Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|From the Depths Double Feature Lost City of Atlantis/The Legend of Loch Ness|
Actor: Arthur Franz
Director: Richard Martin
Lost City of Atlantis: No longer merely myths, excavations on the Greek Island of Santorini are now scientifically linked to the lost continent of Atlantis. A new look underwater shows the world's oldest geographical my... more »
Return to Atlantis. . . and to the old-school documentaries
Charles J. Garard Jr. PhD | Liaocheng University, China | 06/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have long been interested in the legends/myths about the lost civilization of Atlantis -- not because I earned one of my degrees writing a thesis on the literature and films on the subject -- not because I have attempted my own fictional trip to Atlantis via a time travel device (a novel that I will probably continue to revise) -- because it is a topic that has intrigued me ever since a professor first turned me onto several books throwing out various possibilities regarding its existence. I was an undergraduate literature student at the time, and he was a science professor, but somehow these two fields of study came together with this still-enigmatic topic. Among the texts he shared was Ignatius Donnelly's book ATLANTIS: THE ANTEDILUVIAN WORLD. I have a copy of that book with me here in China, the revised edition edited by the venerable Egerton Sykes. When I was a graduate student working on my thesis on Atlantis, which focuses not only the fable by Plato but on the story as an apocalyptic vision, I was honored to receive an answer to a letter I sent to Ms. Sykes in England. Despite his commitments to his research on this ageless topic, a man of his stature took enough of his valuable time to write to a graduate student in the US.
Like the legend itself -- which may or not eventually be proven to be, like Troy, a real location -- this documentary is also an early piece of work. Like Atlantis, and maybe like me, it also shows its age. One reviewer compared it to the Sunn Classic films that drew us into theatres in the 1970s, those independent productions of varying quality that were forerunners of those programs such as Ancient Mysteries which explore similar territory. This is an apt comparison. No CGI effects were available, and, evidently, no good color lab was on hand to sharpen a few of the images that may have been taken from a 16mm negative. This film is like that dog-eared old paperback that you kept under your bed and squirreled away in a closet somewhere, or maybe that old Classics Illustrated comic book that you couldn't quite throw away. If we look beyond the fact that one expert is awkwardly positioned and reading from a script just beyond the range of the camera, photographed with bad lighting and almost amateur production values, we can find more than a few facts worth holding onto. Those viewers who have read the books written by Lewis Spence, L. Sprague de Camp, or Charles Berlitz on this topic or who have seen two or more of the documentaries still available might not find much information that is unfamiliar. In fact, one reviewer stated that this documentary from the 1970s -- made at about the time this graduate student received the response from Mr. Sykes -- contains a few errors. Perhaps. However, as I learned in logic class, he who asserts must provide the evidence.
That said, I must point out that the narrative is quite good. It is based on a script written by someone who has done his/her homework. A minor point perhaps worth mentioning is the glitzy, bouncy, electronic-music soundtrack. It is not as annoying as the hip soundtrack for CHARIOTS OF THE GODS, but it will probably keep most viewers who have even a minimal interest in the topic alert or awake.
Others have mentioned the second feature dealing with the Loch Ness monster. Since that subject holds little interest for me, I will defer to their comments and focus on my own interest of Atlantis.
Probably, you already know about the Mayans. Those people and their curious (and for some -- fatal) sport are showing up in a lot of films about 2012 -- not to mention Mel Gibson's startling and violent film APOCALYPTO. Probably, you already know about the Bimini Road, discovered in 1968, the year that psychic / sleeping prophet Edgar Cayce told us that Atlantis would be discovered. Probably, you have heard of J. Manson Valentine who is shown in the film discussing his discovery of the underwater road. If you know anything about the research on Atlantis, you have no doubt heard of the work of the 19th century populist Ignatius Donnelly and Egerton Sykes, the editor of a revised edition of Donnelly's famous work, shown in this film as he appeared in his 80s. Probably, you know about the island of Thera or Santorini. Maybe you have even read or heard about Otto Muck and his SECRET OF ATLANTIS (shown on Amazon as being out of print) and Immanuel Velikovsky's early work WORLDS IN COLLISION, which posits real occurrences as the source for the Atlantis myths. If you have read anything by Graham Hancock or seen any of the films featuring him, you probably are aware of perspectives more recent than this film could provide, but that hardly means that this 70s documentary with its faded colors and occasionally fuzzy images should be ignored.
So why watch or buy this DVD? You might wish to do so not only because it is a curiosity -- a simply made documentary, like those you used to see on the late show on independent TV stations -- but also because it includes detailed discussions and stock footage, amateur-looking as some of it might appear to those who are spoiled by more recent filming techniques, that does not always seem to fit the narrative but is compelling nonetheless. For me, it is a curiosity merely because of -- not in spite of -- the footage, such as the images of the Mayans in full dress going through their rituals. Just where, for example, did they obtain such footage -- from another film, from a staged re-enactment? How many pieces of stock footage from other films, or from cinematographers with their hand-held 16mm cameras, were edited together here, possibly from a 16mm negative cropped to give the production a wide-screen ratio? The film begins as a science-fiction film might, showing familiar views of the cosmos and even an image of a wheel-shaped space station similar to what we have seen in modest-budgeted films of the 1950s and 1960s. This stock footage might be jarring at first until we listen to the speculations about who the Atlanteans might actually have been
I first gave FROM THE DEPTHS: LOST CITY OF ATLANTIS four stars. Now, after another viewing, I am changing my rating to five stars, something I have never done before. Of course, it all depends on what you like. If you like digging out your own amateur movies and looking at them from time to time, or if you like thumbing through those old paperbacks you picked up in an airport or drugstore somewhere a long ago, you might find this curiosity worth your time. It was certainly worth my time, if for no other reason than to again hear references to Immauel Velikovsky and Otto Muck as well as to hear the comments made by J. Manson Valentine regarding his discovery in Bimini. Seeing brief images of Mr. Sykes, fuzzy though they are, is just icing on the cake -- if you will excuse the horrible cliche.
I might even show FROM THE DEPTHS to non-discriminant students in a mythology class sometime, pairing with it a couple of those early-1960s Italian sword-and-sandal epics like HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (originally given the more appropriate title of HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS), THE GIANT OF METROPOLIS (probably the weirdest of those Italian imports poorly dubbed into English) or even the George Pal US production ATLANTIS: THE LOST CONTINENT (if it ever becomes more widely available and at a reduced price). The latter film features so much footage cobbled from QUO VADIS? that one wonders just how much Pal contributed to this tepid adventure. On the other hand ATLANTIS: THE LOST CONTINENT does include a compelling introduction that contributes to the diffusion theory about beliefs and architectural constructions that appeared on both side of the Atlantic and even shows humans being turned into servile, animal-like automatons. I could also pair this FROM THE DEPTHS DVD with the TV documentary narrated by Richard Crenna or the Ancient Mysteries installment narrated by Leonard Nimoy. Undoubtedly, comparisons with these later productions will engender immediate comparisons from the students, solicited or unsolicited.
Atlantis is still intriguing to many of us today, maybe because of the suggestion that what happened to Atlantis might happen to our own civilization. After all, Plato does mention destruction by flooding and destruction by fire, adding that such devastation has happened before and will inevitably happen again. The survivors may not be those with advanced degrees but those simple folk who will pass the story on to future generations over and over again until what happened will be regarded as little more than a myth. "Do you believe that the lost continent of America ever really existed?" someone in the very distant future might ask. "Do you really think they destroyed themselves because they let their own technological achievements be used for vile purposes?" I have posed this question to students and been rewarded with some very sober expressions. "Do you think," I have asked them, "that if we are destroyed on 2012 -- not just the western continents but all of us -- that our civilization may be discussed in the far future as a story to warn inhabitants of this planet what can happen if they don't take care of their environment and learn to love one another?"
The decision of whether or not the positive aspects of this older documentary out-weigh the negative is yours. I've given you my take, flawed though it might be after a couple of cursory viewings. What I mean by this last comment is that sometimes I view DVDs like this one while grading student papers. Other teachers out there probably do the same. If we miss something that we feel might be important, we can always rewind it. As a distraction for one evening, this is not a waste of your time. Its main value might be as a nostalgic look at how low-budget documentaries used to be made -- quaint but hardly mind blowing. Its like a visit to your grandma's house -- a pleasant enough visit but not a place where you would want to live."
An Interestng 70s documentary
Steven Gauss | Dallas, Texas USA | 09/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We don't see many like this anymore. It is in the same vein as some of the old Schick Sunn Classic films like Mysterious Monsters. If what we see is right then there is something worthy of investigation there. This film shows some good starts on that road"