The Mystery of Atlantis

Another mystery solved!

I had this memory of seeing a movie at the Odeon, Clerk Street, when I was a kid. It was a terrible movie. One of many seen at that venue. At a certain point, though, the audience started laughing hysterically during a fight scene.

If you’re British, watch the scene now. If not, read on.

I asked my brother why they were laughing.

“The music,” he said.

What about the music?

“It’s The News at Ten.”

I was small and probably hadn’t seen The News at Ten, which was ITV’s 10 pm news show, as the name implies. But the ridiculousness of a fight scene being scored with news show music stayed with me. The trouble was, I couldn’t remember anything else about the film. Recent Googling of “News at Ten fight scene” got me nothing. The only development in the nearly fifty years since seeing the film was that I figured out that the cheapskates at ITV must have used library music, and the same library music must have been bought up by the makers of the dimly-recalled fantasy thriller.

I searched dumb Jesus Franco movies and whatnot. I had a suspicion this might have been a Philippines-set movie.

Finally — as a result of quasi-enjoying BLOOD THIRST, I was researching the local genre and came across what was described as one of the very few family-friendly Philippine fantasy flicks, BEYOND ATLANTIS. This seemed promising — and the promise was fulfilled.

John Ashley clutches his pearls

Mind you, I’d remembered two guys fighting on a beach, and this movie has two girls fighting in a pond. But it’s definitely the movie. There are beach fights with guys also, but the music cue is played during the underwater catfight. If you didn’t grow up with The News at Ten I can only suggest you watch and mentally substitute whichever news programme soundtrack is most familiar.

Apparently the filmmakers — old unreliable Eddie Romero directing, from a story by Stephanie Rothman — originally planned to have all the Atlantean babes be topless, but then they hired Pat Wayne as leading man and that meant it all had to be PG. But the story is inescapably sleazy and adult — it has Sid Haig as a pimp — so there’s a weird mismatch. No wonder I was baffled by it aged six or however old I was. But had the filmmakers stuck to their original plan I’d never have seen it and been haunted by that curious cue.

Pretty crazy that the same tune would be thought appropriate for the evening news and a battle to the death between two sexy girls, but news shows always try to make everything sound serious and urgent, therefore making the audience stressed out and crazy, so it does actually make sense.

17 Responses to “The Mystery of Atlantis”

  1. And, from Mr. Ray Newman on Twitter:

  2. David Ehrenstein Says:

    Stephanie Rothman is the auteur of the ineffable “It’s a Bikini World”

  3. I was vaguely aware of her but I haven’t seen anything. The copy of Velvet Vampire I located wasn’t good enough to watch.

  4. Tony Williams Says:

    She appeared at the 1979 Toronto Film Festival for the horror film series Robin Wood promoted as part of the American Nightmare project. A very nice lady. Her TERMINAL ISLAND is also worth seeing.

  5. Tony Williams Says:

    I also remember that PALE RIDER trailer when I was in my first year of residence here. Timely news item, Edinburgh D.C!

  6. I remember BEYOND ATLANTIS as a mid-1970’s New World Films/Roger Corman release that played (solely?) at the drive-ins. Since it was a Corman product, I assumed he had made it ‘in house’, but now I guess not. I never saw the whole movie, but noticed George Nader in the trailer playing the king of the Atlanteans. I have that trailer and played it once at a college movie event. There was a point where the statuesque blonde (from the girl fight) stepped out of a crowd and Nader demanded, “when will you mate?” at which point several of the guys in our audience stood up and said, “right now!”. It got the biggest laugh of the night.

  7. The “When will you mate?” thing is a virtual refrain in this movie, and it’s never not funny.

  8. Jeff Gee Says:

    When my high school film club showed “Cool Hand Luke” one Friday after school, there were roars of laughter and recognition when the chain gang went to work tarring the road. Lalo Schifrin’s “Tar Sequence” music had been used as the theme for New York’s ABC-TV “Eye Witness News” for years already and at least 5 kids screamed “Hello! This is ROGER GRIMSBY!” in perfect sync as the correct bar of music played.

    (Roger G. can be seen playing himself in Woody Allen’s ‘Bananas’)

    (“Tar Sequence” bears a striking resemblance ( = it’s the same thing pretty much note for note) to Stravinsky’s ‘Concertino for Small Ensemble’ (1953) which was surely still under copyright in 1967 and could have netted Igor S. a nice piece of change if he’d ever clicked on the TV at the right time in the right location during his final years)

  9. Simon Kane Says:

    I knew about Pale Rider but not this. Superb.

  10. David Ehrenstein Says:

    George Pal’s “Atlantis the Lost Continent” was quite the deal as far as the kids in my neighborhood were concerned when it premiered, because one of the feaured players was a terrifyingly fat wrestler named “Haystacks Calhoun”

  11. The Pal film is one of his weakest but I still enjoy it.

    There’s a music cue in Midnight Cowboy that became the theme to a BBC kids’ nature show but I’ve managed to stop letting that distract me now.

  12. John Seal Says:

    This was one of many mediocre films my sainted mother took me to see in the early to mid-70s, along with AT THE EARTH’S CORE, WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT…you know, all those Kevin Connor films.

  13. bensondonald Says:

    In “Brides of Dracula”, Lon Chaney Jr. dies to the strains of the Sherlock Holmes opening title theme. Not on a par with these more eccentric repurposings — heck, those Universal programmers shared casts, sets, stock footage and more to the point of suggesting a Cinematic Universe — but it did jump out at me in what was otherwise a genuinely dark and odd movie (Chaney’s bloodsucker, more brute and thug than suave aristocrat, made sense in what felt like a dismal American community).

  14. Oh, you mean Son of Dracula. Yes, a really strong entry in the series. I think a sexier lead than Chaney would have helped it, but the next guy in line for the role was Carradine, which wouldn’t have been much better.

  15. Interesting to hear you call SON OF DRACULA “really strong,” DC. Despite growing up as a Universal monster aficionado, I’ve never seen it, in part because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it was anything other than mediocre. The fact that Creighton Chaney strikes me as terrible miscasting for the part is another factor. But coincidentally, I recently determined to catch up on all the classic Universal horrors I’d never gotten around to, and SoD is the next DVD in my Netflix queue. Now I’m looking forward to seeing it, instead of considering it a dutiful check off the list.

    (Yes, the discs-by-mail service still exists, and I still subscribe. Fantastic film selection, much superior to their streaming service. And you also get the extras, which streaming doesn’t give you.)

  16. If you accept that Chaney can’t really suggest the qualities normally looked for in a Dracula, everything around him is fine, and having a real German stylist in the director’s chair helps no end.

  17. Ah, that point hadn’t occurred to me.

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