Deep in the hallows of the earth the dreaded Mole People crawl and wait for the opportune moment to unleash their fiendish influence upon the cinematic world, their vast mineral resources providing them with the money needed to produce their insufferably terrible films and fund the insidious human agents who aid them in their demented revenge scheme against us, the Above Dwellers, out of spite for our ability to see, and thus enjoy well-made classic movies. Their blind and malicious influence knows no bounds, and Hollywood is not there any base of operations, as Joe D’Amato’s Italian based 1984 sword-and-sorcery fantasy ‘Ator l’invincibile 2’ (aka as ‘Ator the Invincible 2’, aka ‘The Blade Master’, aka ‘Ator, the Blade Master’, aka ‘Cave Dwellers’, aka ‘The Return’) proves.
The film is just one in a series of adventures focusing on Conan Ator the Barbarian (Miles O’Keeffe), a sword-wielding warrior from a vaguely defined time period, who uses his brute strength, sharp wits, and mute Asian assistant Thong (Chen Wong) to defeat strange cults, evil-doers and demented sorcerers, and is most definitely not a blatant rip-off of Conan the Barbarian, but a completely original creation.
In this second entry in the ‘Ator’ series (viewing the first film is made redundant by the painfully slow flashback sequence at the beginning of the film), Ator’s teacher and mentor Akronas (Charles Borromel) has discovered the “Geometric Nucleus”, a device of incredible power that could be used a terrible weapon were it ever to fall into the hands of evil men. Being the wise and prophetic man that he is, Akronas wisely destroys the Nucleus, thus preventing it from falling into the wrong hands, and sparing the world the risk of being utterly destroyed.
Ha! Just kidding. What Akronas actually does instead is keep the potentially dangerous weapon in his unguarded, easily penetrable castle and then wait until the evil warrior Zor (David Brandon) is right on his doorstep before sending his daughter Mila (Lisa Foster) out to retrieve his former student Ator to help him keep the device out of Zor’s hands. Needless to say, the plan works out as well as a styrofoam submarine, with Akronas being easily captured by Zor’s forces, and Mila taking an arrow to the shoulder, just making it to Ator’s cave before she collapses from her wound.
After healing Mila of her wounds and learning the fate of his mentor, Ator, assisted by Mila and Thong, sets out to save the kidnapped Akronas, while digressing from the main plot of the film only three or four times along the way to do battle with a gang of samurai, some invisible warriors, a group of cannibal cave-men, and an evil snake cult that worships a giant puppet because the film apparently takes place during the mysterious Akkadian Empire of the Bronze Feudal Japan Age–that long forgotten, blood-soaked, and utterly made-up epoch from mankind’s dark and murky past where the concept of “time” and “sanity” does not exist.
But “time” and “sanity” are not the only concepts that gets swept under the rug by D’Amato, or his inhuman masters. The concepts of “set-design” and “wardrobe” are also cruelly casted aside in favor of dressing up the actors in cheap scraps of left-over costume material, and providing them with props that looked like that had been assembled by some despondent carpenter from stuff he found laying about his garage after he was told that he had to build every prop for the film in under four minutes less his entire family be killed.
“Pacing” is another concept that appears to be kept miles away from the set of D’Amato’s film. Not only does the film itself progress at the speed of a limping and half-dead slug, but the characters’ dialogue is also filled with so many pauses and odd beats (particularly David Brandon’s) that one suspects the actors are not used to the “above ground” atmosphere, and therefore must speak slowly for fear of becoming light-headed and fainting, thus revealing their origins as mole-born agents meant to blend in with the Above Dwellers and gather information for their blind mole masters.
But even more impressive than the cheap costumes or idiosyncratic acting are the films many, many anachronisms. Indeed, out-of-place objects reoccur so frequently within D’Amato’s film that it is impossible to deny that their presence is the result of sloppy research or mere laziness. Rather it only serves as proof that D’Amato is but a human puppet for those demented Mole People who resent our sight and enjoyment of good cinema, and the presence of these many obvious mistakes is obviously part of some insidious plot meant to corrupt and destroy our understanding of Time and memory.
Handrails in an ancient castle? Tire-tracks in a dirt road? Nomadic villagers donning modern-day sunglass? Inaccurate? Yes. Confusing? Yes. But perhaps the most brazen and mindboggling of all these purposeful anachronisms can be found near the end of the film, when Ator and company are attempting to rescue Akronas from Zor following their many digressive battles against other evils. In a scene that prompts the brain into eating itself out of sheer madness, the film desperately wants us to believe that within a matter of minutes, Ator is able to fashion a hang-glider out of sticks, deer-skin, and other primitive means, and then soar off a cliff and into Zor’s castle whilst dropping crude bombs upon Zor’s forces below.
‘Where did Ator get the gunpowder and other materials for those bombs?’ your brain asks itself. ‘He couldn’t have had them on his person during the journey because he was never shown using them in all those other battles he took place in, so what? Did he get them from the forest while he was building that hang-glider? Wait! How does a hang-glider made out of sticks and tanned skins even work? And how was he able to build it so fast? Don’t animal hides have to be laid out in the sun for like three or four days before their strong and dry enough to be used? And hold on a minute! Why does Zor’s castle have a Bavarian flag sticking out the top of it? Isn’t this movie supposed to take place centuries before Bavaria was even a thing? What the–‘ and then your brain starts to eat itself before you finish that thought because that’s precisely what D’Amato and his dreaded Mole masters want to happen!
The trick — and indeed, the only way to spare your sanity — while viewing Joe D’Amato’s ‘Ator l’invincibile 2’ is to shut your brain down and not think during the course of the movie. Don’t question the ridiculous multitude of anachronisms, don’t wince at the awful acting and strangely punctuated delivery, don’t try to make sense of the film’s plot digressions or cheap costume designs. Instead, merely sit back and watch the parade of phantasmal awfulness that is ‘Ator l’invincibile 2’ and — most important of all — don’t forget to laugh. Our laughter at their attempts to destroy us is like fingernails on a chalkboard to the dreaded Mole People and their diabolical human agents. We might be powerless to destroy them, but our ridicule and mockery of their purposefully awful movies shall allow us to preserver.
Find the nearest Blockbuster near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.