Thursday, August 25, 2011

MAN FROM ATLANTIS - THE COMPLETE TV MOVIES COLLECTION

In the spring of 1977, NBC aired a made-for-television science fiction movie about a mysterious man who was discovered washed up on a California beach after a storm. He nearly dies, but a beautiful marine biologist is able to save his life when she realizes that he breathes underwater. No one - not even the aquatic stranger himself - knows where he comes from; the best guess the government super computers can make is that he might be the last survivor of the sunken continent of Atlantis.

That telefilm, MAN FROM ATLANTIS, buoyed by the charismatic Patrick Duffy (pre-DALLAS) as the amnesiac sub-mariner, was a ratings hit, and the network commissioned three additional 2-hour movies, which aired throughout that Summer, followed by a weekly, hour-long series in the Fall. Now, Warner Archive has remastered and packaged those first four installments as "THE COMPLETE TV MOVIES COLLECTION," and fans of the series should be very pleased with the result.

In the first, MAN FROM ATLANTIS, the sea-born stranger adopts the monicker "Mark Harris," and helps the U.S. Navy foil the diabolical plans of super villain Mister Schubert (the always entertaining Victor Buono), who intends to conquer the world. In the second film, DEATH SCOUTS, Mark - now working for the independent Foundation For Oceanic Research with his lovely savior, Dr. Elizabeth Merrill (Belinda J. Montgomery), must deal with a pair of hostile extraterrestrial body-snatchers - the vanguard for an alien invasion force. In KILLER SPORES, a returning space probe brings a lethal microscopic life-form back to Earth, and in THE DISAPPEARANCES, the world's top scientists - including Elizabeth - are kidnapped by a mysterious organization.

All four TV movies are fairly entertaining, if a bit slow by today's standards, with decent scripts grounded in science and pseudo-science. Much mileage is gotten out of Mark's naivete/innocence and his "stranger in a strange land" situation. Duffy's charisma carries the flicks pretty well, and there's plenty of rather amazing (for the time) underwater action sequences, and plenty of classic, Old School special effects. Most notably, the unique submersible vehicle called The Cetacean, which is introduced in the pilot film as property of the villain, but is soon co-opted by the heroes, becoming Mark's mobile base of operations.

The two-disc, manufactured-on-demand DVD-R set from Warner Archive sports newly-remastered, "full-frame" 1.33:1 transfers. Picture quality is pretty remarkable for TV films of this vintage; there are a few minor nicks, specks and scratches, but nothing particularly distracting. Colors are surprisingly bright, and details are quite sharp. The 2.0 Dolby mono audio is clear and crisp, with no notable hiss or pops. Overall, it's a high-quality TV-on-DVD presentation.

I loved these movies when I was 13, and I am very aware that my nostalgia for the MAN FROM ATLANTIS colors my opinion of these TV movies today. If you grew up with the show back in the late 1970s - or just have a fondness for genre television from that era - you may want to pick these discs up. The presentation is extremely good, considering that the source material is 34 years-old. I happen to think they're a lot of fun, and you might, too.

Note: The complete 13-episode weekly series is available, too, and my review of that DVD set will be posted shortly.

BUY: Man From Atlantis:  Complete TV Movies Collection  (Remastered, 2 Disc)