16 August, 2008


They don't make them like this anymore...

Directed by Paul Fleming [Domenico Paolella]

"Atlantis isn't Altantis."

Secret Agent George Steele (John Ericson) is sent by the RIU to North Africa to investigate rumors of a uranium deposit which supposedly rests beneath caverns where the survivors of the legendary lost continent of Atlantis still still exist. When he arrives he finds a female companion agent who leads him to fort inhabited by a criminal group hoping to blackmail world powers with a nuclear advantage.

A further journey to the lost city reveals that the Atlanteans are actually Chinese agents who have access to the powerful element Rhobidium, which originated on an extinct planet between Mars and Jupiter. Whoever controls the element will dominate the world....

There's a lot of wildly imaginative and indigestible plot here but this amusing blend of science fiction and Eurospy manages to draw one into its outre universe through deadpan aesthetics and the Ken-doll charm of John Ericson, who seems to be enjoying his paid European vacation. There are also numerous villains portrayed by an interesting cast of Euro genre supporting players including Franco Ressel [BLOOD AND BLACK LACE], Beni Deus [SEXY CAT], Jose Manuel Martin (THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU) and Erica Blanc in what may have been her first film role. She's killed off before she gets to establish an interesting character, but it's always a plus to have her present in any capacity.

A sometimes brassy, sometimes bubbly, always incongruous musical score by Teo Usuelli (AMUCK) adds to the overall bizarre tone.

Favorite scenes include our secret agent hero donning a jet black hazard suit complete with deep sea diving helmet for a walk through an irradiated desert which looks like something out of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965). There's also a cat fight between female Russian and Chinese agents, Atlantean rituals, comic relief and a busty flight attendant available for quick sex. John Ericson never had it so good.

The Atlantis sets present a Green environment where solar energy powers and feeds the city along with the alternate Rhobidium fuel. The sets looks elaborate but a color faded AIP TV print, cropping the 2.35:1 Techniscope compositions of Francisco Sanchez and Marcello Masciocchi to 1.33:1, makes visual detail virtually invisible and proper evaluation difficult. I would like to see it in a good OAR print.

Director Paolella (1918-2002) was a film critic/theorist turned filmmaker who made briskly staged, rather stylish adventures (AVENGER OF THE SEVEN SEAS), sword and sandal (MACISTE CONTRO I MONGOLI), spaghetti westerns (ODIO PER ODIO), and the historical/nunsploitation/horror LE MONACHE DI SANT'ARCANGELO. He registers as a director worthy of further investigation.

(c) Robert Monell 2008


Anonymous said...

Have you seen Paolella's western EXECUTION? Shot in Israel rather than Spain, it is hampered by a variable cast (although John Richardson is quite good here), but it's certainly worth watching. And it certainly must be among the most aesthetically gaudy of Spaghetti Westerns, a feeling augmented by Lallo Gori's raucous score.

Robert Monell said...

Haven't seen this interesting sounding title, Nzoog. I find your term "aesthetically gaudy" intriguing and your praise of Richardson is interesting considering I have never seen him as anything other than wooden. Is this on R1 DVD?

Anonymous said...

Well, you've spoken of indigestible plot. There's more of that here. You've spoken of brassy music: you'll find it here. The lighting of some interiors is very 60s harsh, more suitable for a secret agent movie. In addition, it may be among the first "circus westerns", so there are circus acts but even the "reality" of the film contains some pretty oddly dressed people. Add to this that the plot is forever twisting and that we are given false leads about what is going to matter. There are different parallel groups of characters who are forever going in and out of the village (in a narrative confined to the village and its desert surroundings), which creates a confusing effect. Richarsdon, surprisingly subtle here, plays the circus sharpshooter and his outlaw twin brother, so there are confusions.
And then there's a beautifully staged man-leaves-prison ceremonial scene.
As far as I know, it's only in Region 1 from Koch. Italian and German plus English subs.
Oh, Gary Tooze at dvdbeaver said it looked "funky".

Robert Monell said...

I have to get this, thanks.