Warlords of Atlantis (1978)

Detail from Turkish poster
Detail from Turkish poster!

British archaeologist Professor Aitken (Donald Bisset) and his son Charles (Peter Gilmore) hire Captain Daniels (Shane Rimmer) to take them to a particular area of the ocean so that they can use a diving bell designed by beefy engineer Greg Collinson (Doug McClure) to search for proof that the fabled city of Atlantis exists.

UK quad poster
UK quad poster. Art by Josh Kirby
US one sheet
US one sheet. This is a pretty dynamic-looking poster!

Greg, Charles and several members of the ship’s mutinous crew end up deep down in a vast undersea cavern system, where they discover the lost civilisation of the Atlanteans, who are actually Martians that arrived on Earth, via a comet, back in prehistoric times.


Beast-battler supreme Doug McClure and Peter Gilmore
Beast-battler pro Doug McClure and Peter Gilmore

Written by Brian Hayles, who worked on numerous episodes of DOCTOR WHO, this period fantasy film has some quite interesting ideas hidden amongst the pulp-adventure action. The aliens, we discover, are influencing mankind, causing them to edge closer to devastating world wars in order to fast-track scientific advancement: one of the main characters (Gilmore) has visions of events that are yet to be, including marching Nazis, mass warfare, atomic bombs, and so on. A pretty cool scene.

The Atlantean elite try to persuade Charles to join them
The Atlantean elite try to persuade Charles to join them

There are some crude-but-nice matte paintings and the Atlantean warrior dudes in shiny helms that completely cover their faces look damn cool, but the main reason anyone tunes in to watch WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS is, let’s face it, to see the mutant monsters featured in the movie.

Shiny-helmeted Atlantean warriors
Shiny-helmeted Atlantean warriors
A trek through the (matte painting) caverns
A trek through the (matte painting) caverns

The swamp-dwelling mogdaan, a kind of huge, finned eel-creature, is my favourite beast, bursting up through the muddy waters to menace the heroes.

The mogdaan lurks on the other side of the standing stones
The mogdaan lurks in the swamp on the other side of the standing stones
The mogdaan seen in close-up
The mogdaan seen in close-up
Doug shoots the mogdaan in the face!
Doug shoots the mogdaan in the face!

The lumpy-skinned, club-tailed, ankylosaur-like zaargs are also fun to watch as they attack one of the Atlantean cities.

A zaarg starts climbing up the city-fortress walls
A zaarg starts to scale the city-fortress walls
Zaargs must be good at climbing because these walls are pretty damn steep!
Zaargs must be good at climbing because these walls are pretty damn steep!
A zaarg gets up close and personal with some of the city's defenders
A zaarg gets up close and personal with some of the city’s defenders

The serpentine plesiosaur-type monster that menaces our heroes in the diving bell earlier in the story works better in close-up, when a full-scale model is used, rather than in long shot, where it looks rather unimposing.

The eel-like plesiosaur creature is far less effective seen in long shot...
The eel-like plesiosaur creature is far less effective seen in long shot…
...but the plesiosaur-beast works better as a full-scale monster when it pokes its head inside the diving bell
…but the plesiosaur-beast works better as a full-scale model monster, when it pokes its head inside the diving bell

There are some snapping fish too, that blast from the water to nibble at the escaping protagonists. These piscine predators are quite rubbery-looking, unfortunately, though there’s a briefly-seen, toothy critter that is also featured during the fish sequence: and that creature, though we only see its head, is rather more effective.

Toothy critter latches onto a character's leg
Toothy critter latches onto a character’s leg

And, of course, there’s the giant octopus that makes several appearances in the film. It has a well-textured skin and ain’t half bad to look at, especially when it attacks the ship at the end of the movie, to retrieve a stolen artefact.

Massive octo-assault!
Massive octo-assault!
The octopus retrieves the gold artefact
The octopus retrieves the gold artefact…
...and trashes the ship
…and trashes the ship

John Richardson supervised the visual effects, which boast some really quite decent miniature work, and Roger Dicken created the movie’s menagerie of monsters. Actually, you can be see Roger in the movie, playing one of the men defending the city’s ramparts during the zaarg assault!

Behind the scenes shot of Roger Dicken with one of the octopus models
Behind the scenes shot of Roger Dicken with one of the octopus models
A zaarg uses its big foot to smash through the wall
A zaarg uses its big foot to smash through the city wall

Directed by Kevin Connor and produced by Connor and John Dark, WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS also stars Michael (LIFEFORCE) Gothard, Lea Brodie, Robert (ONE MILLION YEARS BC) Brown, John (WARLORDS OF THE 21ST CENTURY) Ratzenberger, Daniel (THE VAULT OF HORROR) Massey and Cyd (BRIGADOON) Charisse. This modestly budgeted flick may not be a fantasy-adventure classic, but the film is definitely one of the better examples of the 70’s series of John Dark/Kevin Connor lost world-style productions (all of which featured Doug McClure): the others were THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, AT THE EARTH’S CORE and THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT.

B&W French ad
B&W French ad

Here are some posters…

UK 6 sheet
UK 6 sheet poster
US half sheet
US half sheet poster
Romanian poster
Romanian poster
French poster
French poster. I love how the octopus is portrayed in this composition
B2 Japanese poster
B2 Japanese poster
Turkish poster
Turkish poster
German poster... featuring Harryhausen's Beast from 20,000 fathoms!
German poster… featuring Harryhausen’s Beast from 20,000 Fathoms!
Spanish poster
Spanish poster
A nice lookin' Thai poster
A nice lookin’ Thai poster
US Benton window card-style poster
US Benton window card-style poster
UK quad poster: Arabian Adventure/Warlords of Atlantis double bill
UK quad poster: Arabian Adventure/Warlords of Atlantis double bill
Belgian poster... featuring a giant crab, a spike-backed sauropod, the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms... and an Aztec temple!
Belgian poster… featuring a giant crab, a spike-backed sauropod, the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms… and an Aztec temple!
Australian daybill poster
Australian daybill poster

Some lobby cards…

Impactful Mexican lobby card
Impactful Mexican lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
French lobby card
French lobby card

VHS and DVD covers…

UK VHS cover. Art by Tom Chantrell
UK VHS cover. Art by Tom Chantrell
German VHS cover, partly based on Tom Chantrell's artwork created for the UK VHS cover
German VHS cover, partly based on Tom Chantrell’s artwork created for the UK VHS cover
UK DVD cover
UK DVD cover
Spanish DVD cover
Spanish DVD cover
UK 3 DVD set cover
UK 3 DVD set cover

Some publicity shots featuring Lea Brodie and the octopus…

She's a sucker for octopi
She’s a sucker for octopi
A tentacle-tastic duo
A tentacle-tastic shot of a girl and her octopus
They make a fine couple
They make a fine couple

Finally, here’s some pre-production art created for the film…

Production designer Maurice George Carter produced watercolour concept art for WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (in 1976).

Initially, it seems, a squid was going to attack the ship, rather than an octopus. But even after the squid was replaced with an octopus in the movie, this squid imagery was used in some of the artwork for various posters and VHS covers (including Tom Chantrell’s UK VHS cover painting).

Squid attack!
Squid attack!

This watercolour concept of an Aztec-style pyramid-temple ultimately never found its way into the final film, but it did find its way onto some of the poster artwork, including the Belgian poster…

Maurice George Carter's painting of an Atlantean temple
Maurice George Carter’s painting of an Atlantean temple

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