Atlantis, the Lost Continent
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|Atlantis, the Lost Continent|
|Directed by||George Pal|
|Produced by||George Pal|
|Written by||Daniel Mainwaring
Gerald Hargreaves (play)
|Starring||Sal Ponti (as Anthony Hall)
|Music by||Russell Garcia|
|Cinematography||Harold E. Wellman|
|Edited by||Ben Lewis|
Atlantis, the Lost Continent is a 1961 American science fiction film in Metrocolor, produced and directed by George Pal for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that stars Sal Ponti (aka Anthony Hall), Joyce Taylor, and John Dall.
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 princess, Demetrios must travel beyond the Pillars of Hercules to take her home. After they are picked up at sea near Atlantis by a giant fish-like submarine boat, Demetrios, expecting to receive a reward for returning Antillia, is instead enslaved and forced to work in the crater of the volcano which dominates the center of the continent.
King Cronus (Edgar Stehli) is being manipulated by an ambitious usurper, Zaren (John Dall), collaborating with an evil sorcerer, Sonoy the Astrologer (Frank DeKova), who wishes to use the resources of Atlantis in order to conquer the known world. From the continent's volcano, the slaves of Atlantis have been mining unique power crystals which absorb the sun's rays and can then be used to fire heat ray beams. The crystals were originally used to produce light and heat for individual Atlanteans, but due to its arrogance, corruption, and moral laxity, Atlantis has made the crystals into a deadly heat ray weapon (similar to a modern-day laser beam), and 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 in a pool of water. Demetrios outmaneuvers his clumsy opponent, setting fire to the ogre's hair, the fight contrasting with the uproarious laughter coming from the massive crowd in the coliseum; spectators hold bunches of grapes while eating and cheering on the spectacle. After killing the ogre, Demetrios is declared a free citizen of Atlantis.
Impending doom hangs heavy in the air of Atlantis. The birds, animals, and even the insects are fleeing what appears to be the coming destruction of the continent. With the help of a kindly high priest named Azar (Edward Platt), who explains these signs of apocalypse to him, Demetrios is able to free Princess Antillia from the wicked spells of Sonoy, the Astrologer, and the unwanted attentions of Zaren, the malicious pretender to the throne; he also helps the slaves of Atlantis to escape the coming destruction.
The skies darken, the ground begins to shake, and the destruction of Atlantis begins, just as a giant crystal ray weapon is being displayed by Zaren to his followers that will be their key to world domination. The volcano bursts forth in a cataclysmic eruption. As the continent proceeds to tear itself apart, the people of Atlantis panic, striving without success to escape their doom. Azar and Zaren wrestle with each other as the huge crystal ray weapon swings back and forth, firing at random, until it suddenly incinerates both of them. The large crystal atop the capital's central pyramid, the main power source for the entire continent, short-circuits, and a massive explosion follows. As lightning flashes and thunder roars, the entire continent rises up and just as quickly the sea bottom collapses, and Atlantis plunges beneath the waves, lost forever.
The skies suddenly clear. Various groups of survivors, including Demetrios and Antillia, flee to Greece and other parts of the world, where they are absorbed into other cultures. With that, the Legend of Lost Atlantis is spread through the mythologies of the many peoples and nations that follow through the centuries.
|Sal Ponti (as Anthony Hall)||Demetrios|
|Joyce Taylor||Princess Antillia|
|William Smith||Captain of the Guard|
|Edward Platt||Azar the High Priest|
|Frank DeKova||Sonoy the Astrologer|
|Edgar Stehli||King Cronus [Kronos]|
|Wolfe Barzell||Petros, Demetrios' Father|
|Jay Novello||Xandros the Greek Slave|
|Paul Frees||Narrator/multiple voices|
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 U. S. Other actors considered were Richard Chamberlain and William Shatner. The film had several sequences filmed off Santa Catalina Island, California.
The film is notorious for its inclusion of stock footage from other films, including the Oscar-winning Quo Vadis and The Naked Jungle. Props from other film productions were also reused, including the large temple idol from The Prodigal, Krell instrument gauges from Forbidden Planet, and wardrobes from Diane and Ben-Hur. When pointed out to George Pal that there were thousands of years of difference between the various costumes and props, he replied "Who knows"?
The spectacular special 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 weapon, 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.
Voice actor Paul Frees provides the opening and closing narration and is also heard as the dubbed 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". 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".
At a preview screening for the film, questionnaires were handed out to the audience asking what scene was their favorite. One person, apparently recognizing the footage taken from Quo Vadis, wrote, "The scene where Robert Taylor saved Deborah Kerr from the fire".
- "Sal Ponti obituary".
- "ATLANTIS, THE LOST CONTINENT on TCM.com".
- p. 90, Behlmer, Rudy Shoot the Rehearsal!: Behind the Scenes with Assistant Director Reggie Callow, Scarecrow Press, 01/06/2010.
- Maltin, Leonard (March 2002). Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. Signet. ISBN 0451203925.
- Wingrove, David (1985). Science Fiction Film Source Book. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. ISBN 0582892392.
- Hickman, Gail Morgan. The Films of George Pal. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company, 1977. ISBN 0-498-01960-8.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009, (First edition 1982). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.