Man From Atlantis: Complete Television Series
Warner Archives // Unrated // $44.99 // July 26, 2011
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 12, 2011
E - M A I L
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The Show:
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 and it has rarely been seen since its original run.  Now Warner Archives has release the entire series (along with the four 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 and after examining him convinces the hospital to take the man back to the ocean.  There she pushes him under the water and he revives. 
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 than four 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 their research.  Along with Mark, Elizabeth and the crew of the Cetacean protect mankind from dangers originating in the seas, and the frequent villain the rich and diabolical Mr. Schubert (Victor Buono).
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 giant Portuguese Man O' War plagues a swim meet, and C. W. drinks a vial of enzyme from a sea 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 desperately wants 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 his assets.  In his best Dr. Evil impersonation he creates needlessly complex plans to either capture Mark or 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 can see 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 like children when he touches them, and Mark gets transported back in time not once, but twice!  (The first time to the old west, and the second to 14th Century Italy where he gets thrown into 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 to a 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.
The DVD:

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 they're easy 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 looks fine for an almost 35 year old show.
Final Thoughts:
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.

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