Raiders of Atlantis Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: November 30, 2021 (June 25 website-exclusive release)
Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 92:23
Director: Ruggero Deodato
When a pair of Miami mercenaries (Christopher Connelly and Tony King) rescue a team of scientists investigating the lost city of Atlantis, they'll instead discover a post-apocalypse nightmare of punk-rock marauders, exploding stuntmen, and synth-disco carnage. (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Post-WWII Italian genre cinema was always driven by fads. The most popular trends – the peplum adventures of the ‘50s, the spaghetti westerns of the ‘60s, and the gialli and poliziotteschi of the ‘70s – tended to last about a decade before they were replaced by the next big thing. Other fads blazed and burnt out at a much quicker rate. Spurred by the one-two punch of George Miller’s Mad Max 2 (aka: The Road Warrior) and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, both of which were released in 1981, the biggest names in Italian exploitation churned out an incredibly dense crop of post-apocalyptic action movies. Following the November 1982 release of Enzo Castellari’s 1990: The Bronx Warriors (Italian: 1990: I guerrieri del Bronx), the peak spaghetti-apocalissi were released in the short two-year period between 1983 and 1984. Castellari made two pseudo-sequels, Warriors of the Wasteland (Italian: I nuovi barbari, 1983) and Escape from the Bronx (Italian: Fuga dal Bronx, 1983), trash-meister Joe D’Amato made 2020 Texas Gladiators (Italian: Anno 2020 - I gladiatori del futuro, 1983) and Endgame (Italian: Endgame – Bronx lotta finale, 1983), giallo great Sergio Martino made 2019: After the Fall of New York (Italian: 2019 - Dopo la caduta di New York, 1983), Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso teamed-up for Rats: Night of Terror (Italian: Rats: Notte di terrore; aka: Blood Kill, 1984), B-grade western king Giuliano Carnimeo made Exterminators in the Year 3000 (Italian: Il giustiziere della strada, 1983), fresh off of Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Ruggero Deodato made Raiders of Atlantis (Italian: I predatori di Atlantide, 1983), and Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci made Warriors of the Year 2072 (Italian: I guerrieri dell'anno 2072; aka: The New Warriors and Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions, 1984).
Raiders of Atlantis (aka: Atlantis Interceptors and Atlantis Inferno) is not a post-apocalyptic movie, but it does steal concepts and imagery from Mad Max and Escape from New York. As the title might indicate, it was also inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and fills its cracks with residual bits from the zombie, Vietnam action, and cannibal safari fads. The best way to describe it is that the Italian A-Team fights Mad Max refugees in a doomed banana republic (think the Filipino version of Escape from New York’s Manhattan Island) on their way to an Indiana Jones-type adventure. Screenwriters Vincenzo Mannino and Dardano Sacchetti’s mix & match approach, coupled with a decent budget (for type) and Deodato’s solid direction helps Raiders of Atlantis stand apart from by-the-numbers spaghetti-apocalisse entries, like Exterminators in the Year 3000. Sure, it’s easy enough to laugh at the stiff dialogue, shaggy special effects, and contrived/nonsensical plotline, but the relentless pace and one-thing-after-another storytelling are as infectious as any fan could hope for. There’s even a little retrospective meta-appeal, because, in finding an Indiana Jones-like myth to exploit, Mannino & Sacchetti coincidentally did an Atlantis-themed story about a decade before the eponymous protagonist’s 1992 PC adventure Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and featured a crystal skull (in the form of the interceptor leader’s name/choice in costume) 25 years before Spielberg and George Lucas stumbled upon it for the fourth official Indy movie, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).
Stunts and absurd violence are typically the key components of these movies and Deodato doesn’t disappoint, though gorehounds shouldn’t expect Cannibal Holocaust or Cut and Run (Italian: Inferno in diretta, 1984) levels of graphic bloodshed. Raiders of Atlantis is less about dripping entrails and more about nearly murdering the the cast & crew with explosions, fire, and vehicular accidents. The cast is another big plus, both in terms of performance quality and cult appeal. The token American leads are ‘70s television mainstay Christopher Connelly and Tony King, who had just begun a stint in Italy following Antonio Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse (Italian: Apocalypse domani, 1980) and The Last Hunter (Italian: L'ultimo cacciatore, 1980). The Italian western and giallo old-guard is represented by Ivan Rassimov (also the star of Umberto Lenzi’s prototypical cannibal movie, Deep River Savages [Italian: Il paese del sesso selvaggio, 1972]) and George Hilton (aka: Jorge Hill Acosta y Lara). Also, keep your eyes peeled for Deodato’s cameo as a crewman aboard a top-secret oil rig research station, as well as future StageFright (aka: Deliria, Bloody Bird, and Aquarius, 1987) and Cemetery Man (Italian: Dellamorte Dellamore, 1994) director Michele Soavi as an ill-fated radar tech.
Raiders of Atlantis was easy to find on North American VHS via Prism Entertainment and Video Treasures, and even available on Betamax, assuming you lived in Turkey. In 1999, it could be found on budget label Mill Creek’s 50-movie Sci-Fi Invasion: Classic Features set, though, not surprisingly, the 1.33:1 image quality was lacking. Smaller French company Pulse Video released the first Blu-ray edition (a BD/DVD combo pack, to be precise) via their website and some of that collection’s extras have ended up as part of Severin’s US Blu-ray debut. Considering it begins with a StudioCanal logo (a French company), it seems possible that they also share a transfer, but I’m not sure. The box art claims that this 1.85:1, 1080p transfer is derived from a 4K scan of the inter-positive. Raiders of Atlantis is one of the pricier-looking spaghetti-apocalissi, leading to a stronger than average disc. Cinematographer Robert D'Ettorre Piazzoli does use some of the then-popular soft-focus and diffused imagery seen in Warriors of the Year 2072 – especially during outdoor photography, which sometimes have a blurry, Vaseline-smeared quality – and these shots are problematic. However, in similar cases, bad scans lead to weird DNR and telecine effects, and this disc reproduces film grain, gradations, and even the muddy colors pretty well.
Raiders of Atlantis is presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono with English and Italian dub options. As per usual, the film was shot without synced on-set sound, so every track is a dub track. This time, English appears to be the most common on-set language, Connelly & King appear to be dubbing their own performances, and the rest of the English dub cast includes the voices of familiar favorite. On top of this, the Italian track is really squeezed and muffled, making the English track the better option by a longshot. Guido & Maurizio De Angelis – under their pseudonym Oliver Onions – composed the fantastic disco rock score that dominates a lot of the soundtrack, but doesn’t overpower basic dialogue and substantial effects (at least not on the English dub).
Commentary with actor Tony King, moderated by Brad Henderson – The actor and one time Buffalo Bill tells stories from behind-the-scenes of Raiders of Atlantis, as well as his larger Italian cult career, while Vinegar Syndrome’s Henderson fills in information about the production. King takes a little time to get acclimated, but finds his footing and talks about working on location in Miami and the Phillipines, ad-libbing lines with Connelly, and performing alongside other cast members.
Ruggero and the Fate of Atlantis (20:29, HD) – Director Ruggero Deodato recalls the making of Raiders of Atlantis, from early pre-production following the release of Cannibal Holocaust, the technical/logistical problems/advantages of the Filipino movie industry, casting, building locations into the script, designing the interceptor vehicles, and the film’s retrospective success on home video.
Quest for Atlantis (12:19, HD) – Cinematographer Roberto D'Ettore Piazzoli discusses his other collaborations with Deodato, some of his non-Deodato films as cinematographer, working with the cast, turning down Cannibal Holocaust, and the techniques he used while shooting Raiders of Atlantis.
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