In addition to producing Ator, The Fighting Eagle for his Filmirage company, Joe D'Amato wrote, directed and photographed it, though he conceals these involvements behind his David Hills and Frederick Slonisko pseudonyms.
His contribution as cinematographer is infinitely superior to his direction and writing, with some genuinely impressive lighting effects and compositions, such as the Dutch Master style lighting in the Birth of Ator scene and the sunlight shining through the clouds in the Forest of the Dead.
The Birth of Ator
The Spider King's Temple
In the Forest of the Dead; the play of light here is beautiful
Alas, as these capital plot points and locations indicate, everything else is pretty much by the numbers stuff.
An introductory voice-over sets the scene to stock footage of mountain tops: The Spider King has oppressed the land for a millennia of darkness. There was a hero, Torin, but he failed to defeat the Spider King. This is where Torin's son, Ator, will succeed...
Ator's birth is preceded by various portents, leading the Spider King's high priest, Dakkar (who is conveniently played by Dakkar) to send his Black Knights out to kill any newborn bearing Torin's mark.
Fortunately for the helpless child the mysterious Griba (an unrecognisable Edmund Purdom, wearing a Warrior of Genghis Khan outfit) is on hand to magically conceal the mark and deliver the child to safety in the form of family of farmers who agree to raise him as if he were their own son.
The years pass and Ator (Miles O'Keeffe) has grown up. He's also developed a romantic interest in his adoptive sister, Sunya (Ritza Brown), which she reciprocates. Happily, because they aren't really brother and sister it doesn't get classified as incest, and so their parents happily consent to their marriage. (Thinking back to Anthropology 101, I suppose there's no reason why this couldn't happen in certain cultures; if incest taboos are universal the specifics of who you can and can't marry also vary.)
Sunya and Ator
Ator wielding his sword and staff
Unfortunately Griba has been spotted hanging around the village by one of Dakkar's men, who reports the news to the high priest. He and his men go on a search and destroy mission, interrupting Ator and Sunya's wedding celebrations (including an interpretive dance routine that would be more at home in something sullo stesso filone Flashdance or Fame than Conan the Barbarian), killing their parents and most of the other villagers, and taking Sunya away with them to the temple. They fail, however, to find Griba or realise to who Ator is, leaving him for dead with the others...
Awakening, is understandably annoyed and swears revenge. At this point Griba conveniently shows up once more and begins to reveal Ator's true destiny to him...
Cue encounters with the amazon/valkyrie thief, Roon (Sabrina Siani); a sorceress (Laura Gemser) and the blind warriors of the caves who guard the Shield of Mordor (sic) that Ator needs if he is to fulfill his mission...
Other 'highlights' include Ator's annoying bear cub, Keog, which has the habit of appearing and disappearing whenever convenient to the plot; Dakkar's assembling his dozen or so Black Knights on the dozen or so steps of the Spider King's temple like some kind of a cut-price Thulsa Doom; Sayna's entrapment in a spider web that looks like a reject from Bloody Pit of Horror; some stock footage of volcanic eruptions; loads of dry ice being all too obvious blown in front of the camera, and a truly awful closing theme.
Carlo Maria Cordio's own music is surprisingly good, getting the Basil Polodouris vibe just right and, as we've already said, whenever you're feeling prone to give up completely D'Amato pulls one of those stunning images out of his bag of tricks. Wonder why the cinematography wasn't credited to Aristide Masaccessi?
All told, good, cheesy fun if taken in the right spirit (or with a large glass of spirits, J&B being the obvious choice, even if the setting precluded the usual product placement).