There’s no shortage of criticism levelled at Joe D’Amato’s slice of sword and sorcery buffoonery, recently the subject of a MST3K lampooning. That’s all well and good; I’ve no problem with a bit of fun, as long as the full version of the film is around for comparisons. But Ator doesn’t need a laugh-track; there’s such a succession of such weird miscalculations, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up making your own entertainment.
Let’s start with Ator himself, or Ator the Invincible, as this film was known in some territories. Ator is a chosen one, with immense value to the ongoing political struggle taking place in the Spider Kingdom. Ator is born, and disguised, by the resourceful Griba (Edmund Purdom) who spirits him away to a small tribe, where he grows up to be Miles O’Keeffe, in the early throes of his precipitous career decline post Tarzan The Ape Man. In his long blonde hair with Julia Roberts ringlets, Ator is one of the most ridicuous looking heroes this side of the Beastmaster, made worse by the actor’s slow delivery of lines, positively daring the audience to answer for him. Ator’s first interest is marrying his own sister, which doesn’t help with identification, but far worse is to come for both Ator and the viewer.
Griba returns and starts training Ator to kick-back against the Spider Cult, but the two are separated and Ator ends up bought and sold to a tribe of Amazon women led by Roon (Sabrina Siani), who coyly announces ‘I don’t use names.’ It’s not clear what import this revelation has, but Ator wins her round and continues of a quest involving seductive witches who are crones in disguise, magic mirrors, and eventual revenge on the High Priest who wanted him dead.
As we head for our second climax, we discover, vague spoiler alert, that Griba is in fact Ator’s real enemy, a cool twist which kind of begs the question why Griba has spent twenty years dedicating his life to training Ator as a deadly fighting machine? The idiocy is amusingly relentless; ‘What are you doing here?’ Roon asks Ator as he slips into the cave of the Spider Cult; she speaks as casually as if she’s run into him at the Whole Foods check-out queue. Everyone ends up pretending to be caught in a giant web while a barely-seen-for-a-reason giant spider notably fails to menace them.
Ator is full of memorable moments, but not for the right reasons. Purdom was a 50’s star whose career had slid beyond recognition by 1982, and his every appearance here in a Toyah Wilcox wig and Fu Manchu moustache provokes mirth, as do his exhortations for Ator to grow up and finally ‘reach manhood,’ Ator the Fighting Eagle’s juvenile fantasy seems to encouraged enough viewers to reach for their own manhoods for three sequels to be made, but your reporter will make his excuses and leave after this likeable, unappreciated effort. Players gonna play, haters gonna hate, but this one’s for all the Ator’s out there.