I’m glad to finally be reviewing George Pal’s Atlantis the Lost Continent, from the Warner Archive Collection. These good folks were kind enough to provide me with a copy to review, and I am very sorry it took so long to get this done. I can’t tell you how many times I have started to write this, trash it, rewrite it and so on.
George Pal’s Atlantis The Lost Continent (1960) was one of the first movies I discussed here on the Draconic Verses. As regular readers no doubt know, I’m a big George Pal fan. Atlantis is one of his films that I only discovered after watching a documentary on Pal’s career. Please note that the screen captures have not been modified or corrected in any way, other than size.
Our story opens with a narrator (the voice of Paul Frees) giving a brief history of the legend of Atlantis, detailing similarities between cultures separated by an ocean.
Petros (Wolfe Barzell, voiced by Paul Frees) and his son Demetrios (Anthony Hall) are fishermen who happen upon the remains of a ship, on which lies an unconscious woman. Demetrios rescues her despite his father’s warnings.
When the young woman awakens, she claims to be a princess and is not only unimpressed with her new surroundings, she is completely ungrateful for her rescue. She claims to be the Princess of Atlantis far beyond the Pillars of Hercules, but Petros does not believe her because in Greece that is considered to be the edge of the world. Antillia (Joyce Taylor) steals their boat, after she fails to seduce Demetrios, who catches her, but is swayed to sail her home.
During the voyage Demetrios and Antillia seemingly fall in love. As they are about to turn back to Greece, something resembling a giant metal fish rises up next to their boat. It is in fact a scout ship from Atlantis.
On board are Atlantis’ Prime Minister, Zaren (John Dall) and Sonoy the Royal Astrologer (Frank De Kova), who’ve been searching for her. They bring Demetrios and Antillia back to Atlantis, with the promise of reward for the young fisherman. While Antillia goes to see her father, King Kronas (Edgar Stehli, also voiced by Paul Frees), Zaren’s men capture and enslave Demetrios.
When Antillia finally sees her father, she says that she has fallen in love with the man who rescued her and wishes to marry him. The King tells her that Demetrios chose to return to Greece.
In the slave pits, Demetrios meets an old slave named Xandros (Jay Novello) who turns out to be from his village. He finds out that he is to be sent to the mines to dig for crystals to power Zaren’s ultimate weapon. He also finds out that some are brought to what is known as “the house of fear”, where men are somehow turned into beasts.
In shock, she races to the palace to confront her father. There she finds that Kronas ordered Demetrios enslaved, as opposed to being put to death as all foreigners normally are. She realizes that her father is no more than a puppet for Zaren and seek solace in the church of the Gods of Atlantis.
She is found and consoled by Azor, the High Priest of Atlantis (Edward Platt) who brings her to a secret chapel, where he tells her of the one true God and how he shall punish the wicked. He arranges for Demetrios to secretly meet with Antillia, but it is no happy reunion. Antillia tries to convince him that she had no idea he was enslaved until she saw him on the chain gang. He doesn’t believe her and storms out of the chapel.Demetrios is brought to the house of fear, where he sees the Surgeon (Berry Kroger) use a potion and hypnosis to begin changing a man into a bull. Just as the Surgeon is about to begin experimenting on Demetrios, a guard comes in saying that Zaren has chosen the Greek to take the trial of freedom.
The trial of freedom is a battle to the death, pitting Demetrios against a giant gladiator taking place in an arena that is first filled with burning coals and then flooded. Emerging victorious, Demetrios becomes a citizen of Atlantis.At a Council meeting, Zaren convinces the king and his other advisers to declare war on the rest of the world, and subjugate it, saying that if they don’t attack first they themselves will be attacked.
On what is meant as a test of loyalty, after Demetrios fills in Zaren’s map past the Pillars of Hercules, Xandros is brought in and calls Demetrios a traitor. Zaren is convinced that Demetrios is now loyal to him.
Demetrios spends more and more time with Azor, who tells him that the end for Atlantis must surely be near, from all the tremors and how birds and insects have all fled the island. Demetrios talks Zaren into making him the new slave master, which is part of his plan to stop Zaren from conquering the world. Antillia slips into Demetrios’ tent, where we find that Xandros was in on the plan the entire time. The plan is to sabotage the new giant Crystal weapon, delaying the attack fleet leaving before the time that Atlantis will be destroyed according to Azor. A guard overhears the plan and brings back troops to try and overcome the slaves. It’s too late however, as they have already drilled much further than they should have, setting off a burst of magma which hastens the destruction of the island. During their escape Xandros is killed, taking assortment for Demetrios. Is he dies he turns back into a man. He and the others that were transformed are soon avenged, as the Surgeon is killed by his own creations, after their cages were destroyed.
As Atlantis dies, Azor goes to confront Zaren who is using the crystal death ray to kill any attempting to escape. As they struggle, Azor stabs Zaren but is killed as the two of them fall from a parapet. As Zaren begins to rise, he is slain by a random blast of his own death ray.
As Atlantis sinks, Demetrios and Antillia, now reunited, sale for Greece to live happily ever after.
It’s been called Pal’s worst film, but I feel that is very unfair. I think that may come from the fact that it’s hard to define what category Atlantis falls into. There are aspects of horror, akin to those found in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Lost Souls. There are elements of science fiction, similar in theme to the works of Jules Verne. Because of the setting itself, there are very strong elements of sword and sandal epics that were so plentiful in the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately, this confusion of genre permeates the script, and the story does, I’m sorry to say, get derailed from time to time.
The storyline itself is fairly linear, and though somewhat formulaic, it is easy to tell that Pal enjoyed its telling.
The acting is fairly adequate, with few recognizable faces among the crowd, the most familiar being Edward Platt – best known as the Chief on TV’s Get Smart! – and Frank De Kova – instantly recognizable as F Troop‘s Chief Wild Eagle. The real star here is the mass of visual effects. If any of the destruction footage seems familiar to you, it’s because it was used as stock footage for many years to come, both in film and on TV. In fact, Pal himself used some of it during the ‘magic lantern’ presentation in his 1964 film, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. The momentary scenes of ants seemingly migrating away from Atlantis are actually taken from his 1954 production, Byron Haskin’s The Naked Jungle.
Unlike George Pal’s tom thumb (1958), which I’ve previously reviewed, this Warner Archive release is not a re-release so it does not have the advantage of a previous pressing. As such – and this particular pressing is an older one – it has a plain blue screen with no selections except to play the movie.This is the only menu screen.This isn’t a remastered film, but it’s still very good video and audio quality.
As is the usual case, Warner Archives uses the original poster art for the sleeve, which always gets points in my book. The back of the packaging follows the standard WA format, though in this instance it looks like they used screen captures.The disc, unfortunately, is merely the basic WA imprint with no art other than the movie’s logo, taken from the poster.
There are NO special features, though I wish they would have at least included the trailer. That’s just the completist in me though. But, be happy that the movie is made available to you. The movie is presented in its original widescreen format in the 16 x 91.78:1 aspect and is in Dolby Digital sound. It played beautifully in my year old Sony Blu-ray player as well as my two-year-old HP Pavilion G. As with all WA releases, the made – on – demand disc is a DVD–R. There are no additional language options.
All in all, it’s a fun film that you can actually watch with your family. While the effects are very much of the day, it’s a great reminder of how movies used to be made. It’s also fun to see Platt and De Kova in the same movie. John Dall gives a real slimy performance as the villainous Zaren. Anthony Hall (Demetrios) was a screen name used by actor/composer Sal Ponti, who passed away in 1988.
The packaging is fine, bolstered by the use of the original poster artwork. I really would’ve loved any extra features, but I do understand that these made-on-demand videos aren’t meant as major releases.