Man From Atlantis: The Complete TV Movies Collection (DVD review).

September 26, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘Man From Atlantis’ has a crappy reputation, largely because of the 13 episode series, whereas the four 90 minute films are actually not bad for the 1970s time period, although the fourth is the weakest of them.

manfromatlantis-moviesdvd

Man From Atlantis I: Pilot

cast: Patrick Duffy, Belinda J. Montgomery, Dean Santoro and Art Lund

The pilot episode has an unconscious man (actor Patrick Duffy) discovered washed up from the ocean after a bad storm at night. Medics couldn’t revive him finding he has desiccated lungs and blackened extremities (hands and feet in case you didn’t know) and oxygen doesn’t help. When a consultant and his date are called from a party, it is the date, Doctor Elizabeth Merrill (actress Belinda J. Montgomery) who figures out he needs the ocean and she revives him.

Over a period of weeks, they develop a bond and as she nurses him back to health, naming him Mark Harris to avoid aquatic associations. To get funding, she shows her findings to Admiral Dewey Pierce (actor Art Lund) who finances to see how much he can do. Out of water, Mark grows progressively weak as he dries out. In the water, he is the virtual superman. Strong, fast, sees in pitch black, very intelligent and happy at deep pressure but doesn’t talk.

He wants to use Mark to see what happened to the two man Seaquest lost in the Mariana Trench. Mark doesn’t like being given orders but concedes to a request when he finally speaks. He and Merrill go out on a naval ship. As far as they know, Mark is using a special equipment and he and a diver Ernie Smith (actor Dean Santoro) go down 200 feet before the reveal is given and he dives deeper.

Having persuaded Mark to swallow a tracking device, Merrill is able to follow him down 7 miles deep and then another object arrives, a submarine, and then both vanish. Mark discovers a secret base and scientists who think they are on a non-military project but are controlled by pacifier bracelets at administration. Mark follows them and intrigues the owner who can count and knows he has one extra person. Mr. Schubert (actor Victor Buono) who is using scientists to start a war and, ironically, using those who are against it to stop it or anyone he captures, including the Seaquest crew. Schubert is more an eco-terrorist than anything but that word didn’t really exist at that time. Whether he succeeds or not, you’ll have to watch for yourself.

In many respects, after the initial care and tracking, Merrill does become somewhat of an accessory to the story, although she is the one giving information to the viewer. With today’s understanding of filming, the cuts showing Mark swimming underwater is carefully orchestrated. The finest moment is seeing him doff his underwater gear on the deepsea rig and staring Ernie in the face before swimming off. Schubert is an interesting villain as a one-off but got severely diluted in series repetition.

The oddest thing is why have a base so deep in the ocean? The air pressure and gas mixtures alone would have needed constant supplies. It must have been a complicated process to build a base so deep, let alone populate tanks with upper ocean whales and sharks for study while planning a nuclear holocaust. Granted, Schubert is very wealthy and smart but there are limits and I doubt if his master plan would have needed to much depth to survive the fallout.

Man From Atlantis II: The Death Scouts

cast: Patrick Duffy, Belinda J. Montgomery, Kenneth Tigar, Alan Fudge, Tiffany Bolling and Burr DeBenning

The sequel, ‘The Death Scouts’, when I first saw it and still hold today is that Mark Harris belonged to them which means far from being the terrestrial ‘last citizen of Atlantis’, was an amnesic alien modified to masquerade as humans but still with his aquatic side.

Mark Harris and Dr. Elizabeth Merrill are now part of the Foundation For Oceanic Research and away from the US Navy, with marine biologist Doctor Miller Simon (actor Kenneth Tigar) under director C.W. Crawford Jr. (actor Alan Fudge). When news of three people apparently abducted after a brown stain appears in the ocean in the B Sierra Trench, Mark and Merrill go out to investigate with him briefly wearing scuba gear not to arouse the coast guard’s crew’s attention. He finds the area now coated in white rock which back at the Foundation, reveals to be radioactive. The supposed egg that a couple boys bring in re-grows when put in water. Merrill has a lot of clout and can get their submarine, the Cetacean, at a moment’s notice to go out and investigate.

Meanwhile, two of the supposed dead Dilly Bryce (Tiffany Bolling) and Charles ‘Chazz’ Jameson (Burr DeBenning) arrive at the beach. An encounter with a couple playing Frisbee shows that when they hold hands can administer a fatal electric shock not to mention burn through wire. The third body is found washed ashore dead and the sub is notified. The two, let’s call them scouts, investigate the coastal town and no one seems to care that they are wearing scuba suits.

At sea, Mark Harris goes out to investigate and finds a tunnel into a base. These days he carries a homer device in his trunks and a communicator, however, they lose signal when he enters. He also discovers the conch shell design which is the same as on his trunks. See what I mean about his alien origins? He returns and tells of his discovery and that they need to find them as he believes they are his people. Makes you wonder who Mark Harris copied to get his body, doesn’t it? The reveal later is that he had no choice and his was made especially for him. Good thing, too, or his natty yellow trunks would have been part of his flesh.

Their boss, Crawford Jr., finds his budget eaten away by submarine usage but tends to be a pushover when the Coast Guard is involved. When Merrill sees the dead body, Miller and Mark investigate a woman who stole and ate seaweed. Mark does meet them and although they acknowledge their webbed hands, when the police arrive, they shock treatment him and he ends up back at the Institute. Merrill insists Mark stays in the lab to recover while she and Miller and the Cetacean and its crew go off to find the pair who have returned to the sea. Mark uses seaweed to promote his own healing before following them. Underwater, Mark subdues them both separately and gets them to the submarine with some shocking results although it is Miller and Mark who sorts that out.

On shore, Crawford makes the connection that these aliens look like the two missing divers, Xos (DeBenning) and Lioa (Bolling). However, National Security takes them away, much to Mark’s dislike and infiltrates their prison. He learns from Lioa that his body was selected for him and his mind wiped. Mark is supposed to be a mediator between them and the humans. She also convinces him to get some food from their spaceship although he recognises it as the seed thing in the lab and gets it, going in officially this time. She has deceived Mark and the seed thing is actually a weapon and after gassing the guards, they escape.

Mark explains why what Lioa told him to Merrill who thinks he’s been lied to as their fear of fire and children is nothing he has. This gets re-enforced when they learn of their escape. The Cetacean goes in pursuit, with the Navy’s blessing, when they can’t locate them. Mark gets to their spaceship before they do. The rest you’ll have to watch for yourself.

The reason why I give so much detail is because it brings out pointers that Mark Harris is an alien water-breather in a human body created for him. Lioa misleads Mark a lot but her loyalty to him is more than to Xos at the end. The imperfections of their bodies compared to his does tend to suggest that theirs was a hasty fit with no distinction between body and clothes. It’s a shame we only saw a brief arm before they were changed, more so as they also have three mouths.

Man From Atlantis III: Killer Spores

cast: Patrick Duffy, Belinda J. Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Kenneth Tigar

Killer Spores’ does reveal in the opening that the Foundation For Oceanic Research is supposed to be secret, although it does have a public door. I had a ponder on this and suspect that it conceals its other activities although someone must have wondered at the underwater excavation to create a tunnel for the Cetacean submarine to get to the ocean that would rival the one over in Marineville. That must have been an interesting talking point for any drilling crew.

The Cetacean is asked by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to collect a returning A-31 space probe only for them to pick up a highly noisy satellite whose noise stuns Mark Harris. Even so, he is prepared to go out and get the tiny probe, only to be bitten. He returns the probe for quarantine and describes blue coins it was depositing on the ocean floor and then forgets them. He also shows signs of awareness of these creatures who have invaded the Cetacean but can only be seen in the dark. Mark goes off and collects a dye from an eel and is back at the foundation making a diluted dye for see the buttons before they get back.

Suddenly, Mark is controlled and flees to the desert with Merrill and Simon chasing, much to the initial chagrin of the highway patrol. While they wait for a helicopter, they have to work on keeping him alive until Merrill gets him into water. Her choice of a swimming pool seems a little odd looking back as it must have been loaded with chorine.

Back at the lab, Simon thinks these are hybrid spores. However, they lose interest in Mark and the lab and the spores go out into the neighbourhood, taking over various people as they learn about them, inciting various violent behaviour. 900 victims throughout the city. Things aren’t helped when both Merrill and Simon are taken over. For the rest, you’ll have to watch for yourself.

In an odd way, calling them ‘killer spores’ is a bit of a misnomer. They spores don’t really go out to kill unless they think they are being attacked. The changes in people are purely from control. Total madness.

Watching it again after some forty years, the spores remind me of something similar in the earlier 1976 episode of ‘The Bionic Woman’ ‘The Vega Influence’ who were less benevolent.

Man From Atlantis IV: The Disappearance

cast: Patrick Duffy, Belinda J. Montgomery, Alan Fudge, Kenneth Tigar, Darleen Carr, Dennis Redford and Pamela Peters Solow

Apparent philanthropist Dick Stoneman (actor Dennis Redford) is prepared to donate a boat to Elizabeth Merrill and the Foundation. While she is seeing him, Jane (actress Pamela Peters Solow) discovers Mark Harris at the Foundation. In truth, Stoneman has his own agenda.

Merrill leaves Mark for a couple hours at the seaside funfair while she completes the deal for the boat. Stoneman is late and Merrill suddenly realises she is being kidnapped. Mark hears her and attempts a rescue but knocked unconscious and locked in a pier shed. With the police involved, they discover Stoneman’s kidnapped anything from 4 to 20 scientists and rescue Mark.

Merrill is taken to a secret island installation. Stoneman isn’t in charge but Doctor Mary Smith (actress Darleen Carr). She gets Merrill to take a dip in a spa that gives her a personality change. Meanwhile, Miller Simon puts together the clues given to him by the FBI to see if he find any clues and they go off in the Cetacean. Surprised at the near discovery, Smith orders its destruction. Despite evasive tactics, they torpedo limpets them and told of the bomb’s potential.

Mark gets it detached before it explodes and the two of them invade the island. They are easily caught and Mark is taken to the spa. Jane has a soft spot for Mark and tries to warn him not to go into the spa. Simon is already changed. Mark just feigns he’s changed and sneaks away from a small concert to find out what is going on. Finding a rocket, Smith also finds him and tries not to convince him of her plans for space travel. Any more, you’ll have to watch for yourself.

This story, written by Jerry Sohl, seems to be used demonstrate Mark Harris’ super-senses. Crawford and Miller come to investigate, knowing Merrill wouldn’t leave without Mark, whom he manages to signal. Some aspects of this story is very much like the pilot story although Smith is a different kind of fanatic to Schubert. In retrospect, the writing on the wall should have been seen here and we might have been spared the series or at least have it rewritten. Maybe they did and that’s why Schubert was used so much to keep budget under control. The biggest part of that was all the underwater camera work.

The Cetacean must be one of the best submarines of its period. In fact, it’s still hard to believe it’s a model. It’s only with this story when it deep dives without filling its tanks but dipping you get the realisation how truly a model it is. When you look at the amount of bubbles coming off ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’s Seaview, although not totally realistic with how we see real submarines today, it did give some added motion to it. I’m a little puzzled why they shut off the airlock when Mark goes through it as it’s not a true airlock, as its always half-full of water, as you would with a bathysphere.

In many respects, for those of us who saw ‘Man From Atlantis’ the first time around, it is still pretty unique. There might have been water-breathers in other series, like ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’, but until the use of Aquaman in ‘Smallville’ and the verdict is still out on his own series until it arrives. The real problem with any show of this nature is just how many undersea menaces can there be, let alone sustain a series about them. The fact that the regular series only lasted 13 episodes and was cut short shows the problem still existed in the 1970s.

As a curiosity, it’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen them before. Give Patrick Duffy his due, he really does make you believe a man can live underwater and even more remarkable for the time period as they are careful not to show any water bubbles. With my full scientific hat on now, I would think now that might happen. As I wrote an article on the problems coming out later this month, Mark Harris would have to expel all the water in his gill-like lungs and I doubt if the CO2 in it would have been diffused back into the water. Definitely, don’t try that at home or underwater.

GF Willmetts

September 2016

(region 1 DVD: pub: Warner Bros. 2 DVDs 366 minutes 4 * 97 minute movies. Price: varies, I pulled mine for about £13.00 (UK))

check out website: www.wbshop.com/product/man+from+atlantis-+the+complete+tv+movies+collection+1000226177.do

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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