Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cult Movie Trash: THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS (1983)

(Italy - 1983)  Directed by Roger Franklin (Ruggero Deodato).  Written by Vincent Mannino (Vincenzo Mannino) and Robert Gold (Tito Carpi).  Cast: Christopher Connelly, Marie Fields (Gioia Scola), George Hilton, Tony King, Ivan Rassimov, Mike Miller, Bruce Baron, John Blade (Giancarlo Prati), Mike Monty, Michele Soavi.  90 mins.  Unrated

Considering all the Eurotrash cult movies I discovered while combing the video stores in the 1980s all the way through to the present day, it still surprises me that I never got around to seeing Ruggero Deodato's delirious, insane 1983 action extravaganza THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS until now.  That Prism Entertainment VHS tape (this went straight to video in the US in 1986) was in every video store in the US back in the 1980s and 1990s, but for whatever reason, I never saw it.  When the Eurocult explosion hit DVD about a decade or so ago, RAIDERS was--and is--one of the few big ones that never turned up on the digital format in Region 1/North America (well, it is on a crappy public domain "Grindhouse Collection" set, but it's the VHS transfer).  Now that someone was kind enough to put a subpar VHS transfer up on YouTube, under the alternate title ATLANTIS INFERNO, though the title on the print is yet another alternate title, THE ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS (and it was the cut 90-minute version that's missing the gorier bits), I was finally able to see what's long been called a classic of Italian B-movie trash.  And it didn't disappoint.

In a futuristic, 1994 Miami, mercenaries Mike (Christopher Connelly) and Washington (Tony King), team up with Professor Sanders (George Hilton) and his assistant Cathy (Gioia Scola, billed as "Marie Fields") when radiation from a Russian sub carrying nuclear warheads causes a domed Atlantis to rise to the surface of the coast of south Florida.  This also brings out The Interceptors, a renegade band of post-nuke-looking bad guys on motorcycles, led by the evil Crystal Skull (Bruce Baron).  The Interceptors pursue the heroes and eventually kidnap Cathy, and tons of gunplay, explosions, decapitations, explosions, awkward one-liners, explosions, and general incoherence ensue.  Also, explosions.

The script, by Vincenzo Mannino and Tito Carpi (like most of the crew, hiding under pseudonyms to make the film seem American; Deodato is credited as "Roger Franklin"), rips off tons of popular American films from the era.  The middle section of the film, where the heroes barricade themselves in a church while the Interceptors try to get in, is total classic John Carpenter, which means it's RIO BRAVO.  The Interceptors are clearly just leftover bikes, costumes, and props from any number of Italian postnukes.  Deodato, best known for the controversial CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, does a very good job in staging some terrific ROAD WARRIOR-inspired action sequences that are often jaw-droppingly daring.  Connelly does most of his own stunts, whether he's scaling the outside of a two-story house, standing under a dangerously low chopper and hanging on to the landing skids, or, most impressively, climbing out of a window of a speeding bus and onto the roof during a chase scene.  These shots are staged to show that Connelly is doing much of his own stunt work.  Connelly, a busy TV actor in the '60s and '70s, found himself a very in-demand presence in Italian B-movies throughout most of the 1980s in such beloved cult classics as Enzo G. Castellari's 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS and Bruno Mattei's STRIKE COMMANDO, but THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS might be his best role from this period of his career. He's having a blast, kicking ass, and he gets to be the hero, which didn't happen to him very often.  Unfortunately, this was the latter period of his career, as he died of cancer in 1988 at just 47 years of age.

And the dialogue in THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS is often pricelessly nonsensical, whether King is telling someone "Your damn thoughts don't go north of your neck anyway!" or Connelly talks about taking Scola out for a spinach dinner. Or, King's instantly immortal "Can't move!  We're immobilized!" This is a colossally stupid, bizarre film that seems made up as it goes along, but it's so fast-paced and action-packed that you don't even care.  And the score by "Oliver Onions," specifically the title song "Black Inferno," is just awesome.  Definitely one of the crown jewels of 1980s Italian trash cinema, and long overdue for DVD/Blu-ray representation in the US.

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