Color, 1982, 92m.
Directed by David Hills (Joe D'Amato)
Starring Miles O'Keefe, Sabrini Siani, Ritza Brown, Dakar, Edmund Purdom, Laura Gemser
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC) / (1.78:1) (16:9)
Spawned by the success of Conan the Barbarian, sword and sorcery films in the '80s extended far beyond the realms of Roger Corman and occasional studio fare like Krull, as Italian directors were quick to crank out a number of sword-and-sorcery quickies in the spirit of their muscleman hits from the '60s. One of the more widely-seen variations on this formula was the Ator series, a loosely-connected quartet of films (The Blade Master, The Hobgoblin, and the deliriously bizarre and essentially unrelated Iron Warrior), half of them starring Miles O'Keefe. For those who didn't experience (or don't remember) the 1980s, O'Keefe made his debut on shaky ground starring in the 1981 version of Tarzan, The Ape Man opposite Bo Derek, which got him enough to notice to go packing up for a few years in Italy before coming back to America as a surprisingly durable and appealing action star (not to mention his memorable fanged turn in the cult classic Waxwork).
So, does the plot for the first series entry, Ator the Fighting Eagle, sound familiar? A paranoid, despotic high priest of the Spider cult (former wrestler Dakar from Zombie Holocaust) fears a prophecy that Ator, the son of his warrior nemesis, will destroy him because "the great eagle will shed tears of blood" and Ator will "cast light upon the darkness." So of course he has everyone in Ator's village slaughtered, but of course, a little deception allows the baby to live. When Ator grows up to adulthood, his marriage to his adopted sister, Sunya (Brown), is disrupted by Spider interlopers who plan to sacrifice her to the giant spider god. That's all it takes to have doing a lot of sword-swinging in preparation as he encounters a combat master (Purdom) and a trashy-looking blonde named Roon (Siani) to whom he says things like "Altruism doesn't suit you any better than a maternity room." From there it's a date with destiny as Ator must save his beloved and face down a big eight-legged threat.
Any film that begins with lines like "The earth trembles like a virgin being drawn to the nuptial bed" just has to be amazing, and fortunately Ator the Fighting Eagle doesn't disappoint. This may be one of the more family-friendly titles in the filmography of director Joe D'Amato (credited here as "David Hills") among his sleazier horror and sex outings, but you'll still get plenty of trashy fun here thanks to random elements like a cameo by Laura Gemser, a camera-hogging bear cub, and, yes, a pop theme song at the end following a nearly wall-to-wall warbling synth score by Carlo Maria Cordio (almost but not quite outdoing his work on Troll 2).
Since this isn't a horror film for the usual "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" crowd, Ator been branded as part of "Kat's Skratch Action Cinema" with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters gallivanting across the screen in a cape and furry midriff-baring outfit while she battles a fake spider (and apparently looking for that evil twin sister introduced back on the Mark of Cain disc) and fires out a few facts about the making of the film. Oh, and the standard opening for the series has her slinking across the screen in a tight black kitty outfit, which shouldn't exactly hurt sales. The transfer of the film itself looks fine, certainly miles and miles better than the cruddy earlier DVD from Legend (which was poorly yanked off a VHS copy); while this isn't the most colorful and visually stylish film, the earth tones come through just fine from film elements kept in pretty nice shape. In a major blow to the cinematic arts we're deprived of an O'Keefe commentary track, but on the positive side you get some trailers for other Scorpion titles like Puppet on a Chain, Malibu High, Quest for Love, Savage Streets, Mortuary, The Return, The House on Sorority Row, and The Survivor.
Reviewed on July 11, 2012.