Tuesday, January 22, 2019

At Last... "Atlantis!"

You know, we have this list of movies (not necessarily good movies, mind you, but what does that matter?!) that we want to see so badly and yet it always seems as if we never will... In so many cases, the waiting pays off, which is how I finally got to see things like Eye of the Cat (1969) and Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969) among several others. Today's featured flick Warlords of Atlantis (1978) seemed as if it would be forever elusive. However, thanks to the recent Aquaman (2018), some of the movie channels have been unearthing titles that have an underwater or Atlantean element to them as unofficial tie-ins. (And that's just about all we can be grateful to Aquaman for!) Thus, this movie finally came my way so that I may dissect it with you.

In the 1970s, former TV cowboy Doug McClure struck up an association with director Kevin Connor for a series of adventure movies based upon stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs (of Tarzan fame.) The films were The Land That Time Forgot (1974), At the Earth's Core (1976) and The People That Time Forgot (1977.) They paired for a fourth and last time on Warlords of Atlantis, which was an original story, though similar in structure to the prior films. The poster writes a check it cannot cash in that McClure at no time ever wears the teensy, torn shorts depicted in the artwork!

As it begins, we see a huge, glowing meteor crashing to earth where it careens into the depths of the sea. We next see various relics and bits of ancient-looking statuary, giving the viewer something of a hint as to what will come.

Next, we're introduced to two gentlemen with competing heads of fluffy, blond hair, Peter Gilmore and Doug McClure. The men are on board a vessel headed towards an undersea exploration site in the late-1900s, with Gilmore as a slightly stuffy scientist and McClure the adventuresome owner-operator of a diving bell.

The diving bell is situated on the front of the ship, ready to take its turn in the drink as soon as everything is made ready and they reach the intended site.

Shane Rimmer plays the captain of the ship, who is unhappy that Gilmore and his father, a scientist and professor, have chartered his vessel to what he considers a dangerous location for a murky cause.
The professor (Donald Bisset) will hear none of the protestations and insists that his research is invaluable and must be carried out.

Also on board are some rather ne'er do well sailors including Hal Galili and Derry Power.

They are rounded out by a third crew member played by John Ratzenberger (yes, THAT John Ratzenberger!)

Finally, there is a young cabin boy played by Ashley Knight, whose chief contribution seems to be to bring the other men (not exactly delicious) coffee.

The site is reached and the bell takes its dive into the ocean. Bisset is able to keep in touch with his son Gilmore and operator McClure with a telephone-like hook-up while Power turns the crank on a pump to keep fresh air heading into it.

In an unusual twist, the bell has no real floor to it, apart from a ledge for the men's feet. McClure had demon- strated how it works to Rimmer earlier using an upside-down coffee cup. Looks a little shaky to me, but whatever...!

Down, down, down they go into the deep depths of the ocean.

A handy-dandy window affords them a clear look at what's around them near the sea's floor.

Every once in a while, we also get a clear, if brief, look at McClure's package as he's sprawled around the interior of the diving bell.
But, wait, what's this?! In pretty shocking moment, the head of another sort of beast comes tearing in through the open bottom of the contraption, roaring at the two men inside and taking one of McClure's sleeves with it!
After this nerve-rattling incident, Gilmore and McClure pair up their blond 'dos and look out the window to see another incredible sight.

Near the entrance to an underwater cavern stands a large gold statue, almost like a totem pole.

Somehow McClure is able to commun- icate with the men topside and have the diving bell hover over it and get it inside (!), then proceed to tie it up and have it raised it the surface (!)

The crewmen instantly recognize that it's made of solid gold. It's not long before they decide they'd prefer to mutiny, kill all the other people on the ship and take the gold for themselves. Galili uses an axe to hack the air supply, communication wires and guidelines for the bell in two, causing it to careen down to the bottom of the ocean near the cavern entrance.

But the mutineers and the rest don't exactly have it easy either. In an act of retribution for the sailors having taken the statue from its spot, a gargantuan octopus sentinel comes up alongside the boat and begins wreaking havoc!

Rimmer, Galili, Power and Ratzen- berger are all grasped by tentacles and tossed into the water. (The octopus makes such a mess that the camera lens is either dotted with or soaked with water many times during the scene!) Only the professor (who's been shot in the melee!) and the boy remain on board.

My apologies if this shot resembles a round turd being swirled around a stone toilet bowl, but that's the effects budget at work here...! The diving bell actually comes up from the depths and is deposited from the sea into this rocky river.
It floats for a while aimlessly as McClure and Gilmore recover from their ordeal inside it. Finally, they decide to exit the bell and see where they are. All they have to do is jump out through the bottom (since whirling around in a funnel-like formation never tipped the thing over...!)

They hold on to the vessel until it floats to a nearby beach of sorts where all the men who had mutinied are washed ashore. (How these men were able to hold their breath from the surface of the water, through the cavern and up and out the whirlpool is anybody's guess.)
The sextet of shipwrecked men aren't sure how to proceed in this strange new world.

Before you know it, June Allyson, er, Michael Gothard appears. The austere, mysterious Gothard reveals an army of helmeted soldiers armed with harpoons, who've been resting just below the surface until called upon.
Yes, I said June Allyson!
Though they aren't exactly prisoners, they are escorted to another location by Gothard and his men.

The cavernous, overwhelm- ingly large landscape is meant to be the inside of that big, red meteor we saw at the start of the film. The group walks and walks (apparently no sort of aid in transportation was ever developed by the allegedly brilliant and highly-developed Atlanteans??)

Gothard points out this city or that along the way. There are seven of them and, in fact, the movie was initially to be titled "7 Cities of Atlantis" until it was altered (and it was altered again and again over time!)

The men continue along their way, skeptical yet rather powerless.

As they cross a dilapidated wooden footbridge, a scaly, hideous monster pops up to make its presence known... then slops back down into the black water.

Upon arrival in one of cities (surprisingly not called Jerusalem, nor does anyone suddenly break into numbers from Jesus Christ Superstar), the men see that there is definitely a hierarchy down here in Atlantis. There are laborers toiling in the heat.

But all is not lost. Amid all the unwashed masses doing menial work of all kinds, McClure has spotted something unusual...

It's Nancy from Oliver!, skipping around singing "Who Will Buy?" - No?  Okay, it's Lea Brodie, an attractive (hell, practically the ONLY attractive) female worker who is bearing water from one spot to the next, rather happily it seems.
She spots McClure, too, and gives him "the look." I guess indentured servitude isn't so bad if a sort of cute blond guy suddenly falls in your lap?

It's only a hot minute, though, before McClure and his pals have caused a disturbance. Brodie and her father Robert Brown aren't able to help break it all up and can only watch in concern as the new guys fight with Gothard's soldiers. By the time it's over, McClure and Co. are marched off to jail.
Gilmore, however, has been separated and taken (by foot, natch!) to still another city. Here, Gothard passes him off to another Atlantean, actually queen of the joint!

Upon further inspection, we realize that the queen is played by none other than MGM dancing veteran Miss Cyd Charisse, wearing what seems to be a slightly gilded hornet's nest upon her head!

She takes Gilmore all around the capital city, all the while making sure we get a good glimpse of her still-lithe fifty-six year-old gams.

This is a place of pleasure, not labor, with water a prevalent part of the decor and with many of the superior members of society lolling around in idle ecstasy.

Gilmore witnesses something (which we, the audience of this PG-rated movie don't get to) and seems shocked, which Charisse puts to bed right away with an admonishment.

Back at the ranch, his pals are still being held prisoner. Coinci- dentally, the person who brings them their food is none other than curvaceous Brodie...

Now Charisse (ever with the legs... Angelina Jolie is but a pale imitator!) takes Gilmore to another part of the city, this one with the inhabitants levitating. They're so brilliant, yet they can't come up with golf carts or something to help get around?
Nice try.....
She introduces her guest to her husband the king. While most upper echelon Atlanteans stand with command- ing posture, this guy seems to be posing like a little boy whose pants are around his ankles as he makes his first attempt at using a urinal (or maybe even a wall!)

But, wait... upon closer inspection, it's Daniel Massey!

Things are not going well back on the rough side of the tracks. McClure and his mean hear a whole lot of ruckus. Turns out that there is a pack of violent monsters on their way to ravage the place!
Brown (who, of all people, provides the only male skin to this point!) is apparently in charge of holding off the cretinous beasts.
He and his men shoot cannons at the creatures and, when that doesn't work, resort to jabbing at them with sticks and tossing rocks at them!

They barely notice, though and proceed to tear right through the wall where McClure and his men at being held. Now freed, they call upon Brodie to come with them as they head to the other city and try to free Gilmore.

Meanwhile there, Charisse and Massey are recruiting Gilmore and his incredible mind to help them in their quest to shape the world around them.

See, they are actually from Mars (!) and have been gently prodding the human race on mentally to the point where they will develop enough to invent the technology to help get them back home. Make sense?  I didn't think so! LOL

They place a helmet on him that allows him to see the future develop- ment of man that they have in mind. This is illustrated with visuals of airplanes, war, etc...
The helmet is pretty enough, I guess, but has the unfortunate side effect of making Gilmore look like a fancier version of Dustin Hoffman in Papillon (1973.)
Oh, I see...
McClure and his buddies burst in, remove the helmet and grab their friend in order to get outta dodge and fast!

Brodie helps lead the way out of the city and back to where their diving bell awaits, but Gothard is in hot pursuit!
First, the un-merry band of adventurers have to face down that rickety footbridge and the reappear- ance of the scaly monster. This time he isn't going straight back underwater without a fight.

To be honest, though he isn't completely without threat, he sort of bears a resem- blance to Internet and calendar sensation Grumpy Cat...!
Now onto the next challenge, the stragglers are confronted by a mass of flying piranha! That not being enough, Galili slips and falls and his leg is attacked by yet another underwater monster. This one in close-up is akin to Ollie, the single-toothed dragon from Kukla, Fran and Ollie!
It was impossible to capture a good shot of the flying piranha, but it looked at times like a crew member was hurling plastic fish at the swamp-soaked actors, as if this was all a very special episode of Wipeout.
Now FINALLY back at the diving bell, they find themselves atop a sheer cliff wall. Brodie is unable to go any further, thanks to a microchip that's been placed behind her ear (yet still the Atlanteans couldn't even come up with bicycles?!)

McClure takes a flying leap (just like his career was doing about this time!) into the water so that he can get the diving bell started (started?!) and guide the rest of the men inside it.

This is the first time we see him with no shirt on, despite the movie's poster, and still no shorts.

Gothard won't give up this easily, though, and has his men firing on the surface dwellers as he simul- taneously uses his powers to cough up huge geysers. These geysers, by the way, accomplish basically nothing. He may as well have taken everyone to an evening at the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas.

All the men safely inside, they begin their shaky ascent back to the surface and the waiting ship.

However, this is not the end of the story by a long shot! I will keep the finale under wraps, but it does at least keep McClure topless (such as it is.) It's not that he's in horrible shape, but the pants are too tight, resulting in some "spillage" over the sides.

Warlords of Atlantis is goofy and has some cheesy, old fashioned effects, but it is adventurous, always MOVING, very fun and I wouldn't trade its methods in for GCI at any price.

McClure had been a busy TV actor with a long stretch on The Virginian along with occasional movie parts. In his prime, he was quite the gleaming, golden god with almost white-blond hair and eye-poppingly thick lips. Along with Troy Donohue, he served as partial inspiration for the character Troy McClure on The Simpsons.
Yes, please...
Gimme a D! Gimme an O!
A likeable, lovable guy, he also kept preachers and divorce lawyers busy, marrying five times across two decades, with all but the last ending in divorce. (One of his spouses was Barbara Luna.) Sadly, he - a lifelong heavy smoker - died of lung cancer in 1995 at only age fifty-nine.
Gilmore had also enjoyed a long running success on television, albeit in Great Britain. His series The Onedin Line ran for about a decade as well and was about a late-19th century shipping magnate. His association with sailing ships in that time period no doubt made him a natural choice for this part, though he was rightly fearful of typecasting. He died of undisclosed causes in 2013 at age eighty-one.

Rimmer, an American, emigrated to England in the late-1950s where he initially worked as a singer before becoming a busy "go-to" guy any time a British production needed an American actor. He lent his voice to many programs (including several of the famous Gerry Anderson marionette series) while also popping up in major movies being filmed in England such as Rollerball (1975), Out of Africa (1985) and many others. He is still with us today and working at eighty-nine.

Gothard had begun as a clothing model before seguing into acting and landing some interesting films such as Scream and Scream Again (1970), The Devils (1971), Underworld faves The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) and later For Your Eyes Only (1981.) Nearly always a brooding, sometimes dangerous figure on screen, he suffered from depression off-screen and sadly took his own life by hanging in 1992 at age fifty-three.

As a contract dancer at MGM, Charisse performed in some of the cinema's most memorable musical films from Ziegfeld Follies (1946) to Singin' in the Rain (1952) to The Bandwagon (1953) to Brigadoon (1954) and Silk Stockings (1957) among others. When musicals petered out for a time in the early-1960s, her film career receded (though she did do several meaty acting parts at last and lost out on a showy comic role when Marilyn Monroe died before Something's Got to Give was completed.)
It had been about a dozen years since her last movie when she took the part of the Atlantean queen. Some reviewers pointed out the garish ways her legs were presented in the film (and it's rather true), but she'd always been known for her long legs. What was the director supposed to do? Focus in on her amazing clavicle?  Ha ha! As the wife of singer Tony Martin, she had enjoyed one of Hollywood's most enduring marriages (sixty years!) when she died of a heart attack at age eighty-six in 2008.
Massey was the son of famed actor Raymond Massey and enjoyed a successful career all his own on the British stage, on television and in quite a few movies. Some of his films include The Entertainer (1960), Star! (1968, for which he won a Golden Globe and was Oscar-nominated, losing to Jack Albertson in The Subject Was Roses), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) and The Cat and the Canary (1978.)  He was an eleventh hour replacement here for another (unknown to me) actor. Massey died of Hodgkin's lymphoma at age sixty-four in 1998 after a six-year battle with the disease.

Ratzenberger was another American who found himself in London for about a decade. Initially a construction worker, he segued into acting and, much like Rimmer, found work any time an American was needed. He popped up in everything from A Bridge Too Far (1977) to Superman (1978) and The Bitch (1979) to The Empire Strikes Back (1980) before returning to the U.S. and essaying the role of Cliff on Cheers, a part that was created at his own suggestion while he was auditioning for Norm. A busy voice actor for Pixar, he is now seventy-one.

If Brown looks familiar, it's likely due to his portrayal of M in four of the James Bond films: Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989.) Prior to that he'd had an extensive career in British movies and television. He died in 2003 at age eighty-two, having retired about a dozen years beforehand. It may be hard to see the role of M through his guise here which is giving Robert Ryan as John the Baptist in King of Kings (1961) a run for his money! LOL
Oh, Jesus...
Brodie was billed in Atlantis with an "Introducing" credit, though she'd already been working on TV and in films for three years as Lea Dregorn. Her career did not continue much beyond this despite a role opposite Roger Moore in ffolkes (1980.) She eventually left the biz to become a spiritual healer.
"And I thought producers had a lot of hands!"
Suffering for one's art...
Interestingly, this film's title was changed time and again. There was fear of being associated with the new (flop) TV series Man from Atlantis, so the title "Warlords of the Deep" was selected, but then there was possible confusion with The Deep (1977!) Someone clearly thought it might be interesting promotion to ape Jacqueline Bisset's famous wet t-shirt look from The Deep, by putting a braless Brodie in a wet Oxford for a photo op, though she never appears this way in the film! And with that, I think I've wrung all I can out of this post... Whew!