Atlantis, the Lost Continent

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Atlantis, the Lost Continent
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Pal
Written by Daniel Mainwaring
Gerald Hargreaves (play)
Produced byGeorge Pal
StarringAnthony Hall
Joyce Taylor
John Dall
William Smith
Edward Platt
Frank DeKova
CinematographyHarold E. Wellman
Edited by Ben Lewis
Music by Russell Garcia
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 3, 1961 (1961-05-03)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

Atlantis, the Lost Continent is a 1961 American science fiction film in Metrocolor produced and directed by George Pal and starring Sal Ponti (under the screen name of Anthony Hall), Joyce Taylor, and John Dall. The film was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. [1]


The film's storyline concerns the events leading up to the total destruction of the mythical continent of Atlantis during the time of Ancient Greece.


The Greek fisherman Demetrios and his father rescue Princess Antillia from a shipwreck without knowing that she is from the technologically advanced civilization of Atlantis. After rescuing the princess, Demetrios must travel beyond the Pillars of Hercules to take her home. After they are picked up at sea near Atlantis by a giant fish-like submarine boat, Demetrios, expecting to receive a reward for returning Antillia, is instead enslaved and forced to work in the crater of the volcano that dominates the center of the continent.

King Cronus is being manipulated by an ambitious usurper, Zaren, collaborating with the court sorcerer, Sonoy the Astrologer, who wishes to use the resources of Atlantis to conquer the known world. From deep within the continent's volcano, the slaves of Atlantis have been mining unique power crystals which absorb the sun's rays and can used to fire heat ray beams. The crystals were once used to produce light and heat, but due to its arrogance, corruption, and moral laxity, Atlantis has made the crystals into a deadly heat ray weapon. It has become "an abomination before Heaven".

Taken to the House of Fear, where a mad scientist turns slaves into mindless beast-humans, Demetrios is saved by being given the chance to undergo the "ordeal of fire and water". He fights with a giant ogre in a pit of burning coals. Demetrios outmaneuvers his clumsy opponent, setting fire to the ogre's hair. The fight contrasts with the uproarious laughter coming from the massive crowd in the coliseum, cheering on the spectacle. Later, after killing the ogre in a rising pool of water, Demetrios is declared a free citizen of Atlantis.

Impending doom hangs heavy in the air of Atlantis. The birds, animals, and even the insects are fleeing what appears to be the coming destruction of the continent. With the help of a kindly high-priest named Azar, who explains these signs of the apocalypse to him, Demetrios is later able to rescue Princess Antillia after helping the slaves to escape the coming destruction. Azar explains and demonstrates two small versions of the power crystal device. He also informs Demetrios that a huge crystal ray projector, a thousand times more powerful, is nearing completion. On the next full moon, Zaren plans to begin his campaign of conquest.

Demetrios pretends to ally himself with Zaren, supposedly working among the slaves to ensure that the crystal is completed on schedule. In fact, he is working with the slaves to sabotage the process. The crystals are formed deep within the volcano, hastening the impending destruction of Atlantis.

On the full moon, the now-completed crystal ray projector is displayed to the people of Atlantis. Just at that moment, however, the skies darken, the ground begins to shake, and the destruction of Atlantis begins. The volcano undergoes a cataclysmic eruption, and the continent proceeds to tear itself apart. The people of Atlantis panic, striving to escape their impending doom. Demetrios and Princess Antillia attempt to escape through the fleeing multitude. Zaren attempts to kill them, using the crystal ray projector, but instead kills many other citizens.

Azar attacks Zaren, using Zaren's own knife, leaving the large crystal to swing back and forth, out of control, firing bursts of energy at random. As Zaren finally overcomes Azar, he is himself destroyed by the weapon's energy beam. As lightning flashes and thunder roars, the entire continent begins sinking. Suddenly, and very quickly, it begins to rise; then, just as quickly, the sea bottom collapses. Atlantis suddenly plunges beneath the waves once and for all. The large crystal device atop the capital's large pyramid, the main power source for the entire continent, is inundated with seawater, short-circuits, and a massive explosion follows.

Various groups of survivors, including Demetrios and Antillia, flee to Greece and other parts of the world, where they are absorbed into other cultures, and The Legend of Atlantis is spread through the many peoples and nations that follow down through the centuries.


Sal Ponti (as Anthony Hall)Demetrios
Joyce Taylor Princess Antillia
John Dall Zaren
William Smith Captain of the Guard
Edward Platt Azar the High Priest
Frank DeKova Sonoy the Astrologer
Berry Kroeger Surgeon
Edgar Stehli King Cronus [Kronos]
Wolfe BarzellPetros, Demetrios' Father
Jay Novello Xandros the Greek Slave
Paul Frees Narrator/multiple voices



In the late 1950s George Pal signed a deal with MGM to make tom thumb. The movie was a success and in May 1958 Pal announced his intention to make a series of follow up movies for the studio, including The Time Machine, The Brothers Grimm, Lost Eden (about Captain Cook), and a film about Atlantis. [2]

In May 1960 the film was officially put on MGM's production slate by head of production Sol C. Siegel - it was the first movie announced at the studio since the resolution of the actors' strike. The script by Daniel Mainwaring had already been completed. [3]

In June 1960 Paul announced that Italian sword and sandal actor Fabrizio Mioni, best known for his portrayal of Jason in Hercules had been signed as the lead. [4] Jon Dall, who had just been in Spartacus was cast as the villain. [5] Then Mioni's work visa expired and he had to leave the U. S. so he was replaced by Sal Ponti (called Anthony Hall). [6]

Other actors considered were Richard Chamberlain and William Shatner.


Filming started in July 1960. [7] The film had several sequences filmed off Santa Catalina Island, California. [8]

The film is notorious for its inclusion of stock footage from other films, including the Oscar-winning Quo Vadis and The Naked Jungle . Props from other film productions were also reused, including the large temple idol from The Prodigal , Krell instrument gauges from Forbidden Planet , and wardrobes from Diane and Ben-Hur . When pointed out to George Pal that there were thousands of years of difference between the various costumes and props, he replied "Who knows"? [9]

The special effects and miniature work for Atlantis, the Lost Continent, which uses ancient Greek and Roman-style buildings, temples, the giant crystal ray weapon, the volcano, and showcased the destruction of Atlantis, were the work of the special effects production company Project Unlimited. These were supervised by Gene Warren, Wah Chang, and Jim Danforth, along with the MGM production staff supervised by A. Arnold Gillespie. They coordinated their work with George Pal, who worked closely with the production designer and art director George W. Davis and William Ferrari.

The film's prologue, describing the legend of Atlantis, utilizes stop motion animation by producer George Pal that he had developed earlier in his career for his innovative Puppetoons series.

Voice actor Paul Frees provides the opening and closing narration and is also heard as the dubbed voice of the hero's father, as well as the ruler of Atlantis.


The film generally received poor reviews and was described by film critic Leonard Maltin in his 2002 Movie & Video Guide as "Pal's worst film", writing that it had "poor effects" and that it was: "Occasionally funny – but not on purpose". [10] Author David Wingrove had similar criticisms in his Science Fiction Film Source Book : "No expense was spared in buying up footage from Quo Vadis to give it true period flavour. Avoid". [11]

At a preview screening for the film, questionnaires were handed out to the audience asking what scene was their favorite. One person, apparently recognizing the footage taken from Quo Vadis, wrote "The scene where Robert Taylor saved Deborah Kerr from the fire". [11]

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  1. "Sal Ponti obituary".
  2. WHEELS TURN IN HOLLYWOOD: Columbia, Mirisch Brothers and George Pal Prepare To Launch Impressive Movie Production Schedules By THOMAS M. PRYORHOLLYWOOD. New York Times 4 May 1958: X7.
  3. 'Atlantis' Will Be Conceived by Pal: Moulin Rouge to Go Legit; Two McIntires Sipt at U-I Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]04 May 1960: B10.
  4. Looking at Hollywood: Audie Will Make Army Film in Europe Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]09 June 1960: c1.
  5. FILM EVENTS: Two Stars Signed for Musical Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]11 June 1960: 10.
  6. Harvey, Montand to Rejoin Signoret: Tustin, Lobero Seasons Due; MGM Christens New Find Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]21 June 1960: B7.
  7. HOLLYWOOD MAGIC: Exotic Area and Persons Are Created For Metro's Feature, 'Atlantis' By MURRAY SCHUMACH. New York Times 24 July 1960: X5.
  9. p. 90, Behlmer, Rudy Shoot the Rehearsal!: Behind the Scenes with Assistant Director Reggie Callow, Scarecrow Press, 01/06/2010.
  10. Maltin, Leonard (March 2002). Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide . Signet. ISBN   0451203925.
  11. 1 2 Wingrove, David (1985). Science Fiction Film Source Book . Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. ISBN   0582892392.
  12. "Dell Four Color #1188". Grand Comics Database.
  13. Dell Four Color #1188 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original )