s another particularly wrong with them as such, but rather because they’re always wearing them. I’m not the sort to demand gratuitous nudity in every move I watch, but c’mon, this is a Barbarian Movie.
In the end, there’s a reason why crap like Deathstalker or Sorceress is fondly remembered cable TV fare for a generation of then young viewers, while Ator, the Fighting Eagle is comparatively forgotten. That’s because those movies paid the extra fifteen dollars required to get *ahem* actresses like Barbi Benton, Lana Clarkson and the Harris Twins to drop their tops. Good grief, this is a movie where Laura freakin’ Gemser doesn’t get naked!
Character I Most Wanted to Die:
I was handicapped here by the film’s glaring lack of an Odious Comic Relief figure. Moreover, there’s a pretty consistent level of tedious dumbness amongst the characters. Nobody really struck me as more boring, irritating or fundamentally retarded than any other character in the film. In the end, I therefore am going with Sunya, who in the end is an entirely incidental character. Roon, at least, does stuff, and in fact does more stuff than the film’s hero for most of the running time.
First, there’s Sunya’s creepy instant acceptance of the fact that she and Ator aren’t brother and sister. Informed of this, she (as well as, admittedly, her beau) just smiles in a dazed fashion, visibly content that she and her man can do the deed without having to make a case for brother-and-sister lovin’. Which, let me remind us all, was actually their backup plan.
In the end, Sunya sums up the difference between doe-eyed innocence and cow-eyed vacuousness. It’s notable that by the time the first sequel (best known to MST3K aficionados as Cave Dwellers) rolled around two years later, Sunya was nowhere to be found.
Sword ‘n’ Sorcery movies (especially Italian ones) fill me with an underlying sense of dread as I watch them. Such films generally follow this template:
1) We meet the warlord villain.
2) We meet the prophesized hero as a callow youth.
3) The callow youth sets forth (usually after his usually adopted home is destroyed) and engages in a long series of utterly random adventures.
4) Having eaten up the necessary amount of running time, the hero is now ready to confront the warlord villain, and does so.
Step 3 is where the trepidation comes in. Since the random adventures have no bearing on the plot, you never know until the next scene begins if they now are finally ready to return to, and eventually end, the larger narrative. Despite my fears, however, Ator the Fighting Eagle does in fact reach a conclusion, after maybe six or seven hours of running time.*[*Weirdly, my DVD counter indicates that it ends after a mere 90 minutes. However, that’s presumably because the mechanism is broken, as I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to pack that much suck into an hour and a half.]
Letter Grade: D
Having surveyed carefully the posted criteria set forth by Steve and Pam, it’s clear that Ator, the Fighting Eagle is a pretty solid ‘D.’ “Much of the film consists of filler materialâ€¦holds interest just barely enough to reach the endâ€¦” Yeah, that about covers it. Moreover, while I’m not an especial fan of the Barbarian Movie genre, one can easily imagine the dismay that results when one of them watches the films’ tepid ‘PG’ antics, completely devoid as they are of any nudity or gore. It’s like watching a blaxploitation film without, well, any nudity or gore. Or a biker film without any, uhâ€¦. OK, you get my point.
Here we get a real outtake. One of Pam and Steve’s ‘awards’ for this film was Worst Wig. Being a complete moron, I riffed at typical length about O’Keeffe’s huge pile of hair. Eventually, however, a clearly embarrassed, albeit typically discrete, Steve explained to me in a series of very small words that O’Keeffe wasn’t eligible for the award, because his hair was actually his own, and not in fact a wig.
However, since I’ve exposed myself as a monumental doofus on this site already, I might as well include the fruits of my imperceptiveness.
This proved a particularly hard fought category (certainly harder fought than any of the fight scenes in the movie). My natural inclination is to award it to Miles O’Keeffe’s Amazing Colossal Coif. Its origin presumably resulted from something like this:
Miles O’Keeffe, touring set during pre-production: “That lighting guy seemed like a nice fellow, Maria. Hey, who’s this? The wig-maker? Put it there, buddy. Nice to meetcha.”
Comic Ethnic Italian Wig-Maker: “It-nice-to-uh-meet-you-too. [Gestures around head.] Umn, how-you-want-your, uh, weeg to-look, Senor O’Keeffeâ€¦”
Comic Ethnic Italian Wig-Maker, still gesturing about head: “Uh, sorry, my Englishâ€¦’Miles’? Like, uh, very beeg, correct?”
O’Keeffe, winking, slaps his shoulder: “Yeah, that’s right. Please. Just ‘Miles.'”
Comic Ethnic Italian Wigmaker, now gesturing more widely about head: “Ah, yes. Caspisco. ‘Miles.’ SÃ¬. I go start now.”
That whimsical vignette by the boards, the reasons for assigning the fiercely contested title of Worse Wig to O’Keeffe seem obvious. First, and most basically, his wig really sucks. [Editor Ken: Hmm, OK, maybe I should have taken that part out.] Second of all, it obviously receives far more screentime than any other wig in the movie. As I learned in high school, it’s better to get punched in the face only once every half hour rather than once every two or three minutes.
However, I can’t get past the utilitarianism of the wig. Aside from providing protection against any falling pieces of masonry or buzz bombs, O’Keeffe was to keep and continue to employ his wig for many a year subsequent. Along with appearances in the two Ator sequels, the wig proved an integral part of O’Keeffe’s costume when he played a series of small bars and juke joints as lead singer of “This is What Happened to Baby Jane!,” his Twisted Sister cover band.
On a related note, kudos to Dakkar, who retained some small portion of his dignity through the simple expedient of shaving his head and convincing the director that this provided his character a suitably villainous and exotic look.
Thanks to Jabootu Proofreading Minister Mr. Carl Fink, who hasn’t lost a step during our hiatus in helping to keep these reviews at least somewhat readable.