After four (!) made for TV movies which aired from early
March through mid-June in 1977, Man from
Atlantis was granted a weekly series.
It seems that the network was being really careful with the show. Making a concept prove itself with basically
four pilots is pretty unusual. In any
case the telefilms garnered sufficient ratings and in September of 1977
Man from Atlantis returned to the small
screen as a weekly series. Thirteen
installments later it was gone for good.
With only 13 episodes the show didn't make it into syndication
has rarely been seen since its original run.
Now Warner Archives has release the entire series (along with
made-for-TV-movie in a separate set reviewed
here) in a nice four disc set.
As related in the first movie, Man from Atlantis, a man (Patrick
Duffy) washes up on shore unconscious after a violent storm at sea. 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. Oceanographer
Dr. Elizabeth Merrill (Belinda Montgomery) stumbles onto the patient
examining him convinces the hospital to take the man back to the ocean. There she pushes him under the water and he
The man, who is given the name Mark Harris, has amnesia and
has no idea where he's from, so Dr. Merril puts his through a series of
tests. He can live in water with no ill
effects, and starts to get weak if he's out of the element for more
hours. He's sensitive to the light, his
eyes more adjusted to seeing in the murky depths, and he can stand the
pressures of the deep ocean. All of this
data is plugged into a supercomputer which spits out the surprising
answer: "THE LAST CITIZEN OF ATLANTIS
Dr. Merril works for The Foundation for Ocean Research
(FOR), along with and chief administrator C.W. Crawford (Alan Fudge). (Her partner from the movies, Dr. Miller
Simon, is gone without an explanation.)
The foundation has a sub the Cetacean, with which they conduct
research. Along with Mark, Elizabeth and
the crew of the Cetacean protect mankind from dangers originating in
and the frequent villain the rich and diabolical Mr. Schubert (Victor
Over the short run of the series, Mark encounters a variety
of nefarious menaces. The world's oceans
start to rise when Schubert starts melting the ice in the arctic, a
Man O' War plagues a swim meet, and C. W. drinks a vial of enzyme from
creature that causes Jekyll and Hyde-like personality changes. All of these are fairly standard fare for a
SF show from that era.
There are a couple of problems though. First,
the show pitted Mr. Schubert against
the FOR way too often (in 5 of the 13 episodes.) Victor
Buono (who played King Tut in the Batman TV show)
chews the scenery
overacts in every scene he's in. His
character doesn't make much sense, a very, very rich man who
Mark so that he can run tests on him (for undetermined reasons.) Yet he blackmails the world on several
occasions but the police and military never go after him or even seize
assets. In his best Dr. Evil
impersonation he creates needlessly complex plans to either capture
control the world.
While the show is not camp, it does get rather silly.
I have to admit I loved the sillier episodes
both when it originally aired and while rewatching the series, but I
how a lot of viewers would roll their eyes at some of the villains. There is a two-headed sea monster that's
controlled by a con man, an Imp named Moby who causes people to behave
children when he touches them, and Mark gets transported back in time
but twice! (The first time to the old
west, and the second to 14th Century Italy where he gets
the middle of Romeo and Juliet.) That's
not to mention the time Mark discovers
a crack in the ocean floor that is causing the world's water to drain
away. Yeah, right.
Like I said, I enjoyed these shows, but I'll be the first to
admit that the production values took a slight step down when it went
weekly series and scripts got significantly weaker.
Still there were a lot of fun stories, like
the one that had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a gold-mining giant in another
dimension. But for every fun, goofy
story there's at least one goofy story that's just stupid, such as Crystal Water, Sudden Death where Mark
encounters powerful creatures that dress like mimes.
It's definitely a mixed bag and it's no
surprise that the show was cancelled so quickly.
These thirteen episodes arrive on four DVD-Rs in a single
width double keepcase.
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 full frame video was pretty good actually. There
are a couple of spots here and there
(and I noticed one torn frame), and the image isn't razor sharp, but it
fine for an almost 35 year old show.
These shows have a different feel than the telefilms that
preceded them, but they're still good in their own right. The show definitely takes one giant step
towards "goofy" as far as the plots go, but it never becomes campy. While there are as many failures (if not
more) than successes, I still had a great time revisiting this series. Recommended.