George Pal Presents: Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961)

Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961)


Thousands of years ago, a poor fisherman (Anthony Hall, Goodbye, Norma Jean) helps a young woman (Joyce Taylor, Twice-Told Tales) return to her country, the mythical land of Atlantis. He is, however, immediately enslaved in Atlantis. The woman, who is actually The King’s daughter, asks her father to pardon the fisherman, but following the advice of an evil warlock (John Dall, Rope), The King refuses. The fisherman responds by leading a slave revolt against The King.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Atlantis, the Lost Continent is probably the less known, and quite possibly the worst of the five feature-length films producer George Pal directed. Daniel Mainwaring’s screenplay is the main culprit here. Loosely based on Gerald Hargreaves’s play Atalanta: A Story of Atlantis, Mainwaring’s script is too hokey even for a movie of this type. Pal seems only interested in destroying things and little attention is paid to the story and characters.

For example, the love story is treated contemptuously, which is really too bad because the movie is in desperate need of an emotional hook — you are, unfortunately, left with no one to root for during the endless scenes of carnage and mayhem. Disaster movies always work best when you are emotionally invested in the characters.

The visual and sound effects run hot & cold. I liked most of the miniature work. The actual volcano explosion, mostly the work of the team responsible for the Oscar-winning visual effects on Pal’s The Time Machine (1960), is pretty good.

But it is hard for me to forgive Pal for cutting corners; many shots were taken directly from MGM’s 1951 biblical epic Quo Vadis. It’s so obvious that I was expecting Deborah Kerr and Robert Taylor to show up at any moment. Pal also reuses props from countless of old MGM productions like The Prodigal (1955), Forbidden Planet (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), etc. The whole thing gives you an acute case of deja vu! The great innovator decided to take the easy route and it shows. The make-up is awful too — the half-man/half-beast creatures are laughable.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Atlantis, the Lost Continent is minor Pal. The film is a few inches away from one of those cheesy 1960s Italian-made Hercules movies from the era. Strange, since it was preceded/followed by two really good Pal productions: The Time Machine (1960) and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). I guess everybody stumble once in a while. Color, 90 minutes, Not Rated.


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