Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Raiders of Atlantis

When I think of exploitation I tend to think of three specific categories they apply to. There are those that take a specific genre and amplify the dark side of these particular films in order to create a piece of sheer glorious excess, case in point Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper. Others decide to take one particularly profitable movie and create their own interpretation of said work, culminating in cash ins that can be both completely unoriginal yet also have that undeniable cheese factor that turns them around to becoming enticing. No better example here than Bruno Mattei's Strike Commando.

 Finally there are features that are almost beyond reasonable comprehension, when trying to describe the plot of these films you would make the average film goer question whether such a thing could possibly exist. A film so deranged, off-beat and just downright insane that viewing of it should be made compulsory in all educational institutions worldwide.

That just skims the surface of Ruggero Deodato's 1983 actionsploitation 'masterpiece', The Raiders of Atlantis. Ruggero Deodato is the director responsible for what is considered the ultimate exploitation film Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most controversial movies of all time. Now with this reputation, the idea of Deodato treading the waters of the actionsploitation sub-genre was to say the least a tantalising proposition. Good thing too, that he decided to go all out with this film in terms of both action and narrative.

The title sequence sets the scene: Miami, Florida in the year 1994. Never mind that it still looks like 1983 and that the greatest disco anthem ever produced is playing in the background, just go with it. We follow two mercenaries Mike Ross (Christopher Connelly) and Mohammad (Tony King) who raid a mansion, dispatch a few guards and kidnap an old guy draped in a blanket. Well I guess to show your good guys are hardasses, kidnapping crippled old men for cash is the way to go. After receiving their sum of 50,000 dollars, Mike and Mohammad banter about what to do with it all the while we have an out of place running gag about how Mike refers to Mohammad as Washington while Mohammad frequently corrects him. After a while he just goes with the name so at least the joke does not outstay its welcome; it could have been worse mind you, he could have gold teeth and transform into a car but that's another story.

While riding a boat to Miami, Manuel a guy who just so happens to be tagging along spots a nearby helicopter piloted by Bill Cook (Ivan Rassimov) travelling to an oil rig carrying Kathy a female archaeologist. For some reason this takes place over the most abusivly long helicopter landing in film history, perhaps the editors were on a lunch break. Kathy at first is a tad disconcerted over her sudden trip to this oil rig, turns out the US government have been using a Russian submarine to investigate a large object beneath the sea. Further compunding this problem is a 12,000 year old stone tablet which Kathy conveniently enough knows how to decipher; she soon learns it is possible that the tablet is the key to the lost continent of Atlantis. A dramatic pause may be wise but let us not forget that the mystery was spoiled in the title of this movie anyway.

Meanwhile, a seemingly ordinary businessman raids the locked cupboard of Mad Max accessories and stumbles across a plastic skull mask in turn holding up to the screen. A massive storm suddenly occurs raising Atlantis from the ocean abyss causing everything to malfunction Star Trek style and decimating the oil rig. At this point the business man cum villain named Crystal Skull proceeds to begin his assault with his merry band of punk bikers complete with spiked Beetle car. How did Atlanteans learn to style their hair and build such snazzy motors? It's magic... you know.

 But wait a sec this is Ruggero Deodato right? Where's the gore? Crystal Skull starts his rampage by murdering a couple by shooting an arrow at a woman's jugular vein and driving towards the husband (who happens to be Mike Monty). Kathy along with the helicopter pilot Bill Cook as well as the founder of the oil rig Professor Sanders escape and stumble onto Mike's yacht. No one is especially concerned with the fact there is a supposed giant dome in the water that wiped out a good number of people. Sod it, let's focus on Mike and Kathy bonding over the prospect of a Spinach dinner. Yummy.

Without warning the other dude on the boat Manuel goes batshit insane holding Kathy hostage, Mike stops him and he abruptly dives into the water. Our intrepid explorers dock at San Pedro island which has gone completely tits up: hung bodies, destroyed buildings, blazing fires and stray horses all remind us of how one group of bikers has caused so much chaos. They decide to hold up in a large mansion-esque home complete with stuttering record player. Manuel suddenly runs towards them demanding they run away from the fast approaching Crystal Skull, thereby getting slashed (alcohol not included).

One of the group who suddenly has a name, Frank, decides the best cliche in this situation is to ask for peace. Sorry mate, a slash to the gut and face for you. Proof that turning the other cheek never works in action movies... ever. Mike and the gang fend off a few of the raiders with one getting casually pushed out of a window by Mohammad. Notice that in this movie when the Atlanteans die they have an echoey scream reminiscent of the Zentraedi from Macross, never explained obviously. After another of their numbers is dragged by Crystal Skull in chains, Mike throws caution to the wind and continues to move with the rest of the group through the island. On the way they decapitate a mohawked dude with wire in a fantastically grisly scene, shoot a few other bikers and soon find a drug store stocked with rifles and an almost infinite supply of Molotov cocktails.

Crystal Skull declares that our group has no place on the Earth and that the Atlanteans must rule over them; naturally a battle ensues. Hiding in the building our a few survivors, a couple with who I am guessing is the wife's sister or something. Who cares right, as the 'sister' is torched by a flamethrower and the wife is shot through the mouth with an arrow in the most blatant use of a model head I have seen since... still, the husband is left whimpering in the corner. Anyway Kathy is suddenly kidnapped by the Atlanteans and they retreat from the battle. Professor Sanders who does not seem terribly worried about the situation explains that the tablet Kathy deciphered details that Atlantis was sunk to the ocean floor by a long civil war and that their plan is to rule the Earth once again. With that, Mike teams up with a new obviously German sidekick Klaus and the group hitch a bus to ride to a nearby helicopter.

Another action scene ensuse as Mike now with a pimped up M4 blazes his way through a squad of Atlantean bikers, two of them are so humiliated that they got shot that they decided to go out in style; one decides to just drive off into the sea as if he didn't get shot in the first place and the other does the most over the top synchronized dive you will ever see. After getting to da choppa, the motley crew reach Atlantis which just looks like they landed on an island in the Phillipenes. Sanders rectifies this by saying that the Atlanteans are at harmony with nature for their technology. There are three major problems with this statement:

1. How did the Atlanteans infiltrate Florida in the first place and how the hell do they know how to ride motorcycles?

2. Thats just an excuse to not have any pricey props on the island.

3. I think we have discovered where James Cameron got the idea for Pandora from.

Either way as Atlantis has some invisible pull from a tractor beam of some sorts (never really explained, figures), the helicopter lands seemingly stranding Mike and the others. They decide to split up with Mike and Klaus seeking out the location of Kathy, while Sanders, Bill and Mohammad locate the nuclear submarine and deal with the rest of the Atlanteans. As Sanders tinkers with the sub he is soon shot by the guy taken by the Atlanteans in chains a while back called Jacob who is immediately blasted by Mohammad without a second thought. Speaking of which, anybody want to know the answer as to why Jacob was secretly an Atlantean? Oh whoops, sorry there isn't one.

On the other side of the island, Mike and Klaus press on dispatching more fish-flopping Atlanteans via bullets as well as the odd spike trap, which Mike somehow makes within the span of 30 seconds. God bless Macguyver reruns. We cut to Kathy who is suddenly in slightly futuristic garb, controlled by a large computer at the centre of the island apparently containing the souls of many Atlanteans (?). As she was the only one who could decipher their tablet, the Atlanteans could use her as the key to reviving the lost and dying civilization. Never mind she looks like she is wearing a baby bib for a collar. Carrying on with the good guy body count, Bill is shot from behind but has just enough strength to shoot backwards at his opponent as well as aim precisely at another guy soon slumping on the marsh. Mohammad suddenly has a fit of man rage, spraying his gun desperately. Despite seemingly being half a kilometer away from his line of fire, one unlucky Atlantean is hit and falls from a nearby cliff. Mohammad has officially invented homing bullets.

After Klaus is soon disposed of in a rather anticlimactic shootout, Mike reaches the cavernous Atlantean stronghold confronted by a pissed off Crystal Skull. A few close up shots and quick edits later, Mike butts the guy on his glass mask leaving him covered in protruding spikes and is defeated. Soon Mike suddenly faces a massive door guarded by a human faced eagle statue that fires reflective lasers. Fortunatly he dodges the shots so fast it makes the 'Han shot first' scene from Star Wars irrelevant. Out of nowhere (because Deodato remembered to cover up this plot holes this time), Mohammad appears and takes out the statue.

Like a classic video game, one hard level of puzzles leads to another. The two are greeted by a giant spiked fan pulling them towards it. Through a superlative example of hammy acting, they dodge the fans by holding hands, moving from the left to right of the fan with a little sing-a-long. Okay, the last bit didn't happen. The final door opens to Kathy however Mike and Mohammed can't just rush in and grab her because 'they are immobilized.' The computer goes schizo as the tablet which Mike was conveniently carrying gravitates to the center of the computer seemingly absorbing Kathy. She warns of the island starting to sink and our two heroes begin to haul ass. As soon as they get there, Kathy is there in her normal clothes and hairstyle again with you guessed it, no explanation as to how she teleported there. Well at least that means our team escapes the sinking fishbowl island and there will be a spinach dinner for everyone.

If you haven't gathered from what I have stated before, The Raiders of Atlantis is arguably one of the most insane and purely nonsensical action movies ever released. Funny how Deodato moved from a gritty and powerful grindhouse epic to an ultimately cheesy but unforgettable slice of sci-fi action bonkers. From the large body count, head scratchingly ridiculous plot, funktastic musical score and quirky sense of adventure Raiders of Atlantis is one hell of an entertaining ride. If you are at all into actionsploitation or Deodato's other works, this is essential b-movie insanity.

  • Nonsensical narrative: Off the scale
  • Disco music: Black Inferno baby
  • Christopher Connolley: R.I.P.
-Oli, 19 December 2009

Review source: Dutch VHS
Screenshot source: Dutch VHS

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