Tuesday, July 21, 2015


This third sound version of Pierre Benoit’s L'Atlantide differs in details from the 1932 and 1949 films, modernizing various plot points, though the overarching story is the same. Instead of Legionnaires, we have three mining engineers on a helicopter trip in the Sahara. They are told to change their flight path to get out of the way of a nuclear bomb test that will be performed in the next few days, but a sandstorm forces them to land near the test zone where they have a run-in with some Bedouins. When one of the engineers saves the life of Tamal (Amedeo Nazzari), he takes the three to Atlantis, the fabled civilization which is buried in the Sahara. They meet Queen Antinea (Haya Harareet, pictured at right with Nazzari), ruler of Atlantis, and Tamal explains that the original queen's spirit inhabits every woman who takes the throne. Antinea is taken with the handsome Robert (Rad Fulton) while the only slightly less handsome Pierre (Jean-Louis Trintignant) hits it off with another outsider, Zinah. Once you find your way or are brought to Atlantis, the queen doesn't want you to leave, and when John, the third engineer (Georges Riviere), tries, he is caught and lowered into a pit which kills him by encasing him in gold. This puts Robert off and he calls the queen a fiend, which leads him to be banished to the mines where he and a fellow prisoner soon lead a rebellion. Meanwhile Pierre tries to warn anyone who'll listen about the coming bomb test which could destroy Atlantis.

This version is in color and the atom-age element gives this fantasy adventure a bit of a jolt, leading to a fairly impressive destruction scene at the end, though the final shot, showing the two survivors laughing as they realize that they just barely crossed over the test zone line in time, doesn't fit with the tone of the rest of the film.  The costumes and sets are nice, but despite (or maybe because of) the color, not as mysteriously evocative as in the 1949 film. The Queen's leopard actually attacks someone here, and the slave rebellion scene is handled well, making this version the most exciting of the three. The actors are all fine, with Rad Fulton (known later in his career as Jim Westmoreland) the best-looking of the three movies' boy-toys. Co-directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, who took over for the ailing Frank Borzage. The English-language dub available on YouTube is pan-and-scanned, and rather washed out, but there is a very nice full color widescreen print available, though it's in French with no English subtitles. (Pictured at left are Fulton, Riviere and Trintignant.) [YouTube]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

I've seen all three versions, and liked them all.