Friday, March 11, 2011

Clonin' the Barbarian: QUEST FOR THE MIGHTY SWORD (1990)

Diving into the Italian ATOR series has given us Video Junkies a case of the heebie-jeebies as we feel like we have entered some kind of bizarre alternate universe.  How else can you explain exploitation master Joe D’Amato delivering sleaze free films, while resident pasta-land hack Alfonso Brescia gives us an unofficial (and entertaining) Ator entry filled with blood, boobs and battles? D’Amato must have been furious (“Ator musta be bland”) and decided to “right” this “wrong” by returning to the series with the insipid final chapter QUEST FOR THE MIGHTY SWORD.  Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the blandest Ator of them all?

This is actually an attempt to remake, er, reboot the Ator legend.  The film opens with Nephele (Marisa Mell) telling the young Ator (Eric Allan Kramer, definitely not looking eighteen) the story of how he came to be the human slave of troll alchemist Grindel.  Seems his dad Prince Ator (Kramer again) brought justice to the land with the Sword of the Sacred Aquiles.  A villain named Thorn wants the sword and a goddess named DeJanira (Margaret Lenzey) tries to intervene.  Prince Ator is killed and his sword split by Thorn, a total bummer for his wife and baby son Ator sitting nearby.  For her meddling, DeJanira is encased for eternity in a ring of fire.  Meanwhile, the widowed wife of Ator decides the best course of action is to give Ator, Jr. and the broken sword to Grindel and have him concoct a suicide potion for herself.  Uh, thanks mom.  Grindel is a sneaky one though and gives her a potion to make her a slut so he can get some troll-on-chick action.  Got all that?  Me neither.  

Somehow it is Ator’s destiny to free DeJanira, find the sword and become the rightful ruler of the land.  Of course, he has bigger fish to fry.  Naturally, Ator is pissed to find out his mom did it with that troll and vows to kill him.  He sees Grindel bust out the sword and grabs it when the wizard isn’t looking.  Oh, you are so gonna pay now for making my mom bump super-uglies with you.  Ator swings the sword right at Grindel’s head and it shatters.  Haha, you sucker! It was a fake and now Grindel knows what Ator will do if he ever finds the real sword, which is what happens next.  Grindel leaves the sword lying about and Ator snags it and swings it right at Grindel’s head.  And it shatters…again.  OMFG!  Did Ator just really fall for that twice?  Damn, son, that peroxide in your hair must have seeped into your brain.

My sentiments exactly!
For being such a dumbass, Ator has a blind spell put on him by Grindel and is left locked inside the cave (yes, it has a gate; must be a rough neighborhood).  Stumbling around, Ator breaks the spell by getting water in his eyes and he notices the reflection on a shield pointing to a huge boulder by the wall.  He moves it and – lo and behold – there is the real sword he has been looking for.  So, yes, the quest for the mighty sword that the title promises lasts for two minutes and involves Ator searching a 5x8 cave set.  Yay!  Ator performs the world’s fastest sword re-forging and waits for Grindel to come back.  Third time is the charm as the lovable troll is cleaved in half by Ator’s real sword.  Jeez, finally!  Ator is now free from slavery and ready to begin his mission to free his love DeJanira.

It's supposed to be a dragon
Of course, it isn’t going to be easy as Nephele informs Ator he must offer the Gods the “treasure of the king of the Wests.”  She informs him it can be found in a cave guarded by a Siamese Twin robot thingy before giving Ator the “my journey ends here” ditch line.  The conjoined robot is no match for Ator’s wits though as he hides in a small cave they can’t fit into and then slices them in half.  Ator heads for the treasure but then encounters a fire-breathing dragon. What the hell?  Nephele didn’t say nothin’ about no fire-breathing dragon.  A few well placed chops and Ator once again wins.  He finally finds the treasure and offers it to the Gods (by screaming “I offer this treasure to you”).  This allows him to go to into DeJanira’s tomb and release her from her spell.  No joke, Ator woos her by saying, “You no longer live forever like the Gods, you live and die like a mortal.”  Somehow that doesn’t seem right.  Releasing her causes a volcano to erupt in a spew of stock footage, but our heroes make it.

Dr. Butcher, Dermatologist
Freshly in love, Ator does his new woman right and takes her to the local bar; truly a barbarian in touch with his feminine side.  But, wouldn’t you know it, the honeymoon gets off to a rocky start when Ator spots his whore mom hanging around.  He saves her from a beating by a burly beau and she offers her “services” to Ator in return.  Ew, gross.  But he recognizes her (I’m not sure how) and this releases her from her curse, turning her into an old lady.  Our heroes do the obligatory fire funeral before heading off on their quest again, which I’m starting to forget what it is.  They team up with a boomerang wielding Skiold (Chris Murphy) before DeJanira is kidnapped by the men of Gunther (Donald O’Brien) and Grimilde (Laura Gemser), a brother-and-sister team who rule the kingdom. Boil-faced Gunther, who spends his time making human sculptures, desires DeJanira while Grimilde wants to get in Ator’s codpiece.  So now it is a rescue movie.

Ow, my head.  That was my exact reaction after watching this final entry into the ATOR series.  I should have known something was totally amiss when they couldn’t get Miles O’Keeffe, who was still doing b-flicks like LIBERTY & BASH (1989) and CARTEL (1990).  Not only that but they cast a guy who is the polar opposite of Miles O’Keeffe in every way.  Eric Allan Kramer, just shy of 30 when filming, is tough to swallow at an 18-year-old thanks to his frizzy, thinning hair.  It is funny how you can freeze the film at any minute to guess which rock star he looks like.  Meat Loaf and CC Deville popped into my head the most.  Backing him up in the acting department is Margaret Lenzey, who is quite attractive but a terrible actress.  It seems like D’Amato couldn’t be bothered as he even left a bit of her flubbing a line.  Check it out:



Oh jeez, not this angle again!
On the plus side, you do get to see Italian film genre vets like O’Brien (sadly, post-stroke, although it fits his character) and Gemser in a reasonably well made film.  There are some decent cave and castle sets.  Also, the cinematography (also by D’Amato) is nice and the production had enough of a budget to do a few good costumes.  Amusingly, the Grindel character is a recycled get up from the earlier Filmirage production of TROLL 2. They do continue the series staple of having a weak ass monster costume though (here displayed by the dragon that looks like it belongs in a Godzilla fanfest contest).

Still, this is a horrible way to end our love affair with the mighty Ator.  This is, sadly, one of the last few of “legit” films D’Amato made before diving into the porn world full time until his death.  QUEST is pretty much a microcosm of the Italian film industry at this time period.  On a whole it was dying a slow death and – like a zombie hungry for one last meal – they were cannibalizing anything that made them a buck back in the day.  Too little, too late though as this is one of the last – if not the last – attempts to capitalize on a genre that was pretty much destroyed by CONAN THE DESTROYER (apt title, eh) in the United States back in 1984.

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