RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS (aka ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS) – This 1983 Italian film is my guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Even though it’s directed by horror legend Ruggero Deodato, Raiders of Atlantis combines science fiction and horror with testosterone-fueled action in a Pulp Magazine premise that makes for fun, mindless escapism.
There’s just something about this flick that almost feels like it’s an early adventure of the characters from the later film Predator. In fact, it’s basically a smorgasbord of elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Tom Baker-era Doctor Who and the siege scenes from any number of Italian zombie movies. And needless to say, the fate of the world is at stake.
Christopher Connelly stars as mercenary Mike Ross, a Vietnam War veteran who does any dangerous and dirty job for the right amount of money. Tony King is his black fellow mercenary who used to go by Washington but has recently converted to Islam and now calls himself Mohammed.
Believe it or not, Connelly and King have definite chemistry and their Butch & Sundance camaraderie carries the entire movie. In the sort of teaser opening that James Bond and Indiana Jones films feature, our two leads pull off the abduction of a reclusive crime lord in Miami amid a lot of bullets and punches.
After that, the main story gets underway as Dr. Cathy Rollins, played by the beautiful Gioia Scola, is called in to translate the writing on a 12,000-year-old relic discovered by the crew of an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew are really part of a CIA operation to raise a sunken Soviet sub along with its nuclear missiles in a vague parallel to the Glomar Explorer efforts in the 1970s.
Exploitation movie legend Ivan Rassimov portrays Bill Cook, the head of the covert CIA operation, while George Hilton himself co-stars as nuclear physicist Peter Saunders, whose job is to disarm the missiles on the sunken Russian submarine.
Dr Rollins is succeeding in translating the recovered relic from the ocean floor and informs the rest of the oil platform personnel that the tablet is from legendary Atlantis. Comparing notes with nuclear physicist Saunders, Cathy deduces that ancient Atlanteans had perfected atomic weapons, thus causing their own destruction.
Unfortunately the leaking radiation from the disturbed remains of the sunken Soviet sub has activated some of the dormant Atlantean technology, causing the domed remains of Atlantis to rise from the depths. Amid the tidal waves unleashed by this most of the oil platform crew are killed and untold damage is done to islands in the Caribbean.
CIA man Bill Cook and the other oil platform survivors team up with our mercenary heroes Mike and Mohammad/ Washington, who turn out to be old pals of his. While our main characters plus a few redshirts who will be killed off soon motor around the waters looking for a safe harbor, the villains of the film go into action.
Those villains are the descendants of survivors of the Atlantean Diaspora which was prompted by the sinking of the lost civilization 12,000 years ago. Those descendants, identifiable by their odd tattoos, come from both sexes and many races and have been biding their time waiting for the prophesized rise of Atlantis.
These descendants of Atlantis consider themselves the rightful rulers of the Earth, since their ancient homeland was the dominant world power of its time. Led by a homicidal warlord who dons a Crystal Skull helmet (Bruce Baron), these raiders of Atlantis have taken over San Pedro Island near Belize and slaughtered every non-Atlantean.
Crystal Skull’s troops dress like Road Warrior extras and use everything from machine guns and grenades to swords and spears in their terror campaign. Their main goal is to reach the risen fragment of Atlantis and somehow reactivate the lost civilization’s super-weapons so they can conquer the world.
Mike & Mohammed and their team, plus the CIA man Bill Cook, Dr. Cathy Rollins, Peter Saunders and assorted other survivors of the tsunamis unleashed by the rising of Atlantis run afoul of Crystal Skull and his army amid the post-apocalyptic chaos on San Pedro Island.
It’s an orgy of action as both sides of the conflict rain machine-gun fire and explosives on each other, ultimately resulting in our heroes being besieged by the raiders of Atlantis in a scenario reminiscent of countless “we’re surrounded” tableaus in zombie flicks. The Atlanteans almost never speak, so their inscrutable silence adds to the zombie feel.
As day becomes night becomes day again, various supporting characters get killed off, and Crystal Skull eventually realizes that Cathy Rollins has translated an Atlantean relic and therefore can be useful in his plan to reactivate the lost civilization’s technology.
The villain and his raiders seize Cathy and take her to the risen island fragment of Atlantis, whose transparent dome has retracted upon surfacing. Mike, Mohammed, Saunders, Bill Cook and the few other supporting players who are still alive manage to “get to a choppa” and follow Crystal Skull and his troops to the fragment of Atlantis.
Once there, more redshirts get killed off amid exchanges of gunfire with the raiders of Atlantis AND die from Raiders of the Lost Ark-style death-traps that the ancient Atlanteans constructed thousands of years ago. One of those death-traps is a statue whose eyes shoot lasers but most of the others are pretty lame.
In a VERY underplayed plot development, while communing with the dead Atlanteans from the distant past, Dr. Cathy Rollins must resist the dual temptations to become the new Queen of Atlantis and get the professional heaven of studying their lost culture for the rest of her life. However, Cathy has fallen in “love” with Mike Ross during the adventure and he encourages her to do the right thing by instead saving the world from Crystal Skull and his army.
Dr. Rollins turns against the Atlanteans and uses their technology to cause the island to sink once again, this time taking the descendants of the diaspora down with it. She teleports herself to the chopper, where Mike and Mohammed join her. They manage to fly free of the dome just as it reseals itself around the sinking remains of Atlantis, and then head for dry land. Crystal Skull was killed in battle with Mike Ross.
Okay, by NO means is Raiders of Atlantis a film classic, nor is it able to rise above B-movie level, but the mish-mash of genres and the Spaghetti Western levels of death by gunfire make you root for the flick. With just a bit more money spent – and with a bigger name than Christopher Connelly in the lead role – this could have become a minor hit.
As it is, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun and goes by like the wind, long before you can grow bored with it. There are also some legitimate Bad Movie moments, too, like the bizarre but catchy opening credits song Black Inferno, the obvious dummies in some death scenes and the way characters sometimes call the nuclear physicist “Saunders” and sometimes “Sanders.”
… And Manuel’s freakout scene would make Regina Carroll, “the Freakout Girl” herself, look on with awe.
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5 responses to “RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS (1983) – GUILTY PLEASURE”
“Its an orgy of action!”
Yep! I said it and I stand by it!
I’m pretty sure this story sounds familiar. I definitely could have rented it on VHS in a weekend bundle. However, if you told me this was going to happen in 2023, I might just believe you. Plus, imagine working in the writing room for this one, it must have been bonkers. Great read, as always.
Ha! Yeah, this flick was supposedly big on VHS. I agree, it feels like the writers just kept piling on whatever strange ideas they could come up with! Thanks for commenting!
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