Conan the Barbarian was a success, and success breeds imitators. The 80s saw a string of barbarian hero movies. Perhaps one of the strangest that isn’t Robot Holocaust *shudder* comes from the land of spaghetti and frequently dissolved parliaments: Italy! It’s 1984’s Ator l'invincibile 2 AKA The Blade Master aka Cave Dwellers. And yes, the 2 in the title does indeed note that there was a First Ator movie. So what makes this barbarian different from Conan? He fights evil…with SCIENCE!
If you wonder why I actually liked the 2011 Conan remake, THIS is one of the reasons.
After an opening scene where a bunch of cavemen fight for no reason whatsoever and have no connection to the plot proper, we meet an Archimedes-type of guy and his hot daughter. He proceeds to explain that he’s got some sort of dangerous invention very important to mankind’s future and then gives a long and confusing flashback using footage from another Ator movie to establish his warrior credentials. He sends her away to find our hero while he is captured by a somewhat…swishy warlord who was once his student. The Warlord wants the secrets of the Macguffin that will help him conquer…the world I guess. However, the girl makes it our hero’s place (who also happens to be a former student of the sage’s) and convinces him to go rescue her dad.
So off they go in search of ADVENTURE! Along the way they run into some vaguely samurai-looking goons, a magical mist that gets them lost, an extremely well-lit Cave filled with cannibalistic Dwellers (DUN DUN DUN), some invisible monsters, make it to Ator’s home village which is now forced to pay tribute in human sacrifices to a snake cult, get captured by said villagers when he tries to organize a defense against the snake cult, watches the village get burned down by the snake cult, then fight their way out of the Snake Cult’s Snake God’s lair, conduct an air assault on the villain’s fortress and have a final duel (because it always ends in a final duel). So you can’t say that nothing happens in this movie.
And to think I liked snake cults before having to type the above paragraph. Snake cult, snake cult, snake cult.
Wait, air assault? Yeah, that’s a thing that happens in this movie.
Ator: Miles O’Keefe is our beefy, loin-clothed hero. He’s pretty handy in a fight but manages to get captured more than once. Oh, and he can construct a fully functional hang glider that he can drop bombs from. Yes, that happens in this movie.
Mila: Lisa Foster is our heroine and she’s easy on the eyes. Once she finds Ator she doesn’t really do much besides follow his lead, have conversations, and get captured. She wears a hubcap on her chest and can travel great distances with an arrow sticking out of her chest.
Akronas: Charles Borromel is our egalitarian sage. He talks…very…slowly and is full…of exposition.
Zor: David Brandon as David Cain Haughton is our Villain. He’s got a gigantic helmet and a gigantic moustache, both goofy. Oh, and eyeliner. He and Akronas trade passive aggressive “banter” back and forth for the bulk of the movie.
Thong: Kiro Wehara as Chen Wong is Ator’s hyper-competent sidekick who is the one who actually does most of the heroism. He’s also got the best dialogue in the movie. See, since he doesn’t speak, implying that the dialogue isn’t very…ah forget it. Regardless, he’s the badass of the film.
Directed by Joe D’Amato as “David Hills” and cinematography by Joe D’Amato as “Federico Slonisco.” The visuals are uninspired and there are all manner of anachronisms and gaffes throughout the movie. Like hand rails and tire tracks. Costume design…isn’t very good either.
Written by Joe D’Amato as “David Hills,” the story fares a little bit better. It follows standard fantasy movie conventions for a while. Threats are encountered, then somewhat unceremoniously defeated so they can move on to the next fantasy cliché situation. And then we get the hang glider scene and we jump off the cliff from fantasy clichés into surrealism and then at the end we have a shot of a nuclear mushroom cloud and some narration that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the movie.
Original music by Joe D’-- Oh. No, actually its by Karl Michael Demer and Carlo Rustichelli. Lots of synthesizers.
Ator L’invincible 2 is one weird low budget fantasy movie, which makes it eminently riffable and oddly enjoyable. It manages to be weird and not boring. In that regard, its actually quite entertaining and watchable.
Note I didn't say "good" anywhere up there.