One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Outré Intro: Man from Atlantis (1977)
Superheroes were quite the rage in the mid-1970s...at least in terms of cult-television. In fact, Marvel superheroes appeared regularly in TV movies and series of the day, including Captain America (Reb Brown!), Doctor Strange (1978), The Amazing Spider-Man (1977 - 1979), and the most successful of the bunch: The Incredible Hulk (1978 - 1981).
Meanwhile, D.C. had The New Adventures of Wonder Woman (1975 - 1979) on the air, and The Six Million Dollar Man (1973 - 1978) and The Bionic Woman (1976 - 1978) were also enormously popular too.
Following along this trend, Mark Harris -- the Man from Atlantis -- was a character who featured elements from both the Sub Mariner and Aqua Man comic-books: a water breathing hero who had a sometimes difficult relationship with the denizens of dry land.
Man from Atlantis started out as a series of TV-movies that were highly rated, before it became a weekly series for one season.
Part of the reason Man from Atlantis "hit" at first with the general public, was its star, Patrick Duffy. The actor brought incredible sincerity and innocence to the role of amnesiac Harris, a man caught between the world he had lost (under the sea) and the world that fascinated him, on the surface. In interviews during the run of the series, Duffy often compared the character explicitly to Star Trek's Mr. Spock.
Both beings were aliens in the worlds they lived in, and marked by enhanced abilities and physical differences. In the latter case, Spock had pointed ears, and Harris had webbed fingers. But like Spock, Harris was capable of commenting on the follies of humanity at the same time that he worked to preserve and protect it. He was an outsider, in other words, but not a threatening one.
The series' introductory montage expresses the idea of Harris's wonder and innocence, as well as the dangerous or at least adventurous world of human beings. As the short intro commences, we see Harris breathing underwater, observing the beautiful and strange sea life all around him. These shots explicitly suggest the wonder and mystery of the sea, and position Harris himself as being a part of them; as one with them. The soundtrack here is gentle, mysterious.
Next, we get a view of the character's trademark swimming style, which mimics the movements of a dolphin. Mark heads up and up, towards the surface, and towards man's world above. These shots again suggest Harris's non-human nature and ability to bridge worlds.
Mark Harris breaks the surface of the sea -- the barrier separating universes -- and we get the title card for the series. At this point, Harris has left one world for the other, and the music changes from wondrous, sensitive and innocent, to a more driving, aggressive beat.
We are about to enter the dangerous world of human concerns.
As the more hard-driving theme continues, we start to see emblems of that world, as well as series primary settings.
First, we encounter the Cetacean, the government submarine that will house the Man from Atlantis and be the starting point for our weekly adventures.
Next, we get a shot that perfectly symbolizes the joining or melding of the two worlds: Mark's webbed fingers hover over a sonar/radar device, an emblem of man's technological world. Again, this shot signifies the core idea or conceit of the series of Mark Harris as the bridge between two worlds.
Next, we meet our cast.
As the series' creative, behind-the-scenes personnel are introduced on screen, the audience sees the Cetacean on its journeys, manned by humans and by the Man from Atlantis.
The last shot of the montage is a familiar and iconic one: the hero and his steed riding off into the sunset. Only this time, the setting is underwater, and the "steed" is a submarine, a high-tech ship exploring the oceans of Earth.
Below, you can see Man from Atlantis's opening montage in live-action: