Color, 1983, 92 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Starring Christopher Connelly, Gioia Scola, Tony King, Stefano Mingardo, Ivan Rassimov, George Hilton, Mike Monty, Michele Soavi, Bruce Baron
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), KSM (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The career of Italian director Ruggero Deodato is nothing if not diverse, and the long shadow cast by his most infamous film, Cannibal Holocaust, tends to obscure the contributions he made to everything from fantasy films to poliziotteschi. Following the double punch of that potentially career-ending film and the vicious The House on the Edge of the Park back to back in 1980, he was suddenly a pariah thanks to the extreme nature of his films and the legal trouble that ensued in Italy. His follow-up film three years later, Raiders of Atlantis (a.k.a. Atlantis Interceptors), feels like a palate cleanser of sorts, a completely nutty sci-fi / action / fantasy hybrid that barely lets up for a second with crazy genre-twisting madness comparable only to the same year's Yor, the Hunter from the Future.
Best buddies and Vietnam vets Mike Ross (Manhattan Baby's Connelly) and Washington (Cannibal Apocalypse's King), who wants to be called Mohammed, make a living as mercenaries doing seemingly impossible jobs around Florida, but their biggest challenge arrives when they're called in to help a group of scientists out in the middle of the ocean whose nuclear submarine salvage attempt results in a massive, miniature-assisted tidal wave. Dr. Cathy Rollins (Scola) and Professor Saunders (Hilton) realize they've actually discovered the long-submerged location of Atlantis, whose descendants led by the ruthless Crystal Skull (Baron) are running amuck causing a lot of stress for the local population. Of course, it's up to our two scrappy heroes to figure out the ancient secret of Atlantis and infiltrate the lost kingdom at the possible loss of their own lives.
Crammed with action and absolutely out of its mind by the time the laser-blasting finale rolls around, Raiders of Atlantis is a party movie par excellence with an insanely catchy disco-flavored score by the great Guido and Maurizio De Angelis complete with the 12"-ready theme song, "Black Inferno." It's no wonder this one had a bit of difficulty finding an American buyer for a while as it's really tough to market, lifting inspiration from a number of American action films and Italian postnuke films from the time without quite emulating any of them. The Interceptors themselves are a striking bunch worthy of a George Miller film or a new wave club, with Crystal Skull himself making an especially strong impression. The mixture of location shooting in the Philippines and sets in Rome gives the film a surreal feeling as well, often disorienting you about the exact time of day as the lighting shifts all over the place. Plus you get a spectacular biker decapitation, Ivan Rassimov chucking Molotov cocktails, an early role for future Stage Fright director Michele Soavi, and George Hilton running around in glass and beach shorts, so it's a winner all around.
After a handful of okay widescreen European DVDs and a lot of bootleg appearances, Deodato's film finally got the Blu-ray treatment from Severin Films in 2021. The transfer provided by Studio Canal looks crisp and colorful throughout, with no major issues to report; fans should be more than pleased to see it in such good shape. As you'd expect from the cast, Raiders of Atlantis was shot in English with Connelly and King providing their own voices; everyone else is dubbed, mainly with the entire voice talent recognizable from The Beyond. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track here sounds solid, especially when it comes to that score (which has yet to get any kind of commercial release apart from a vinyl single back in the day.) English SDH subtitles are also provided along with the much louder Italian-dubbed track. An audio commentary with King conversing with Vinegar Syndrome's Brad Henderson is loose and lighthearted as they chat about Italian productions in the early '80s, his love of the nautical locations, his own conversion to Islam around this time, his fondness for Antonio Margheriti, and the relatively straightforward nature of the original script versus the wild and somewhat ad libbed end product. He also talks about his amazing life overall including his early NFL days and his later career as chief of security for Public Enemy. (Please, someone somewhere make a movie about him!) They tend to go quiet for some stretches here and there, so just enjoy while you're putting together your favorite Interceptor-inspired outfit. "Ruggero and the Fate of Atlantis" (20m29s) features the director recalling how the cannibal stigma affected him at the time and the salvation that came here with producer Edmondo Amati, the role Imelda Marcos played in getting the film shot in Manila, the creation of the film "from nothing" that went on to earn a fan following, and his various jobs with the De Angelis brothers over the years. Then in "Quest for Atlantis" (12m19s), cinematographer Roberto D'Ettore Piazzoli recalls the fallout he had with Deodato over not doing Cannibal Holocaust, the reunion they had with this film after some life changes, the dramatic adventure look he was going for with this project, and his eagerness to return to shoot in the Philippines for the first time since Laure. Also included is the absolutely magnificent English-language trailer, which makes this look like the greatest movie ever made. The release is also available as part of The Marauders Bundle and The Nuclear Meltodwn Bundle.
Reviewed on June 24, 2021