Thursday, February 21, 2013

Movie Review: BEYOND ATLANTIS

BEYOND ATLANTIS
aka SEA CREATURES
1973, VCI #8236, DD-2.0/+, $19.99, 90m 58s, DVD-A

By John Charles
Originally published in slightly different form in Video Watchdog #64

One of Filipino director Eddie Romero's more elaborate genre pictures, BEYOND ATLANTIS is also, alas, his least interesting. When island boatman Manuel the Barracuda (Vic Diaz) sells him two exceedingly rare pearls, ambitious pimp East Eddie (Sid Haig) strikes up an uneasy partnership with divers Logan (John Ashley) and Mathias (Patrick Wayne) to locate more. Joined by aspiring scientist Dr. Katherine Vernon (Lenore Stevens), the expedition soon encounters Syrene (THE DOLL SQUAD's Leigh Christian), a beautiful blonde diver in an animal skin bikini, who can hold her breath for inhuman lengths of time. She takes the fortune hunters to her island, the home for a race of fish people (whose eyes have mutated into a form not unlike the pearls), lorded over by her father, Nereus (George Nader). Syrene and Nereus (who lack the mutated features of their subjects) allow the group to harvest all of the pearls they can carry, without revealing the true reason for their hospitality. Under pressure from his subjects, Nereus demands that his daughter mate with one of the outsiders and, when Mathias (misunderstanding what Syrene was trying to propose) rejects her, the expedition is soon without their boat and in grave danger.

Considering the life and death conflict the plot builds towards, there is little menace on display (the only horror elements are provided by a pit filled with crabs, a pond full of piranha, and the silly, goggle-like make-up on the islanders) and the film's attempt to play up the importance and sanctity of ancient cultures (probably the contribution of Stephanie Rothman, who wrote the original story) is not very persuasive since there is little reason to care about the fate of the civilization depicted here. Patrick Wayne (who reportedly would only appear in the film if everything was kept on a "PG" level) is a bland hero easily upstaged by Haig's colorful characterization and flagrant scenery-chewing by Ashley and Nader. Ed Norton contributes some original music but there are also library cues that date at least as far back as James Landis' THE SADIST (1963).


BEYOND ATLANTIS was released at the dawn of the video age by Wizard and again, a few years later, by VCI. We are unable to compare those tape versions with this new DVD (authored and compressed by Conwood Enterprises), but the disc most likely represents an improvement. The source material is clean and the image is attractive, save for some occasional graininess that appears to be part of the original cinematography. The unmatted framing usually looks symmetrical but the sound is quite flat, even given the limited range of the original mix. Some very mild artifacting pops up once in a while, usually during the attractive but endless underwater sequences. Extras include bios/filmographies (the one for John Ashley incorrectly lists him as being in Regal Video's infamous THE REVENGE OF DR. X, aka THE DOUBLE GARDEN), a theatrical trailer, trailers for THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, BLOOD & BLACK LACE, CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, and THE NIGHT VISITOR (1970), and a video promo spot for the TV-movie GARGOYLES.

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