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Monday, November 3, 2008

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Overview: From Alien Invaders & Giant Monsters To Nature Gone Wild Part 2


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The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

A new type of monster/fantasy film was born in 1958. This film was going in a different direction from previous monster movies. This time, the tales of the Arabian Nights would be explored. Considering the plethora of monster films before had been shot in B/W, this production was being shot in color and featured effects by the man who had brought many a monster to life beginning with BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)-- Ray Harryhausen.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The film was the classic SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). Harryhausen had previously assisted famed animator Willis O'brien (KING KONG) on the original version of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), a film that won an Oscar for special effects. Here, Harryhausen introduced a new filmmaking process--'Dynamation'--which combined stop motion animation with live action performances making sequences that looked as if the fantastic and the realistic were sharing the same space together.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The first in the famous trilogy, SEVENTH VOYAGE starred Kerwin Matthews (JACK THE GIANT KILLER) as the Arabian adventurer. Sinbad must travel to a danger filled island to free his betrothed from a spell put upon her by an evil wizard. The film is filled with many stop motion animated monsters; a painstaking process of filming an object one frame at a time. SEVENTH VOYAGE was Harryhausen's first film in color and his introduction to the above mentioned 'Dynamation' process. The film was a major success and a highly enjoyable movie for young and old alike. However, it would be 16 years before Sinbad would grace the silver screen again.

Harryhausen's next project was 1961's MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, which also combined another Jules Verne adventure, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. When civil war prisoners from both sides end up stranded on an island inhabited by numerous giant creatures (Bees, chickens, crabs, etc) they put aside their differences to survive until they meet up with Captain Nemo (played by Herbert Lom) who informs them the island will be destroyed by an erupting volcano. Another hit for the Howard H. Schneer-Harryhausen team. Likable characters and a sense of adventure similar to the Sinbad films hold the piece together. Harryhausen and Schneer had teamed in the 50's on the B/W sci fi/monster films BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), IT CAME FORM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) .

Jason & the Argonauts (1963)

JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963) is quite possibly Harryhausen's most famous work. A timeless and classic motion picture, one of the greatest fantasy films ever made, it tells the story of Jason and his search for the Golden Fleece going from one peril to the next. The film contains some of Harryhausen's best work without doubt. Probably the most fondly remembered sequence involves Jason and a few of his men doing battle with an army of skeletons. An intricate and difficult scene to pull off that took months to finish as the men had to perform the scene against invisible opponents. The stop motion skeletons were inserted carefully to match the actors movements. The scene where Jason and Hercules (played by Patrick Magee) confront the gigantic living statue Talos and the duel with the 7 headed Hydra are other memorable moments.

Jason & the Argonauts (1963)

Ray next toiled on the H.G. Wells adaptation of FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964). The film dealt with a group of explorers and a planned expedition to the moon. However, a man confined within a mental hospital claims to have already made the trip. Once the new astronauts make their journey they discover someone else has indeed set foot on the moon before them and also the moon is inhabited by a race of insect-like creatures.

One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Harryhausen later teamed up with Hammer for one film--ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966) starring John Richardson, Raquel Welch and Martine Beswicke. This film was a huge success much to the delight of Hammer who had become disenchanted with the length of time it took to produce the animated dinosaur sequences. Even so, Hammer wanted to do another dinosaur picture but Harryhausen proved too costly and meticulous as Hammer wanted to get the film out as quickly as possible. Jim Danforth was hired to do the next picture for them entitled WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970) starring the beautiful Victoria Vetri.

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Harryhausen's next workload was a film that was supposed to have been done earlier by Willis O'brien, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969). This was a western with dinosaurs starring James Franciscus. A group of cowboys find an Euhippus, the earliest form of the modern horse; only it's very, very tiny. Some local gypsies protest that the creature must be returned to the valley lest suffer the wrath of Gwangi. The tiny animal is stolen and Franciscus and team go after it and into the valley where they encounter many dinosaurs including Gwangi, an Allosaurus.

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Gwanji is eventually captured and taken back to be put on display in a circus. The gypsies free the monster and it runs rampant eventually doing battle with a circus elephant before being trapped in a burning building where it is killed. The film somewhat mirrors Harryhausen's earlier work on the film 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957). The creature in that film is also captured and put on display and also does battle with an elephant before being subdued atop the Roman Coliseum.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Next came the long awaited return of Captain Sinbad. This time essayed by John Phillip Law who Spaghetti western fans will remember from DEATH RIDES A HORSE (1967). Law's portrayal is the best of the series as he (along with a cast of able performers) fully captures the flavor of the Arabian Knights Adventures. In it, Sinbad must find a series of gold tablets that, once put together, reveal a map of the location of a magical fountain that grants immortality. Tom Baker, most famous from the classic British tv show DOCTOR WHO, plays the main villain here and does an appropriately menacing job. There are many memorable scenes here but one of the most impressive is the battle with the six armed stone God Kali.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

The beautiful British actress Caroline Munro, a favorite of horror fans everywhere, also stars as the slave girl, Marianna. An absolutely stunning soundtrack by Miklos Rozsa befits the Arabian ambiance. Robert Shaw, Quint in JAWS (1975), is uncredited as the oracle. Science fiction fans will remember John Phillip Law as Jane Fonda's winged friend Pygar in BARBARELLA (1968) and the star of the Mario Bava comic book styled DANGER: DIABOLIK (1968).

Sinbad & the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

In 1977 the third and final Sinbad film saw release-- SINBAD & EYE OF THE TIGER. This time Patrick Wayne (son of the Duke) essayed the role of Sinbad. Jane Seymour, Patrick Troughton (another DOCTOR WHO) and Damien Thomas (TWINS OF EVIL) fill out the cast. Sadly, Patrick Wayne is the weakest of the three Sinbad interpretations although the film features some of Harryhausen's most impressive work. Patrick Wayne was well on his way to becoming something of a cult fantasy film actor appearing the same year in the AIP-Amicus co-production THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT.

Sinbad & the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Initially there was to have been a fourth Sinbad picture but it was put aside as Harryhausen and Schneer noticed a changing trend in the Fantasy genre. People were growing tired of these types of adventure films and likened the heroes in movies to be a bit more rough around the edges. The team of Harryhausen-Schneer would ultimately go out with a bang with the classic MGM production CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981); a film that would go on to become one of the most requested films on cable television.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

A great cast was on hand for this ambitious production-- Sir Lawrence Olivier as Zeus, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Harry Hamlin and Burgess Meredith. Many brilliant sequences fill out this excellent film from the giant Kraken to the suspense filled (and scary as hell seeing it as a kid) duel with Medusa. The Medusa scene was even copied almost note for note (but very sloppily) in Luigi Cozzi's incredible "comedy" HERCULES 2 (1984) starring Lou Ferrigno. Love also sprouted for some of the cast members on the set of TITANS. Actors Hamlin and Andress became romantically entangled on the set and had a child together. Andress was over 20 years older than Hamlin.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Although CLASH was very successful, Harryhausen had written a script for a follow-up entitled FORCE OF THE TROJANS. The creatures for this one were likewise impressive (seen in the exhaustive hard back book on Harryhausen's films released in 2005) Although MGM showed interest initially, the picture never got made. Realizing audiences had lost the attraction to their kind of heroes, CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) was the last of the Harryhausen-Schneer films as well as the last of its kind. Films featuring mystical or mythological heroes were replaced by a more brutal form of champion, the birth of the anti hero.

Squirm (1976)

During the 1950's, the Big Bug movies had proved to be big box office and the genre was revived in the 1970's with the Nature-gone-Amuck genre. Some examples of them are WILLARD (1971), the sequel BEN (1972;Michael Jackson did the theme song!), BUG (1975), PHASE 4 (1974), NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972; giant killer rabbits with De Forest Kelley), JAWS (1975; the most successful), GRIZZLY (1976), DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977), THE PACK (1977), DOGS (1976), ORCA (1977), DEADLY EYES (1982), THE SWARM (1978), THE BEES (1978), TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978), THE SAVAGE BEES (1976), PIRANHA (1978), ALLIGATOR (1980), SQUIRM (1976), KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), SPASMS (1981), EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977), FOOD OF THE GODS (1976), TARANTULAS-THE DEADLY CARGO (1978)...etc...

Aside from JAWS (1975) and JAWS 2 (1978), the most successful (and one of the most successful films of 1976) of these was GRIZZLY. Promoted as "JAWS with claws", the film starred Christopher George, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel as the trio that try to stop a rampaging Grizzly that's been making meals of vacationers. Some startling violence for a PG film shows just what could be gotten away with at the time. Seeing the film today it's not very memorable but the three main leads do a good job of holding the film together.

The largest Grizzly alive was used for several scenes. Director William Girdler fired back the following year with (in my opinion a superior film) DAY OF THE ANIMALS. GRIZZLY made millions in 1976 (grossing over 30 million in the US alone) and was the biggest moneymaking independent film till HALLOWEEN (1978) dethroned it two years later. Producer Edward L. Montoro made off with much of the profits from Girdler's film. The notoriously fraudulent producer was taken to court by Girdler and others to get a piece of the box office pie.

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977) stars Chris George again along with his wife (who did numerous films with her husband), the beautiful Lynda Day George. Leslie Nielsen, who plays the polar opposite of his later comedic roles, is the films human villain. Nielsen steals the show from the nasty animal antagonists turning in a performance just as brutal and shocking as the rampaging animals seen in the film. Richard Jaeckel and the fine character actor Michael Ansara also star.

A hole in the Ozone layer has caused all manner of wildlife to go berserk and attack humans. A group of hikers must make their way off a mountain alive and break up into two separate groups--one that follows their guide (George) and the other that follows the sly businessman (Nielsen). The finale where the remaining survivors are trapped in a small shed by a half dozen crazed canines is very well done. The films animal trainer was the first victim at the opening of JAWS and she also falls prey to animals here as well.

William Girdler was a promising young director who delivered fun and entertaining (if often flawed) movies. His career would be cut short soon after filming the 1978 film THE MANITOU, about an evil Indian medicine man that takes up residence in a woman's back. Director Girdler was killed in a helicopter crash scouting locations for his next movie.

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

KNIGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) is one of the best, as well as one of the best remembered, nature-amuck films from the 1970's. Here, repeated use of various pesticides has killed off the natural food supply of all varieties of spiders in the region. The angry arachnids begin attacking small animals at first then move there way up to humans. William Shatner plays the hero along with 70's fave, Tiffany Bowling and Woody Strode, an actor familiar from countless Italian crime and western films.

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

Some truly spine tingling sequences are present and it's obvious the actors are not faking their terror in the many all too real spider attack scenes. The finale features an incredible shocker of an ending. The soundtrack is one of the best ever horror scores and was stock cues heard most famously in the original TWILIGHT ZONE show. Shatner's wife at the time also features in the film as the wife of his late brother. Shatner was set to direct a sequel to KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS in the early 90's but the film, concerning experiments on inmates in an insane asylum, never came to fruition.

Bert I. Gordon who had done many of the big bug and giant creature films of the 1950's started up again with his 70's entries EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977) and FOOD OF THE GODS (1976). Both were film adaptations of HG Wells stories. Gordon was famous for his less than steller effects work seen in his films. He was also known for usually writing, directing and creating the special effects himself. His effects generally consisted of taking a real lizard, spider, locust, etc... and using a macro lens to enlarge it, then compositing the shot with live actors. The results were seldom very convincing but Gordon was an incredibly energetic and ambitious man who obviously loved his work. Some of his other work include were THE CYCLOPS (1957), EARTH VS THE SPIDER (1958), VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1960; starring Ron Howard!) and ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1963). These movies, along with his others discussed above earned him the nickname "Mr. B.I.G.", hence his real name Bert I. Gordon.

For his return to cinema in the late 70's, Gordon tackled what would eventually become one of his most enduring works-- THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1976). Although the effects (for the most part) are laughable, some of the process shots are still pretty decent. His old method of macro enlarged creatures returns here in addition to some mock up effects for the various giant worms, wasps and rats. Gordon was able to secure a good cast for the film including former child evangelist, Marjoe Gortner and Ralph Meeker. The scenes showing the cast blowing away the giant rats look painfully realistic as if the rodents were really being harmed or even killed.

For his next effort, Gordon was able to get Robert Lansing and Joan Collins for the silly AIP film EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977). Collins ridicules the movie in her autobiography claiming director Gordon was not very nice to her the duration of the picture and that AIP would not pay for medical bills should the cast get injured during filming. The movie itself is one of the So-Bad-It's-Good school. However, in its defense up until the ants are seen there are several very suspenseful sequences and a very creepy soundtrack. When the macro lens isn't used to enlarge the ants, unconvincing models take their place. The camera shakes wildly during the shots that involve the obviously inanimate ant props; the cast moving them around to simulate the giant creatures attacking.

Both films are similar in structure and both mangled Wells's original source material to resemble throwbacks to Gordon's "glory days" of giant creature cinema. In FOOD, the reasoning for the animals enormous size is the eruption of an oozing substance that emerges from the ground. The animals eat the strange goop and grow to abnormal size and attack and eat man. A group of survivors hole up inside a cabin in the woods in an effort to stave off an attack by a growing number of giant, carnivorous rats. In EMPIRE, the giant ants are the result of a toxic waste spill when barrels of waste are dumped into the sea and wash up on the shores of an island. A group of tourists are invited to this new island resort to be courted for possible land purchases but get more than they bargained for when they are attacked by the creatures. With their means of escape having been destroyed, the dwindling survivors manage to make their way to a town where it is soon discovered the ants are using the humans as slaves!

Killer dogs featured in the obviously titled DOGS (1976) aka SLAUGHTER. It stars MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.'s David McCallum and busy tv and frequent movie actor, George Wyner. Future DALLAS actress, Linda Gray has a supporting role. In this film, a growing number of dogs have turned on their owners with no explanation. The terrifyingly ominous howling sounds the dogs make once they pack together is very unsettling.

THE PACK (1977) features Joe Don Baker about vacationers on an island that are preyed upon by a pack of wild, bloodthirsty canines; the result of vacationers who have abandoned their pets. Left to fend for themselves or simply starve to death, the dogs soon turn their attentions (and hunger) on the island visitors. The Wes Craven produced film THE BREED (2006), which sat on a shelf for two years follows this same plotline.

ALLIGATOR, from 1980, directed by action director Lewis Teague, is about a baby alligator flushed down the toilet feeding off an illegal growth hormone that causes it to grow to gigantic size. A famous urban legend about alligators in the sewers formed the basis for this movie and shockingly enough, alligators have been found in the sewers by animal control officers in the big cities. Robert Forster and Robin Riker along with a scene chewing Henry Silva, star. A very popular film with a strong cult following. It was a bomb at the box office but later became one of the biggest hits on the ABC network during the mid 80's. ABC even commissioned a sequel, the dismal ALLIGATOR 2: THE MUTATION (1991).

SPASMS is one of the most interesting of the nature-amuck genre. Filmed in 1981 but not released until 1983, the film stars Oliver Reed and Peter Fonda. Fonda is a big game hunter who is after a gigantic snake revered as a God in Asia. The snake is finally captured and shipped to the US where it arouses the curiosity of the proprietors of a satanic church who wish to have the snake for themselves. It is discovered that Reed and another Hunter had pursued the giant snake before. The other man was killed while Reed, also bitten, did not die, but instead has a psychic link to the snake and "sees" it when it kills even feeling the victims pain. The snake is accidentally let loose by the devil worshippers and the slithery serpent goes about killing everyone it comes into contact with. Peter Fonda and Reed team up to kill the rampaging monster. One of the films weaknesses is it seems unfinished as the subplot involving the devil worshippers is dropped midway through. A number of other scenes seem incomplete or end rather abruptly. This could account for the two years between the making and the films release. The special effects by world reknowned make-up artist Dick Smith are impressive. Based on a novel entitled 'Death Bite'. It's not a bad movie, but a definite missed opportunity that I wouldn't mind seeing a remake of.

DEADLY EYES from 1982 was a Golden Harvest-Warner Brothers co-production directed by Robert Clouse; returning to the killer animal genre after helming THE PACK in 1977. This one is about giant sized rats (actually dachsunds dressed in rat suits! A nod to THE KILLER SHREWS?) that get into a shipment of contaminated grain thereby growing larger than normal and begin to kill and eat the cast including Scatman Crothers. One particularly nasty scene has the rats drag off and eat a baby. Lots of bloody violence in this one. The film was based on the novel, 'The Rats'.

ORCA from 1977, is often unjustly called a JAWS rip-off which it is not. It has more in common with MOBY DICK than the shark film. A 17 million De Laurentiis production, it starred Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Keenan Wynn, Bo Derek and a young Robert Carradine (soon to star in the REVENGE OF THE NERDS films). Harris plays a seafaring hunter who wants a killer whale as his next trophy. Things don't quite go as planned as he ends up spearing a female whale that proceeds to (in a shocking scene) give birth to a dead baby whale once hoisted on deck. The whale's mate (witness to all this) eventually goes after Harris nearly destroying a seaside town in the process. Nolan (Harris), having already lost some of his crew to the vengeful whale, sets out to confront the creature at sea.

Producer De Laurentiis was an extravagant, thrift spending Hollywood mogul (not unlike Irwin Allen). He financed many seriously expensive box office failures. A few of these became cult films-ORCA (1977), THE WHITE BUFFALO (1977; a western with Charles Bronson chasing a giant rampaging Buffalo), FLASH GORDON (1980), KING KONG (1976) and DUNE (1984). Of these, KING KONG (1976) was the most successful. However, it was lambasted upon release and even more so once STAR WARS (1977) assaulted movie screens the following year.

One of the most memorable scenes in ORCA (1977) is where Bo Derek has her leg bitten off by the whale. Morricone's soundtrack is also very good utilizing the beautiful voice of Italian singer, Edda Dell' Orso in several pieces. Some complained of Harris's overacting here but I think it suits his character considering there are parallels between the character of Nolan and the rampaging whale--they both share loss and grief. At the time of the films release, Harris valiantly defended the film against critics who repeatedly compared it to JAWS.

An interesting (possibly coincidental) comparison occurs at the films beginning. Orca attacks and kills, in rather spectacular fashion, a great white shark (possibly a jab at JAWS) ramming it with its snout ejecting the shark into the air and crashing back into the sea where it proceeds to eat the shark. Then, the following year in JAWS 2, there is a scene in which a mutilated, partially eaten killer whale washes up on shore (possibly return fire at De Laurentiis' film) the victim of the killer shark.

Piranha (1978)

PIRANHA from 1978 is reportedly Steven Spielbergs favorite of the JAWS clones (I wonder what he thinks of Castellari's THE LAST SHARK?). A very funny and memorable horror film from Roger Corman's New World Pictures. It's about a group of experimental piranha released from an army test site after two people searching for a missing couple accidentally drain the pool thinking they will find the bodies at the bottom. The fish, to have been used during the Vietnam War, are an even more rabid strain of man eaters. They eventually gobble up the supporting cast in rapid succession. Some very bloody scenes and a nifty soundtrack by the great Pino Dinoggio (THE HOWLING). A stellar cast, too with Bradford Dillman (ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES), Keenan Wynn (ORCA), horror film faves Dick Miller (GREMLINS), Barbara Steele (BLACK SUNDAY), Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) and Paul Bartel (EATING RAOUL). Directed by horror/fantasy director, Joe Dante (THE HOWLING, GREMLINS, SMALL SOLDIERS, INNERSPACE).

A sequel followed in 1981 entitled PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING. It was an Italian production starring Lance Henriksen and Tricia O'neal. The film had nothing to do with the first film and instead told a story of genetically altered piranha that could not only kill in the water, but also fly and feast on humans on land. The only link to the original is that the ending of PIRANHA (1978) hints that the flesh eating fish have escaped into the ocean. The second film builds on that premise but the script is a completely different story. It was also director James Cameron's directorial debut. Although he retained directors credit, he was fired not long after the film was underway and direction was overtaken by producer Ovidio Assonitis (TENTACLES, BEYOND THE DOOR). Special effects were created by Italian specialist Gianneto de Rossi. The film also played on television as PIRANHA 2: FLYING KILLERS and early release posters for the film were simply entitled THE SPAWNING (with some great artwork, by the way).

One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Going back to 1966, Hammer scored a hit with ONE MILLION YEARS BC and another minor hit with WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH in 1970. Carreras wanted another prehistoric picture but without the time consuming and costly stop motion effects work. So the third film, CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971), became the 'Movie the World Forgot', as it bombed terribly. In place of dinosaurs there was lots of fighting amongst cavemen and lots of nudity particularly by Norwegian beauty Julie Ege (LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, THE FREAKMAKER).

Amicus, Hammer's biggest rival, got in on the act and co-produced with American based AIP, three of four films all starring Doug McClure (McClure only co-stars in the third film). Three of the films were based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. All were directed by Kevin Conner. The first film, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), took place during WW1. Survivors from a U-boat attack manage to take over the submarine that sank their vessel. The group form an uneasy alliance till they are able to find a port whereby the two groups will go their separate ways.

Becoming lost and running out of supplies, the sub enters uncharted territory ending up in a land inhabited by prehistoric creatures. The two sides form a temporary truce in order to survive until they can find a means of escape. They encounter numerous perils including many dinosaurs and cavedwellers alike. At the conclusion it turns out the island is actually a gigantic volcano that destroys the escaping submarine save for Tyler (McClure) and his girlfriend, Lisa.

In place of the stop motion photography, huge mechanical mock-ups are substituted with some more convincing than others. Excellent set design and a colorful soundtrack are pluses. McClure makes a good leading man backed by a supporting troupe of players recognizable from various other British horror films. Originally, Stuart Whitman was tapped for the lead role but reportedly, he was disliked by one of the producers so he was replaced by McClure who was said to have been difficult to work with at times.

The second film, AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976), sees McClure and Peter Cushing traveling in a gigantic drill to the center of the Earth and encountering more strange monsters in the land of Pellucidar. They also run across the stunning Caroline Munro in a revealingly skimpy costume. Cushing steals the show as the wily and ostentatious professor who is afraid of nothing and joins McClure in many of the films action set pieces. The mock-up monsters return as do the unusual set decoration and another adventurous score.

The third picture, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977), is a direct sequel to LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975). Patrick Wayne along with Thorley walters, Sarah Douglas and Shane Rimmer take off to find Bowen Tyler (McClure) hopefully still alive in the land of the dinosaurs. After their plane is attacked by a huge Pterodactyl, they are forced to land and head out on foot. They find the gorgeous cave girl, Dana Gillespie (A protege of David Bowie who was instrumental in her singing career) whose bosom threatens to erupt from her costume.

She says she knows where Tyler is but not whether he is still alive. They head off for the Mountain of Skulls where he is being held prisoner by a new race of people--the Naga's, a vicious bunch who dress like samurai but hide a monstrous visage beneath their masks. After several cliffhangers, they find Tyler and must save Douglas and Gillespie from being sacrificed to the volcano and escape in time before the living island explodes taking them with it.

There is much to recommend here. Although the effects are uneven, the sense of adventure is more prominent here than before and a rousing soundtrack adds to the high spirited nature of the production. Very likeable characters from the entire cast of capable actors and actresses. It's a shame Wayne isn't as good in his SINBAD film of the same year as he is in this film. By this point, Amicus was bankrupt and AIP would produce the last film with Columbia Pictures backing it. An interesting side note is that both Sarah Douglas and Dana Gillespie screen tested for SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978) immediately after completion of PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977).

WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (1978), the fourth and final of the Kevin Conner/John Dark series (and the only one not an Edgar Rice Burroughs tale) is the most polished of the bunch and benefits from some interesting creature designs. Again, McClure stars. This time, he plays a scientist that creates a diving bell and along with another scientist, the two descend the oceans depths to search for the lost city of Atlantis after a giant gold artifact is found at sea. The two are soon attacked by an undersea creature and end up stranded in Atlantis where they free the slaves of the populace from their captives and manage to escape back to the surface. John Ratzenberger (Cliff Claven of the hit tv show CHEERS) has a supporting role. Shane Rimmer returns from the previous film and this time takes the role as the ship captain.

The first three films are available either separately or double feature presentations from MGM. LAND and PEOPLE together and AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976) is paired with the Vincent Price undersea adventure WAR GODS OF THE DEEP (1965). Strangely, WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (1978) remains unavailable on DVD in America although it is out in Britain on disc.

Having seen most all of these on late night television, these films have provided many great memories of Shock Theater, The Late Movie or the many showings on Saturday mornings and afternoons when monster movies had an assured time slot and popularity where they relatively owned the airwaves on weekends.


Dan G Swindles said...

Just wanted to say I've been reading your blog for ages but was one of those twats who never comments. This has been one of my favourite posts, particularly as I couldn't remember the name of Warlords of Atlantis and always wanted to see it again. You working on part 3?

venoms5 said...

Hi, Dan. Sorry for the late reply, but yes, I thought about doing a third. I actually had been lazy about filling in some additional images for this second part as this rarely gets looked at.

A shame WARLORDS hasn't been put out on DVD over here. I got mine from xploitedcinema. It's the British DVD. I found one here on ebay for you...

Thanks for keeping up with me for so long, Dan, it's much appreciated and I hope you continue to find stuff of interest here!

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