Atlantis, the Lost Continent

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Not to be confused with Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Atlantis, the Lost Continent
Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by George Pal
Produced by George Pal
Written by Daniel Mainwaring
Gerald Hargreaves (play)
Starring Sal Ponti (as Anthony Hall)
Joyce Taylor
John Dall
Music by Russell Garcia
Cinematography Harold E. Wellman
Edited by Ben Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • May 3, 1961 (1961-05-03)
Running time
90 min
Country United States
Language English

Atlantis, the Lost Continent is a 1961 science fiction film, directed by George Pal and starring Anthony Hall, also called Sal Ponti,[1] about the destruction of Atlantis during the time of Ancient Greece.


A Greek fisherman named Demetrios (Sal Ponti, under the screen name of Anthony Hall) and his father rescue Princess Antillia (Joyce Taylor) from a shipwreck without knowing that she is from the technologically advanced civilization of Atlantis. After rescuing the Atlantean princess, Demetrios must travel beyond the Pillars of Hercules to take her home. Upon returning her to her civilization, Demetrios, expecting to receive a reward, is instead enslaved and forced to work in the crater of the volcano which dominates the island.

The king, Cronus (Edgar Stehli), is being manipulated by an ambitious usurper, Zaren (John Dall), collaborating with an evil sorcerer (Frank DeKova), who wishes to use the resources of Atlantis to take over the world. The slaves of Atlantis have been mining crystals, from the volcano at the center of the island, which absorb the sun's rays and can then be used to fire heat rays in a manner similar to modern lasers. (The crystals were originally designed to produce light and heat for individual users.) Due to its arrogance, corruption and moral laxity, the nation of Atlantis has now become an abomination before Heaven.

Taken to the House of Fear, where a mad scientist (Berry Kroeger) turns slaves into beasts, Demetrios is saved by being given the chance to undergo the 'ordeal of fire and water'. He fights with a giant ogre in a pit of burning coals, then a pool of water. Demetrios outmaneuvers his clumsy opponent, and sets fire to his hair, the fight contrasting with uproarious laughing from the massive crowd in the "coliseum" and spectators holding bunches of grapes while cheering them on (stock footage lifted from "Quo Vadis"). Upon killing the ogre, Demetrios is declared a free citizen of Atlantis.

Unexpected religious overtones now enter the story. Impending doom hangs heavy in the air. The birds, animals, and even the insects are fleeing the approaching destruction. Through the help of a kindly high priest named Azar (Edward Platt), who explains the situation to him, Demetrios is able to free the princess from the wicked spells of the sorcerer and the malicious pretender to the throne, and helps the slaves to escape. Moments later, the skies darken, the earth begins to quake, and the destruction of Atlantis begins, just as Zaren is displaying a giant crystal ray device intended to be used to help Zaren and his followers to conquer the world. The volcano, source of the crystals, bursts forth in a cataclysmic eruption. As the island proceeds to tear itself apart, the people of Atlantis panic. As the populace mills wildly about, striving without success to escape, Azar and Zaren wrestle each other, while the huge crystal ray device swings back and forth, firing at random, until it suddenly destroys both men at once. Eventually, the entire island rises and then collapses, and Atlantis sinks beneath the waves forever. As the large crystal atop the capital's central pyramid, the main power source of the entire island, sinks into the ocean, it short-circuits and then explodes. Then, lightning flashes, thunder roars, and the skies suddenly clear, marking the conclusion of Atlantis's destruction. The various groups of survivors flee to different parts of the world, spreading the legend through their own mythology.


Actor Role
Sal Ponti (as Anthony Hall) Demetrios
Joyce Taylor Princess Antillia
John Dall Zaren
William Smith Captain of the Guard
Edward Platt Azar the High Priest
Frank DeKova Sonoy the Astrologer
Berry Kroeger Surgeon
Edgar Stehli King Cronus [Kronos]
Wolfe Barzell Petros, Demetrios' Father
Jay Novello Xandros the Greek Slave
Paul Frees Narrator/multiple voices

Production notes[edit]

George Pal originally wanted Italian sword and sandal actor Fabrizio Mioni, best known for his portrayal of Jason in Hercules as the lead but his work visa expired and he had to leave the US. Other actors considered were Richard Chamberlain and William Shatner. The film had several sequences filmed off Santa Catalina Island, California.[2]

The film is notorious for its inclusion of stock footage material from other movies, including Quo Vadis and The Naked Jungle. Props from other productions were also reused, including a large statue at the temple from The Prodigal, Krell gauges from Forbidden Planet and wardrobes from Diane and Ben-Hur. When pointed out that there were thousands of years of difference between the various costumes and props, George Pal replied "Who knows?"[3]

The spectacular special visual effects work of Atlantis, the elaborate miniature work of ancient Greek and Roman-style buildings, landscapes, temples, the volcano, the destruction of Atlantis, and the giant crystal ray machine, were the work of the special effects production company Project Unlimited, supervised by Gene Warren, Wah Chang, and Jim Danforth, along with the MGM production staff supervised by A. Arnold Gillespie. They coordinated their work with George Pal, who worked closely with the production designer and art director George W. Davis and William Ferrari.

The film's prologue, describing the legend of Atlantis, features stop motion animation, often used by producer George Pal earlier in his career.

Voice actor Paul Frees provides the opening and closing narration, and also is heard dubbing the voice of the hero's father as well as the ruler of Atlantis.


The film generally received poor reviews and was described by film critic Leonard Maltin in his 2002 Movie & Video Guide as "Pal's worst film", saying that it had "poor effects" and that it was: "Occasionally funny – but not on purpose."[4] Science fiction author David Wingrove also had similar criticisms in his science fiction film source book: "No expense was spared in buying up footage from Quo Vadis to give it true period flavour. Avoid."[5]

At a preview screening of this film, questionnaires were handed to the audience asking what their favorite scene was. One person, apparently recognizing the footage taken from Quo Vadis, replied, "The scene where Robert Taylor saved Deborah Kerr from the fire."[6]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ p. 90 Behlmer, Rudy Shoot the Rehearsal!: Behind the Scenes with Assistant Director Reggie Callow Scarecrow Press, 01/06/2010
  4. ^ Leonard Maltin, ed., Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. A Signet Book, 2001.
  5. ^ Wingrove, David. Science Fiction Film Source Book (Longman Group Limited, 1985)
  6. ^ Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) – Trivia

External links[edit]