Color, 1987, 87 mins. 12 secs.
Directed by Alfonso Brescia
Starring Miles O'Keeffe, Savina Gersak, Elisabeth Kaza, Franco Daddi
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Terminal Video (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Iron WarriorThe Iron WarriorItalian craze for '80s sword and sorcery films that really kicked off with Joe D'Amato's Ator the Fighting Eagle in 1982 had pretty much runs its course by the time the last real '80s entry opened in 1987: Ruggero Deodato's The Barbarians and Alfonso Brescia's Iron Master. While the former benefited from the muscle of Cannon Films behind it and the catchy gimmick of the Barbarian Brothers, the latter had to rely on Ator himself, Miles O'Keefe, the muscular star of the much-derided Tarzan, the Ape Man opposite Bo Derek. The film ended up enjoying a very slight theatrical release from Orion Pictures, but it really hit its stride on VHS when it became a mainstay at video stores everywhere for years. The film itself is more or less the third entry in the loose Ator cycle, following The Blade Master and succeeded by D'Amato's belated, O'Keefe-less Quest for the Mighty Sword (a.k.a. The Hobgoblin). There's really little connection between the films apart from the main character's name, though this one does take a third act plot point from The Blade Master, for those who are keeping track.

This time evil, orange-haired sorceress Phaedra (Kaza) is facing a tribunal oddly reminiscent of 1978's Superman for snatching a young boy named Trogar, whom she refuses to give up. Iron WarriorHer 18-year banishment gives her time to train her abductee into a formidable telekinetic warrior (Daddi) who sports a metal skull mask and Iron Warriora snazzy red scarf, just the thing to wipe out the entire birthday party for Princess Janna (Sonny Boy's Gersak) when Phaedra decides to show up and put a curse on her. Janna ends up on a journey with Ator (O'Keefe), now sporting a completely different hairstyle and earring, and they face off against a number of arbitrary foes and challenging caves for a date with destiny against the conniving witch and her strongman, who happens to have a very personal connection to Ator.

The only Ator outing not directed by D'Amato, this adventure has little connection to the others with our hero now sporting a completely different past and overall appearance. That's due to the presence of director "Al Bradley," a.k.a. Alfonso Brescia, whose affinity for dreamlike atmosphere and almost nonstop wafting synthesizer music (this time provided by Carlo Maria Cordio) put this closer to the territory of his sci-fi outings like War of the Planets, Battle of the Stars, and the infamous The Beast in Space. On its own terms the film is a surreal blast, focusing entirely on an otherworldly, colorful atmosphere instead of a coherent plot and throwing in nods to dozens of earlier blockbusters including multiple, very identifiable ones by Steven Spielberg. O'Keefe mostly struts around and delivers as little Iron Warriordialogue as possible, which is fine, with the title character getting some of the most Iron Warriormemorable moments in his sparing but effective screen time.

For some reason the Ator cycle has been difficult to see in the digital era apart from the first film, not counting the vandalized edition of The Blade Master as part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 under the title Cave Dwellers. This one fell under the domain of MGM years ago with a fine HD master created for numerous airings on its MGM HD channel, but a DVD only turned up in 2010 from Italy featuring the Italian (2.0 and 5.1) and English tracks. At last U.S. consumers can bask in the glory of Iron Warrior in its full 1080p glory courtesy of the 2019 Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing (available through Ronin Flix and Diabolik), which is from the MGM master and looks about on par with the studio's other '80s catalog titles. Colors look great and very saturated throughout, and detail is satisfying apart from a few gauzy scenes with lots of fog diffusion; the darker cave scenes aren't exactly demo material, but this may be about as good as it gets. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo English track is lots of fun as always, sticking to the original language in which the film was shot (with most of the actors looped by other voice artists as usual). The theatrical trailer is included along with bonus ones for Sword of the Valiant, Deep Space, Land of Doom, and Panga.

Reviewed on May 3, 2019.