Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1982)
aka Ator l’invicible
Article 6046 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Miles O’Keeffe, Sabrina Stani, Ritza Brown
What it is: Sword and Sorcery on a budget
Ator must fulfill his destiny by destroying an evil spider cult.
One of the worst acting performances I ever gave was for a radio play where we were instructed to read our lines as deliberately and slowly as possible. The reason? – the script was too short to fill in the thirty minute running time needed for the production. This is one of those movies that suffers from the same problem; there simply isn’t enough script to comfortably fill up an hour and a half of running time. That’s why there’s so much dead air in the movie (such as the scenes of the baby bear running through the forest) as well as lengthy pauses between lines of dialogue; they’re trying to pad it to acceptable feature length. Add to that a hero who looks more like the lead vocalist in an eighties hair band and a production singularly short in spectacle, and you have a pretty poor excuse for epic fantasy. Dull and silly.
The Beastmaster (1982)
Article 6045 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Featuring Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Dr. Doolittle meets Sword and Sorcery
A warrior with telepathic ability over animals faces off against an evil high priest.
Though I think it runs a good 25 minutes too long (I’d do some trimming during the first hour of the movie), it’s hardly the worst Sword and Sorcery movie I’ve seen, but it’s hardly the best either. There’s enough here to make for a decent time-killer; the final battle is fairly exciting, the stunt work is pretty good (especially during a sequence in which a fight takes place on the steep sides of a pyramid), and I don’t have any major problems with the cast. I also like that the leopard looks a bit odd, and no wonder; it was actually a tiger dyed black, though the dye doesn’t surround the mouth in some scenes. My biggest problem with the movie is that the story isn’t really all that interesting; it’s a standard issue Sword and Sorcery story. Oddly enough, the opening prophecy turns out to not quite come true, but I suppose bringing a ferret into it would have only drawn laughs.
Beyond Evil (1980)
Article 6044 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Herb Freed
Featuring John Saxon, Lynda Day George, Michael Dante
What it is: Witch possession
An architect and his wife move to an island and take up residence in a mansion believed to be haunted by a witch. The wife begins acting strangely…
You know, if your horror movie is traversing a much-worn plot path, it takes quite a bit of inspiration and novelty value to keep things fresh. And there are a few touches here that do add a bit of novelty to the proceedings, the most interesting one here being the role a wedding ring plays in the outcome. Unfortunately, any fresh ideas here can’t alleviate the lethargic unfolding of the story (which includes far too many vague and awkward conversations in which nothing is revealed) and its inability to mine suspense from the situation because it doesn’t realize that the audience is probably two steps ahead at every point. The end result is another one of those by-the-numbers horror movies that have minimum impact if any at all.
The Beast Within (1982)
Article 6043 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Philippe Mora
Featuring Ronnie Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens
What it is: Doesn’t quite work thanks to editing
A woman is raped by something or someone in the woods. Seventeen years later, her son begins undergoing a physical change. Is this the result of the earlier event?
This was one of those movies whose ad campaigns I remember from the time it was released. The campaign emphasized the grotesque nature of a transformation sequence that takes place in the final third of the movie, and this made me suspect that the movie was really only going to be a so-so variant of a werewolf movie. Having now seen it, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would, largely because most of the movie concerns itself with solving the mystery of the secret scandal of a small southern town, which is one of those types of plot to which I am partial. Still, I had the feeling that this plot and the one involving the transformation of the boy wouldn’t quite mesh, and I still felt so by the end of the movie.
However, I have a habit of reviewing the trivia section of IMDB when I finish watching a movie, and I discovered that the scene in which the scandal finally comes to light was severely cut, removing some information that ties the two sides of the movie together. So this movie is another example of how important editing is in the building of a movie. However, I know there is a longer version of this movie, and that may be the one to catch. And the transformation sequence is indeed memorable.
Warlords of the 21st Century (1982)
Article 6042 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Harley Cokeliss
Featuring Michael Beck, Annie McEnroe, James Wainwright
Country: New Zealand
What it is: Driving on retreads
It’s after the apocalypse. A motorcycle-driving loner finds himself mixed up with a woman on the run, a democratic commune, and a violent military dictator who tools around the wasteland in a big armored truck.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is your basic low-budget variation of THE ROAD WARRIOR lacking George Miller’s wit and style. For the record, it’s competently mounted, has one (minor) surprise in the story, and is watchable enough to get by, though I would hardly call it inspired. Like DAMNATION ALLEY, the most impressive thing about this one is the armored truck, which is probably the only thing that may stick in your mind a few days after watching it.