Sunday, May 23, 2010

Atlas (1961)

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Michael Forest, Barboura Morris & Frank Wolff

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: BEHOLD! The mightiest man who ever lived!

Plot: Evil king Proximedes convinces superhero Atlas to fight for him, but Atlas eventually sees the king's true nature and turns against him.

My Rating: 5/10

Would I watch it again? Nope! Maybe, just maybe, if a great widescreen print surfaced.


Roger Corman is known for his fast and cheap films. Some are quite good to fantastic like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) and DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) and some are bad to moldy turds like this one. Of course it doesn't help that the only copy out there, and you have to really search for it, is a shit pan & scan vhs rip. These types of films are best viewed in their proper aspect ratio.

Surprisingly, this was filmed in Greece!

The battle scenes are weak as it's nothing but close ups. Corman's a competent film maker and he did the best he could under the circumstances. It's said that he had arranged for 500 Greek soldiers for the battle scenes. On the morning of filming, only 50 showed up and as the day wore on there were fewer and fewer. If that's the case, Corman was at least smart enough to know how to salvage something out of it. It really hurts when you see the army marching in single file. Ouch. But can't help but laugh at what look like gold painted wooden shields.

Low budget aside, the film benefits from location shooting and a somewhat decent cast. Michael Forest as Atlas is no Steve Reeves but he does OK. At 6'3", he's very lean and not at all what you would expect for a hero of this type, especially when the Italians were cranking out S&S films with larger than life bodybuilders as the headliner. It's not a very good performance, as he lacks that sparkle of charisma, but then it's not horrible. A few years later he would play another famous Greek, Apollo, in the STAR TREK episode, Who Mourns for Adonais?".

Oh, and even though his name is Atlas, he's not THE Atlas. He explains early on that he father named him after the famous Titan when, as a baby, he tugged on his father's beard with all of his might. weak...but, to Corman's defense, the Italians pulled that ruse all the time in their S&S films.

HUBBA, HUBBA! I am so going to read up on Greek mythology now!

The only real winner in this picture is Frank Wolff who plays bad guy numero uno, Proximates the Tyrant. He plays it like an over the top adolescent which is not too unlike what William Shatner was doing but I think it was Shatner that was always doing a Frank Wolff instead of the other way around. (Shatner later starred in a Corman film, THE INTRUDER (1962)). In fact, there are a few scenes where you'd swear it was Shatner and that only makes it even more fun. Wolff is clearly having a gas. If you're not familiar with his work, start watching a few of his films and you'll see why that even though most people will have never heard of him but, for those who have, he's highly respected. Great underappreciated actor. Start with THE GREAT SILENCE (1968), one of a long string of Spaghetti Westerns he starred in. ATLAS, it's interesting to note, was Wolff's first film abroad where he pretty much stayed until his death in 1971.

"You know, with good luck and the women willing, this may wind up as a old fashioned orgy."

Garnis: I want her [referring to Arione].

Proximates: Then take her.
Garnis: What about Indros [her father, the conquered king]?

Proximates: Take him, too.

Ahahahaha. Great stuff.

Low budget super hottie, Barboura Morris as Proximates' girl, Candia, is just cute as hell and seems like she'd be a cool person to hang around off the set. Her acting style is very relaxed, comfortable and charismatic. Sadly she died in 1975 with only 15 movie credits to her name. I'm definitely going to have to check them out. SORORITY GIRL (1957), MACHINE-GUN KELLY (1958), TEENAGE CAVE MAN ((1958), X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963) (super good sci-fi), THE WILD ANGELS (1966) and THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970) to name a few. Nearly all of them are classic Corman pictures including one of my Corman favorites, A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959). It's a riot and stars the GREAT Dick Miller.

Speaking of Dick Miller, a Corman staple actor. He shows up in ATLAS as a soldier. The credits showed him in the picture but it wasn't until the last few short minutes that he's clearly visible; so visible that he's in more shots than not making it look like he's single-handedly defeating the opposing army.

I love that guy. He's priceless in everything he does.

Huge army #1...I'd like you to meet..

Huge army #2. Now fight!

Say, did you notice in the YouTube clip above that there was no audio when the trumpeters played? Yeah, welcome to the world of low budget films. It gets better. There's a big dance number during the victory feast with no music as well. And speaking of music (or lack of), Ronald Stein's score really helps lift the picture farther than it deserves. He really did a great job.

Atlas is victorious!

Unless this turns up someday in a nice widescreen print, pass on it. There are better things you can do with your life when you've got 79 minutes to kill. Don't be fooled by the great poster art.

No comments:

Post a Comment