All Hail Ator the Fighting Eagle!

All Hail Ator the Fighting Eagle!

Welcome back creeps and ghouls! Remember last time when I took a look at the blockbuster cinematic adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian hero Conan the Barbarian? Yeah, well wait until you get a load of what that film wrought in its mighty wake.


As ol’ Conan was becoming a legend at the box office, folks in the movie biz worldwide started to take notice. Never one to let a cinematic trend go unexploited, the Italians were some of the first to realize they could tap into the sword and sorcery zeitgeist. Their response to Conan? Why Ator the Fighting Eagle of course!

Joe D’Amato, director of such family fare as Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and Porno Holocaust, brought the adventures of Ator to movie screens a mere 5 months after the premier of Conan. While incredibly similar to its more famous antecedent: Ator leaves his small village to go on an epic quest to rescue his sister (instead of the daughter of an aging monarch) from the clutches of a villain whose whole shtick is based around spiders (instead of snakes like Thulsa Doom).

So, how does Ator differ from Conan? Well, Miles O’ Keefe (Tarzan the Ape man) has one of the most preposterous wigs in cinematic history (if this is in fact the actor’s own hair I apologize…well for the wig part, it’s still outrageous in its abject terribleness). While we are on the subject of wigs, remember James Earl Jones’ Bettie Page style number from Conan? Here they go the opposite route and provide us with a bald villain in disco eye shadow (Dakar from Marino Girolami’s Zombie Holocaust). We also have some almost incest (Ator falls in love with his sister, but thankfully Ator is adopted, so score!), and a giant spider that defies logic in the ineptitude of its execution (those strings wouldn’t be more visible if they were spray painted neon orange)!

All in all, Ator is a great time… it’s fun, over the top, and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: Conan on one tenth of the budget. The film was also followed by 3 sequels (2 of which were helmed by D’Amato): The Blademaster (1984 – the same year as the Conan sequel, Conan the Destroyer), Iron Warrior (1987 this time directed by Alfonso Brescia after D’Amato left when he realized there wasn’t going to be a third Conan film), and Quest for the Mighty Sword (1988 – which saw the return of D’Amato, but the exit of O’Keefe as Ator who was replaced by Eric Allan Kramer who played Thor in The Incredible Hulk Returns and Little John in Robin Hood: Men in Tights).

If you want to get in on the fun of Ator, here’s a good place to start!

As some of you may know, my longtime collaborator and Team Retroist member Sean Hartter passed away April 27th. He was working on coloring the illustration that accompanies this article at the time of his passing. I have left the piece uncolored in tribute to my friend.

Stay Spooky!

Daniel XIII

Daniel XIII: equally at home at a seance as he is behind the keyboard! Raised on a steady diet of Son of Satan comics, Kaiju flicks and Count Chocula, ol' XIII is a screenwriter, actor, and reviewer of fright flicks! What arcane knowledge lurks behind the preternatural eyes of the Ouija Board Kid?

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Fantastic post, Dan! I actually saw Ator in our local movie theater with my Father…he couldn’t quite make it through the whole movie though…he fell asleep about halfway through the film.

  2. I have a SEVERE weakness for low budget fantasy films; the Ator flicks are among the best of the worst!

  3. @Vic I wish I’d seen it in the theater, but alas my home away from home “the video store” is where I first experienced the spider fightin’, (not quite) sister lovin’ goodness that is Ator!

    @Chris I too share that weakness! What are some of your favorites?

  4. @Professor Brian Oblivion Thanks, and yeah the film has a “unique” quality to it, but at least he doesn’t fly a hang glider…at least until part 2!

  5. Ator is the kind of movie that puts me in a trance. The sheer ineptitude of some production aspects, the pure commitment of actually putting a lower-grade copy of a very popular film…
    The whole thing might just be a ploy to make money selling to overseas market at a cheap price, but I grew to love these European takes on our sci-fi/fantasy/horror big screen experiences by catching them on VHS, where the reductive quality of screen size matched the budget, but made watching them an affirmation of my love of movies – all movies (and movie attempts).

    Ator got clobbered by our late 80s rental-cinephile gang, but we knew what we were in for.
    Even cheap fantasy is good stuff (I’ve got Fulci’s Conquest on a mental queue – gotta get that hot foggy mess started soon) and it made me realize that the Conans might’ve had a charismatic bodybuilder going for it, but the higher grade was all in the cinematography, music and staging.
    For the most part, some of these Euro-spins are more entertaining.
    Star Crash is a much more fun SW-knockoff than Battle Beyond The Stars – which is good, but takes itself too seriously (except for Sybil Danning’s jaw-droppingly suspenseful costume).

    Yeah, and to think Ator got a full run of several movies
    Now *that’s* an evening of movie magic with cold beers and cheery buds.

    Here’s a Cheers to more such articles Daniel!

  6. Oh, Conquest is on my list of films to cover in this series! I love that film (and I say that ironically). And, as you may know, Star Crash is one of my favorite films of all time!

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