Sword & Sorcery | Offscreen
The 1980s saw an influx of Sword & Sorcery movies in the wake of the success of Conan the Barbarian, a film adaptation of the fantasy adventures of the 1930s pulp-fiction author Robert E. Howard. The role of the muscular brute Conan, a Nietzschean superman who mocks mortality and acts on pure instinct, earned Arnold Schwarzenegger worldwide recognition.
The Italians were the first to pick up on this, talented as they were when it came to ripping off Hollywood successes such as “Jaws”, “The Exorcist”, or “Star Wars”. They also had a tradition of barely-clothed hunks in sandals - such as Machiste, Ercole, or Goliath - who featured in many Sword & Sandal films in the 1960s. The entertaining “Ator: the Fighting Eagle” is the first in a series of four films around the mighty warrior Ator who has to face all sorts of viciousness. Exploitation director Joe D'Amato, known for superior sleaze such as “Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals” and “Anthropophagus”, was behind the camera and Miles O'Keefe (after his debut as Tarzan in “Tarzan, the Ape Man”) in front.
Then there's “Red Sonja”, a creation of pulp-fiction writer Robert E. Howard and a female counterpart to Conan, inhabiting the same mythic universe. Conan the Barbarian producer Dino De Laurentiis convinced Schwarzenegger to take on a supporting role. Unknown model Brigitte Nielsen is the titular red fury and compensates her total lack of acting ability with athletic and foul-mouthed charm. Arnie once described this as the worst film he ever played in (and the choice is considerable). Nonetheless, “Red Sonja” is an hour and a half of pure guilty pleasure.