Monday, July 20, 2015



This is the 1930s adaptation of the fantasy adventure novel by Pierre Benoit (see SIREN OF ATLANTIS for more background). The history of this film is tricky. Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst (PANDORA'S BOX), it was released in three different versions (English, French and German) with different actors in some of the roles, though German actress Brigitte Helm (METROPOLIS) starred in all three; I'm reviewing the English version here. The narrative plays out very much like SIREN OF ATLANTIS, even down to the same character names. Once again, Legionnaire St. Avit (John Stuart) confesses to the killing of his colleague Morhange (Gustav Diessel) and tells in flashback the story of how they were abducted and taken to the remains of the fabled lost land of Atlantis in the middle of the Sahara desert where Queen Antinea (Helm) rules, taking and dropping lovers at her whim.

There are elements from the original novel that are identical in this and the 1949 version: the Queen spends a lot of time playing chess, she somewhat ominously keeps a leopard as a pet (see picture above), she makes gold statues out of her former lovers, the two Legionnaires are pitted against each other by Antinea. In this film, there is a man named Torstenson who has descended into a debilitating addiction to hashish because of his unrequited love for the queen; in the '49 film, it was a drunk named Lindstrom.  Henry Daniell's slight lavender tint as the Antinea's assistant is trumped by Gibb McLaughlin's much campier portrayal of that character here. This version has an odd flashback within the flashback explaining Antinea's background: in Paris, she was a Can-Can dancer spirited away by an Arab admirer (I think that's right—it was a little unclear to me, but there definitely is a can-can dance sequence). But what both films have in common is a dreamy, mystical quality to the story and the visuals.  The '49 version is better looking, but not by much. This film has a huge statue of the Queen's face that makes for a striking backdrop for a couple of scenes (pictured at left). Helm has much less dialogue than Montez did, but she is almost as effective. Next up: the 1961 version. [YouTube]

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