|Submitted by Iain McLachlan |
(Dec 23, 2004)
I PREDATORI DI ATLANTIDE
Alternate Titles: RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS; THE ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS; ATLANTIS; ATLANTIS INFERNO.
RT: 92 mins
Pro Co: Regency Pictures
Dir: Roger Franklin (=Ruggero Deodato);
Pro: Maurizio Amati;
Wrs: Vincent (=Vincenzo) Mannino, Robert Gold (=Tito Carpi);
Assoc Pro: Alex Tiu.
Ph: Robert D’Ettore Piazzoli;
Film Ed: Vincent Thomas (=Vincenzo Tomassi);
Mus: Oliver Onions (=Guido & Maurizio De Angelis);
Art Dir: Benny (=Bruno) Amalfitano.
Stunts: Rock Stuntman Team (Sup: Rocco Lepro).
Make-Up FX: Gene Reds (=Gino De Rossi);
SFX: Paolo Ricci;
Miniatures: Al Passeri (=Massimiliano Cerchi);
Spec Optic FX: V.G..
Sound FX: Cineaudio Effects;
Dial Dir: Michael Billingsley;
Post Sync: Nick Alexander.
Cast: Christopher Connelly, Marie Fields (=Gioia Scola), Tony King, Mike Milller, Ivan Rassimov, John Blade (=Giancarlo Parati), Bruce Barton, George Hilton, George Hilton, Mike Monti, Michael (=Michele Soavi), Audrey Perkins, Morris Fard (=Maurizio Fardo), Benny Lewis (Lewis E. Ciannelli), John Vasalio, James Demby, Gudrum Schemissner.
The international success of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York and especially George Miller’s Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior (both 1981), led to a glut of futuristic action movies during the early to mid-1980s. Most of this product came in the form of low-budget Italian and Filipino ventures. Italian filmmakers proved particularly prolific in this area, with titles like I Nuovi Barbari, Aristide Massaccessi’s Anno 2020 – I Gladiatori del Futuro (both 1982) and David Worth’s Warrior of the Lost World (1983) being fairly typical of the material available.
Most of these pictures feature a dystopian, often post-apocalyptic setting, with warring tribes vying for control of the ravaged environment and one individual emerging as a hero. However, within this cycle there were some creative variations, including this 1983 work from director Ruggero Deodato.
Miami 1994. Mike Ross and his friend Washington manage to spring someone from a heavily guarded villa on the coast and return him to their employer, a shadowy individual known as the “Colonel”. He advises them to leave the area for a while following their assignment. They agree and set sail for Trinidad on Mike’s personal yacht along with another friend, Manuel. Out at sea, the ship is repeatedly buzzed by a helicopter which Mike suspects may be piloted by a former Navy buddy Bill Cooke. He turns out in fact to be the pilot and is transporting a disgruntled Professor Cathy Rollins to a deep seas research platform ran by the military. On reaching the facility, Rollins complains that she was hauled off an important archaeological dig in South American without any notice and demands to be told where she is and what she is doing there. She is greeted by Professor Saunders who explains that the Navy are trying to recover a Russian naval submarine that sank two years previously. As a result of the project, an ancient stone tablet was found more 5000 feet beneath the surface. Tests suggest that it may be as old as 12000 years. The navy would like Professor Rollins to uncover the inscription contained within the tablet and hopefully find some connection with the location of the sunken sub. After some intensive research and analysis, Rollins informs Saunders that the tablet may contain confirmation of the existence of the lost civilisation of Atlantis. Saunders and his team then make final preparations for the refloating of the Russian vessel. The operation proceeds at an impressive rate, with no delays or technical hitches. Meanwhile, back in Miami, a man is seen opening a secure safe and retrieving a crystal skull mask which he dons. As the submarine nears the surface, all the monitoring equipment on the rig starts giving out bizarre readings, these being made worse by a series of power surges that eventually shorts out all the equipment on board, plunging the place into darkness. The order to evacuate is given. At that moment, in a suburb of Miami, a husband and wife are murdered by a large group of bizarrely attired individuals, led by the man with the crystal skull. As the facility is abandoned a series of huge waves completely overwhelm it, with the entire area apparently affected by a monstrous storm. Mike and his companions are caught in the storm and frantically trying to steer their boat when they are astonished to see what appears to be a glass encased island emerge from the sea…
Initially, the most striking thing about I Predatori di Atlantide is that unlike many of its contemporaries, the story takes place in a near-future environment, that of Florida and the Caribbean some eleven years hence from the copyright date of the movie. Surprisingly nothing appears to have changed at all during the intervening period, physically, culturally or politically, with the setting looking exactly like its early 1980s incarnation.
Italian exploitation filmmakers are famous, or infamous depending on whose opinion is being asked, on lifting elements from a variety of recent hit movies and reworking them for their own purposes. Ruggero Deodato’s production is a case in point, and its range of influences may prove more interesting for some viewers than the actual picture itself.
The most visible feature introduced from an existing work by I Predatori di Atlantide is the appearance of the cult of Atlanteans who cause so much destruction and death during the film. With their painted faces, punk hairstyles and bizarre makeshift attire, and their choice of transport in the form of souped up motor tricycles and vintage automobiles, these figures were obviously recycled from George Miller’s first two Mad Max ventures. Dress styles like these became something of a fixture in Italian post-apocalypse cinema, to the extent that after a while the air of parody began to creep into these enterprises. Interestingly, the leader of the group wears an Aztec of Mayan style of full-head crystal mask, but acts more like a Nazi commander, with his riding crop being used to slap the palm of his hand when emoting or employed as a device to order his minions about.
At the end of the first act, it looks like Deodato’s film may be wandering into zombie movie territory, with Christopher Connelly’s party, along with some survivors from the research platform, coming ashore at the coastal town of San Pedro and discovering the town devastated and devoid of life. Some sequences such as where the group wander along the still burning streets of the town, stumbling across mutilated corpses, are reminiscent of Lucio Fulci’s breakthrough work Zombi 2 (1979), along with its various spin-offs. The allusion to the living dead subgenre is further emphasised by Connelly and his companions having to hole up in an abandoned mission with one of their number (Giancarlo Prati) ranting about the apocalypse and divine retribution.
Examples like Aristide Massacesi’s Endgame – Bronx Lotta Finale (1982) and Romolo Guerrieri’s L’Ulitmo Guerriero (1983) reinforce the notion that while in an almost terminal decline in its own right, the Western genre was being readily absorbed into science fiction cinema. This Western influence is not so pronounced in I Predatori di Atlantide, instead material from a picture that is considered an “urban” Western has been incorporated into the Deodato production. After managing to escape from the mission, what is left of the survivors makes its way across town to a now disused warehouse where they barricade themselves in and manage to procure some weaponry in the form of shotguns and Molotov cocktails. They also manage to find a trio of other refugees from the mayhem, a family led by Maurizio Fardo (Il Gatto Nero 1988). Together they manage to fend of a heavily onslaught from the cult. When watching these extended sequences of cult members being blasted at point blank range by shotguns, the presence of smoke and gas along with oil drums being used as barricades, many viewers will be reminded of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), especially that film’s climax.
During the siege of the warehouse, several of the protagonists are wiped out and Cathy the archaeologist (Gioia Scola, La Conquista 1983) is abducted by the cult and taken back to the remnants of Atlantis. Hero Christopher Connelly (Manhattan Baby 1982) and the others make off in pursuit of her. Featuring a chase involving a bus and a helicopter, followed by a shootout at a quayside, this part of the story is reminiscent of a traditional war movie, with Brian G. Hutton’s Where Eagles Dare (1968) being the most obvious model.
Although purportedly set in Miami and the Caribbean, the majority of I Predatori di Atlantide was shot in the more budget friendly environs of the Philippines, with footage of the Florida coast actually consisting entirely of second unit and library material. The presence of the determinedly Asian jungle setting, together with lots of gunplay, grenade explosions and the presence of an army of Filipino stunt personnel gives the production the air of a displaced Namsploitation flick in the vein of Ted Kotcheff’s Uncommon Valor (1983) and Joseph Zito’s Missing in Action (1984). This impression is reinforced by the presence of cast members like Bruce Baron (The Legend of the Golden Pearl 1984), as the leader of the cult, and Mike Miller, as an escaped German prisoner, both of whom worked almost exclusively in the Far East, particularly the Philippines and Hong Kong, throughout the 1980s.
Connelly and his cohort Tony King (Apocalypse Domani 1980) manage to reach the entrance to the Atlantean inner sanctum, despite the attentions of various cult members and a former comrade (Michele Soavi, Phenomena 1984) turning against them. At this point the plot suddenly incorporates elements from Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), with Connelly and King having to deal with elaborate booby traps like a stone head that fires laser beams and a turbine-generated wind tunnel. Things become decidedly weird when they manage to locate Scola. Standing in a large chamber surrounded by projected images of the Atlantean elite, she now appears to have been adopted as some sort of deity by them. With its projected images, Scola’s mode of dress and the design used for the set, this sequence seems to have been inspired by the Krypton sequences from Richard Donner’s Superman – The Movie (1978).
The screenplay by exploitation flick veterans Vincenzo Mannino (Un Delitto poco commune 1988) and Tito Carpi (Alien degli Abissi 1989), in addition to pillaging a range of popular titles for material, is also of marginally Fortean interest for some of the concepts that they introduce. Among these are references to a civil war thousands of years ago in Atlantis between warring tribes that eventually led to a cataclysmic nuclear war, and the almost complete destruction of the continent; the suggestion that survivors from the remnants of the continent migrated to other land masses around the globe, existing as a form of “sleeper” agents, waiting patiently over the millennia to be reactivated to do their masters’ bidding, explaining why Connelly’s sidekick (who share a tattoo with the cult members) Manuel (John Vasalio) suddenly turns against him, and the possibility that the ruling Atlantean elite had evolved into almost ethereal beings who require a physical entity in the form of archaeologist Gioia Scola to perform procedures in order to fulfil their destiny. If the aristocracy of Atlantis had ascended to the next stage of their development, then it is also possible that their descendents and servants who lived alongside mankind had actually devolved during this period, partially explaining their more primitive, almost animalistic appearance when they are reactivated. Unfortunately, even the writers seem to have no idea how to develop any of these potentially fascinating plot concepts within the plot structure of the film and, even with the introduction of such New Age paraphernalia as crystal skulls, stone tablets containing cryptic clues and pre-Colombian art recording encounters with superior life-forms, they prove almost totally superfluous to the movie.
Matters are not helped by a series of gaping plot holes, notably how the sunken Soviet submarine’s radiation leak is affecting Atlantis, causing it to rise and the extent of the cult’s influence which appears to be localised to an area in the Caribbean, although since their leader was based in Miami it would seem to indicate that the devastation caused by their activities extends as least as far as that city. The purpose of the stone tablet appears contradictory, acting as some sort of historical record for the Atlanteans, but also serving as a component for a security system and a tracking device, depending on who is in possession of it at the time. Also at the climax, in a completely unexpected and unexplained twist, Scola is adopted as a member of the Atlantean elite, adopting their style of dress and proving to be very familiar with their technology. As suggested earlier, this is open to viewer conjecture for those so inclined, but most will simply find it confusing, along with all the other underdeveloped material in the film. The film ends very abruptly with the archaeologist apparently being allowed to walk out of the continent’s inner sanctum and fly off into the sunset with Connelly and King, as Atlantis returns to the sea.
If the science fiction elements of the plot prove somewhat confusing, only making sense in very broad strokes, it does have merit in other areas.
I Predatori di Atlantide is first and foremost an action picture, and on that level it largely delivers the goods for the right audience. Rocco Lerro (Leviathan 1989) and his Rock Stuntman Team pull off some surprisingly ambitious set-pieces during the course of the movie. These often involve full body burns, high falls and acrobatic tumbles, with the most impressive including a chase between a bus and a helicopter, with cult members jumping from that onto the roof of the bus only to be blasted off again. A later battle on a quayside features a lot of pyrotechnical activity, with motorcycles exploding or hurtling into the sea, followed by an elaborate airborne helicopter gag. The assault on Atlantis itself features stuntmen falling out of trees and off steep cliffs, as well as close-quarters fighting and explosions. At the climax, Connelly has to fight a whip-wielding cult leader, another allusion to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Ruggero Deodato directs all this in a stylish, highly efficient manner, helped in no small way by his film editor Vincenzo Tomassi (L’Aldila 1981), and keeps the narrative moving at an impressively rapid pace, helping to obscure the plot’s numerous deficiencies in logic and easily holding the viewers’ attention throughout the running time. Among the most impressive sequences orchestrated by Deodato is that showing Connelly and the other survivors walking through the devastated township of San Pedro, excellent use being made of long-angled shots and the subjective camera to create a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Even better is a large-scale assault on the warehouse by the cult, which features a surprisingly large exterior set, littered with rubble, partially destroyed buildings and constantly raging fires, providing this part of the movie with the aura of a post-apocalyptic environment.
The film benefits from the enthusiasm of the cast, particularly Christopher Connelly, Euro exploitation favourites Ivan Rassimov (L’Umanoide 1979), as the hero’s wartime buddy, and George Hilton as a scientist, and former football player Tony King. King’s freakout scene near the end where he blindly shoots at everything in sight, while ranting at the top of his voice, is quite amusing. A running joke about King’s character trying to clean up his act and demanding to be called Mohammed is abandoned after the first act.
Apart form the decapitation of a cult member, some machete wounds and a particularly inept arrow in the mouth, all courtesy of designer Gino de Rossi (Le Notte del Terrore 1980), the violence in I Predatore di Atlantide is surprisingly low-key. Much of it is in fact on the level of the teleseries The A-Team, with lots of machine gun fire and explosions, but little in the way of bullet squibs or Peckinpah-style blood spurts, with the film instead concentrating on physical stunts rather than anything sadistic. That Deodato has created something so conventional may come as a surprise to those familiar with his more controversial works like Ultimo Mondo Cannibale (1976) and Cannibal Holocaust (1979). However, it should be pointed out that for most of his career Deodato has in fact stayed firmly within the mainstream making contributions to any popular movie cycle that happened to appear at the time, including masked super hero (Fenomenal e il Tessoro di Tutankamen 1968), weepie (L’Ultimo Sapore dell’Aria 1977) and sword and sorcery (I Barbari 1987).
Producer Maurizio Amati (I Guerrieri dell’Anno 2072 1984) seems to have secured more generous production values for I Predatore di Atlantide than was the norm for such a venture. This immediately becomes apparent from the glossy cinematography by Robert D’Ettore Piazzoli (Piranha II: Flying Killers 1981), which makes good use of the various Filipino coastal locations along with the jungle settings, featuring bright vibrant colours.
The electronic music score by Maurizio and Guido De Angelis (Alien 2 – Sulla Terra 1980), badly dates the film but is still very effective in emphasising the production’s action highlights.
Apart from the physical effects normally associated with this type of picture (created by Paolo Ricci, 2019: Copo la Caduta di New York 1983), Amati’s production also features miniature work from Massimiliano Cerchi (Il Cacciatore di Squali 1979), including a fairly detailed model of a research rig being inundated by the sea, and a forced perspective mock-up of a Soviet submarine stranded on a beach, along with a glass-domed island rising from and descending into the sea. While very variable in execution, and unable to compete with megabudgeted Hollywood equivalents, the results are at least competent and certainly sufficient for the requirements this particular work. Also featured are some relatively elaborate optical effects where the glass dome surrounding Atlantis is depicting opening and closing, and matte shots depicting storm clouds with lightning flashes.
Ruggero Deodato’s next project would be a return to his graphically violent jungle adventures with Inferno in Diretta/Cut and Run (1985), after which he would return to science fiction with the bizarre post-Holocaust action flick Lone Runner (1986).
©Iain McLachlan 2004
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