Back in the summer of 1977 if you went to the public pool
that I frequented, you'd see a lot of young boys (especially yours
diving underwater and moving around like they were having an epileptic
seizure. We weren't having fits, we were
trying to swim link Mark Harris, the Man from Atlantis.
The series started off with not one, not two,
but four made-for-TV movies that were rated highly enough to earn the
weekly TV series. After that lengthy
trial, you'd assume that the show would get solid ratings.
That wasn't the case. A lower
budget, silly scripts and a villain
who was featured way to often doomed the show to only 13 episodes.
Still fondly remembered (and featuring Dallas
star Patrick Duffy in the title role) the show is at long last
DVD-R from Warner Archives. There are
two sets, the four TV movies and the entire weekly series, and both are
viewing, especially the first set.
Man from Atlantis
(aired 3/4/1977): After a violent storm
at sea a man (Patrick Duffy) washes up on shore, unconscious. When discovered, he's whisked to a hospital
where they have trouble reviving him.
He's on pure oxygen, but he is still having trouble breathing. He's turning blue and the doctor's are
surprised at his webbed fingers. They
call in a specialist who happens to be attending a party with a female
oceanographer in the Navy, Dr. Elizabeth Merrill (Belinda Montgomery).
The doctor is just as perplexed as everyone else, but Dr.
Merrill has a strange theory. After taking
a look at his lungs, she convinces the hospital to take the man back to
ocean. There she pushes him under the
water and he revives.
Taking him back to a Navy base, Elizabeth runs a series of tests on
strange, mute creature. He can live in
with no ill effects, and starts to get weak if he's out of the element
than four hours. He's sensitive to the
light, his eyes more adjusted to seeing in the murky depths, and he can
the pressures of the deep ocean. All of
this data is plugged into a supercomputer which spits out the
answer: THE LAST CITIZEN OF ATLANTIS ???
Dr. Merrill's commander wants to use the man, given the name
Mark Harris, as a military asset, while Elizabeth
sees him as a person, not a tool. In the
middle of an argument over whether or not he should be ordered to
search for a
missing sub, Mark starts to speak and agrees to go on the mission.
They take him to a deep part of the ocean and Mark dives
down to search for the missing research vessel.
What he discovers is an undersea lab.
It's run by Mr. Schubert (Victor Buono) who tricks some of the
top scientists to come and work for him.
Once they've arrived the scientists are given bracelets that
them into being docile workers.
Schubert's plan, and it's almost complete, is to hack into every
missile system in the world simultaneously and have the rockets launch. This will eradicate the humans on land, who
have shown that they are capable of taking care of the planet, and
and his scientists to create a utopia under the sea.
Luckily the bracelets don't work on Mark, but
how can one man stop this entire mad operation.
This is a fun, light, 70's SF TV movie. It's
not ground breaking in the plot or SF
elements, but it's enjoyable none the less.
While Mark doesn't have much of a personality in this first
fun to watch him wiggle his way through the water in his unique
style. A lot of the appeal of the show
is that the viewers know Mark is special, but other people don't. When he takes off his scuba gear before
diving to search for the missing sub, everyone knows the diver with him
freak out, and it's fun when he does.
Likewise when Shubert tries to kill Mark by locking him into a
cage and lowering him under the water, viewers know it'll never work,
that's the fun of the film.
The Death Scouts
(aired 4/22/1977): As this movie opens Dr.
Elizabeth Merrill has left the Navy and taken Mark with her. She's now a part of The Foundation for Ocean
Research (FOR), along with fellow scientist Dr. Miller Simon (Kenneth
and chief administrator C.W. Crawford (Alan Fudge).
The foundation has a sub (that is identical
to Mr. Shubert's. I guess it was given
to the FOR by the Navy, which was nice of them) the Cetacean, with
conduct their research.
This adventure begins when three boaters and pulled into the
water by some mysterious entity. The
water around their boat is acidic and the Coast Guard has no idea what
happened. They call in the FOR who
gladly investigates. At the scene Mark
finds a trail of strange rocks.
Eventually he follows them and they lead to a space ship. Inside is the same logo that Mark has on his
swim trunks, the only clue he has as to where he comes from. Could he be an extraterrestrial?
Meanwhile one of the boaters washes up on shore, dead as a
doornail but the other two walk out of the surf with webbed hands, just
Mark. Everything is foreign to them and
when they get nervous, the pair join hands and are able to generate an
electrical shock which can knock anyone on their butts.
Mark encounters them in the town and is sure
they know where he comes from, but they shock him and run off. Are they friendly, confused aliens or an
advance invasion force?
Like the first movie, this one has a lot of 70's charm.
No, it's not great and some of the
explanations will cause viewers to roll their eyes, but hey, it's still
of fun. The SF aspects come to the
forefront in this story and they work even though the budget is really
low. The spaceship is basically one
small room with color plastic shapes on the walls and the alien's only
weapon is baby powder but it's still has a sense of safe family fun.
The Killer Spores
(aired 5/17/1977): This is my favorite
of the TV movies. When a NASA space
probe is returning to Earth, it passes through a strange cloud that
trajectory. The probe lands in the ocean
and the FOR is asked to retrieve it. The
Cetacean heads out.
When they find it, Mark goes out and brings the probe back,
but when he returns he's acting strangely.
He will start to describe some odd things he saw on the exterior
probe, but then stops in midsentence and not only forgets what these
looked like, but that he ever saw them at all.
It turns out that the probe brought back an alien form of
life that's invisible to the human eye.
These spores are not only hard to detect, but they can take over
people's minds and make they do anything that they want.
At first Miller and Elizabeth are skeptical,
but when they're convinced that the spores exists, they want to find a
kill them. Mark, who can communicate
with the spores, wants to talk with them.
But when they start making people in town run amuck, it looks
isn't much that anyone can do to stop them.
The spores were an interesting concept, but my favorite part
of this show was that the FOR wouldn't give back the space probe after
discovered it was infected. It's not
played for laughs but I get a kick out of the scenes where someone will
explain to NASA that they're not quite ready to give them their
dollar probe back. I can always imagine
the guy at the other end of the line freaking out when CW says he'll
it and get back to him.
I also enjoyed the scenes where people were possessed by the
spores, especially when the FOR secretary are on the phone to NASA
making sexual innuendoes. I remembered
that from when I originally saw the movie, back in '77.
(aired 6/12/1977): This is the fourth
movie in the series to air in a little over three months.
That's a pretty tight schedule so it's no
surprise that they cut a few corners on this one. The
plot is almost identical to the first
When a rich man expresses an interest in donating a large
ship to the FOR, everyone is excited.
The man asks Dr. Merrill to inspect the ship, but when she shows
she's kidnapped and taken to a remote island.
There we meet Dr. Mary Smith (Darleen Carr... I guess they even
trouble coming up with a name for the villain) a brilliant but
scientist. She's decided that the human
race is doomed, and is working on a plan to save herself and a selected
of her followers who will start a utopian society.
They need Elizabeth's
expertise on aquatic biology (why
is never really revealed), but she refuses to help them.
Until she steps in their sauna that is. The
waters have a narcotic effect, making
anyone who gets wet happy and pliable.
Meanwhile at the FOR, Mark and Dr. Simon are visited by the
FBI who inform them that the guy who kidnapped Dr. Merrill is linked to
dozen kidnappings of scientists, maybe even more. He
leaves a copy of his files, which Mark and
Miller got through with a fine toothed comb. Needless
to say, the pair figure out just
has been taken to and head out there in the sub.
Mark and Miller try to sneak into the base, but are
captured, brought to Dr. Smith and then dunked into the spa. Miller is instantly euphoric, but Mark,
surprise, surprise, is immune to the effects of the water.
But can one fish-man take on a base filled
with shirtless guards and discover just what Dr. Smith's plan is?
This story was way too close to the first movie's plot.
It even ends with a similar speech about the
Earth being doomed because of wasteful humans.
I remember being disappointed for that reason when it first
aired. Not only that, but some of the
touches came across as irritating. All
of the guards on the base (why do you need guards if everyone is
all muscle builders who go around shirtless.
It came across are really silly... this is supposed to be a
research center after all. I guess if I
was a mad scientist with a secret base I'd fill it with topless
models, so I can't complain too much.
All in all these four movies were a lot of fun and I was
terribly excited back in '77 when it was announced that Man from
be a weekly series. That joy was short
These four films arrive on two DVD-Rs in a single width
The shows were originally broadcast in glorious mono, and
that's what we get here. There's
a spot of two with a little
distortion, when something really loud occurs, but aside from that
to hear without any major problems.
The unrestored full frame video was pretty good
actually. The are a couple of spots here
and there, and the image isn't razor sharp, but it looks fine for an
year old show.
These four fun, if slightly goofy, 70's SF telefilms
certainly take me back. For fans of SF
these are worth checking out as long as you go into it with your
at a realistic level. Recommended.