I've long been a fan of Italian cinema. Not the arty stuff like Fellini, Godard, or Pressburger like normal people, but rather the bottom-of-the-barrel trash! That higher class might be to my liking, but I can't say I'm lacking with all the enjoyment down here!..
Two Vietnam vets have just undertaken their latest secret mission, and are relaxing off the coast of a Caribbean island. Elsewhere, a group of scientists are trying to retrieve a downed Russian sub, and have found an ancient Mesoamerican tablet in the process, which speaks of the lost city of Atlantis. Suddenly all hell breaks loose. The sky turns dark, a wave engulfs the facility, and the survivors arrive at a mainland swarming with deranged killers. They realise the Atlanteans have risen, and if there's any chance of saving the world from their terrible power, the heroes must venture to Atlants itself...
Raiders of Atlantis is a movie I spent many years wanting to see, and when I finally got the chance it did not disappoint! It is a gloriously ridiculous film, and stunning to behold. Absolutely loony, 80s-tastic, full of fun carefree action, ridiculous dialogue and plot points, cheesy acting, and a delirious high concept plot that is realised to its fullest degree. In some ways it feels less like a real movie, and more like a bunch of 'Italosploitation' fans came together, trying to think of the craziest things they can.
Raiders of Atlantis is a perfect example of the adage Less is more. There's very little actual story here. We get the basic setup, then the action is a go. We follow the characters from one setpiece to another, with some downtime and smaller confrontations in-between, so the movie is never boring or repetitive. Where the story excels despite its minimal content is in the same was as Demons. We may not get much, but what we get is laced with such an air of intrigue and mystery! It really hooks you in and makes you think about what's going on, while also not giving so many details to over-explains or spoils the mystery.
The ending itself is a little confusing, but it wraps up everything well, and ends on a nice (if slightly abrupt) note.
As a high concept story in a low-budget film, you expect the movie to find any workaround it can, and in some ways it does, but what impresses me about Raiders of Atlantis is just how much it does show! Is some of it a bit cheap? Sure, but you can't deny that it actually takes us to Atlantis and back! And that's more than a lot of other movies can say.
Another area the movie really succeeds in is tone. It builds up a feeling of doom without overselling it, and we really feel the almost apocalyptic vibe as a result. The movie shows the level of destruction seen in these coastal towns, but doesn't zero in on the carnage to the point of being depressing. This makes the movie still fun even if its story might be pretty dark.
If the movie is a downer in any way, it's in how many of the heroes' buddies get killed (pretty much all of 'em!), which is par for the course for any movie really. No-one goes into a slasher movie expecting anyone but the final girl to stay alive, for example. They do get some pretty badass deaths here and there, but they're all such cool dudes! Still, they gave their lives for a good cause.
The villains are men (and women) of few words and lots of action. They are totally malicious, and kill without thoughts or mercy. And they also have hilarious fashion sense, like a Mad Max film! Their ringleader is a silent man in a plexiglass skull mask, and big businessman by day. Also of note is the sailor Manuel, who's caught in a dilemma. One confusing thing though is Michele Soavi's character. He's a completely innocent guy, part of the oil rig crew. He seemingly dies early on to save the others, but with zero explanation or setup he suddenly appears again in the last act, in a villainous role.
The only area where I'd have a real complaint is the fates of the three civilians the group finds. Mike swears he'll get them out of this alive, and yet they drop like flies! I feel they should have survived. Like, in all this chaos and death, the heroes manage to save at least these three people, showing the positive effect they're having in a small-scale way. But I do like the exchange after Larry's death, where Mike gladly calls him a friend.
The action here is plenty of fun, with lots of weapons and plenty of variety. The locations work well, as do the cool poses. There is also lots of cheesiness on display, like how many shots are fired without people being hit. Or the opposite, when characters are told to find somewhere to hide and they move 5 inches, still standing in the open!
Raiders is directed by Ruggero Deodato, who once again proves himself to have a very eclectic filmography. The man was never bound by a single genre, that's for sure. I'm surprised most of all because this feels like the kind of movie you'd see from Antonio Margheriti, or Mattei and Fragasso. He does a great job with the visuals, and the island that poses as Atlantis looks good!
I'm not sure if I'd say Raiders of Atlantis is a cheap production, but moreso it used up all the money on specific things and not others. The effect of this is there are lots of wrecked cars and explosions, but hilariously fake violence, sometimes goofy modelwork (but also convincing), and low-budget workarounds, like Atlantis being a forested island with no tech or buildings in sight, explained with 'being an advanced civilisation, the Atleanteans clearly know how to live without giant eyesores.'
In one way the movie's low budget really helps it! You would expect it to look silly and cheap that these raiders are attacking regular places rather than anywhere super flashy, but it actually works really well, as it shows the kinds of normal, local homegrown places they're attacking.
There's a load of familiar faces here, from Ivan Rassimov, George Hilton, Michael Soavi, and more. There's also one Giancarlo Prati, not to be confused with Giancarlo Prete (aka Timothy Brent). Christopher Connelly is a good lead, and it's neat seeing someone older get a role like this. Tony King is a funny sidekick, equally badass, and gets in some good humour too. And Gioia Scola is a nice love interest, with many good moments, and a pretty proactive streak.
The music in Raiders of Atlantis comes courtesy of Oliver Onions, and it's fantastic! The theme Black Inferno is a groovy tune, with cool semi-nonsense lyrics, that get you pumped up. It's actually played surprisingly little! That's a good thing, as quite a few Italian movies of the period got a little carried away, and would play the theme at constant intervals. Still though I probably could've stood to hear it a bit more!
Raiders of Atlantis is a wonderfully insane and stupid movie, well worth a watch. My only suggestion is that you build up your knowledge of Italian z-grade cinema first, so you get the full experience of a progression of films, rather than starting right out of the gate with suck a wacky film. However you decide to watch it though you can be assured of a great time!...
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