Tuesday, January 3, 2012

#505. Atlantis, The Lost Continent (1961)

Directed By: George Pal

Starring: Sal Ponti, Joyce Taylor, John Dall

Tag line: "SIGHTS NEVER BEFORE SEEN - Adventure never before experienced!"

Trivia:  George Pal had wanted to do a film about Atlantis in the mid-1950s after reading a copy of the 1949 play "Atalanta, a Story of Atlantis" by Sir Gerald Hargreaves. Pal's studio at the time, Paramount, turned down the project

George Pal was a filmmaker of unlimited imagination, and in movies like Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide, and The Time Machine, he let this imagination run wild. With visuals nothing short of breathtaking and a grand story to support them, Atlantis, The Lost Continent takes its place among the producer/director's finest works. 

While at sea, Greek fisherman Demitrios (Sal Ponti) and his father (Wolfe Barzell) rescue an unconscious girl adrift on a raft. Once awake, the girl claims to be Antilea (Joyce Taylor), a Princess of the continent of Atlantis. Demitrios, who has fallen in love with her, decides to brave the unknown so that he can return Antilea to her homeland. Promised he'd be rewarded for his heroism with treasure beyond his wildest dreams, Demetrios is instead enslaved upon his arrival in Atlantis, and sent to the mountain region to perform hard labor. Antilia intercedes on his behalf, and Demetrius is given a chance to earn his freedom by undertaking the “Trial of Fire and Water”, but there's more at stake for Demetrios than life and death. The war-hungry Atlantean General, Zaren (John Dall), with a poweful death ray at his disposal, is planning an attack on the lands surrounding Atlantis, and unless Demetrios can stop him, it may spell doom for the rest of the world. 

Atlantis, The Lost Continent boasts one visual marvel after another. During the trip to return Antilia to Atlantis, Demetrios, convinced he's sailed too far from home, experiences an hallucination in which the great God Neptune, standing around 50 feet tall, rises from the sea and threatens him with a trident. It's an impressive scene, but pales in comparison to what Demetrios finds once he reaches Atlantis. Our first view of the Continent, as seen from a distance, shows structures resembling those of Ancient Greece, and large mountains in the background, reaching all the way up to the sky. Yet what I found most interesting about Atlantis, The Lost Continent was how it combined the aspects of several great civilizations into one. Along with the Greek architecture adorning the coastline, there's a very Roman coliseum, where Demetrios undertakes his “Trial of Fire and Water”. What's more, the Gods of Atlantic are very Egyptian-like in appearance, creatures with human bodies and the heads of animals (as seen in the humongous temple, where Demetrios is first introduced to the High Priest, Azor, played by Edward Platt). To coincide with the past, Atlantis, The Lost Continent also looks to the future, by way of powerful death rays that harness the light of the sun. 

George Pal once said, “A special effect is as big a star as any in the world”, and in movies like Atlantis, The Lost Continent, he set out to prove just that. Filled with wonder and excitement, Atlantis, The Lost Continent is an absolute treat.


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