Warlords of Atlantis

[Stop Button Lists] The Lost Worlds of Kevin Connor

Kevin Connor, partial filmography, 1975-1981

I have heard of Arabian Adventure, I had forgotten I knew about it when I was thinking about doing this list. Kevin Connor’s career–which has gone from British fantasy films to American television to direct-to-video to the Hallmark channel–reminds of someone like Jack Arnold, who went from Creature from the Black Lagoon to “Gilligan’s Island.” I’m sure a lot of guys who directed “The Brady Bunch” had made some decent pictures in the forties and fifties.

But I wanted to do a list about Connor after watching The People That Time Forgot again for “Stop Button Favorites.” It’s a weird series of fantasy films, most starring Doug McClure, three adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs, a few starring Peter Cushing, a few starring John Ratzenberger!

Land That Time Forgot had been my dinosaur movie as a kid, it and Planet of the Dinosaurs. Even after Jurassic Park came out, because Jurassic Park was “real” not movie fantasy. It did all the imagining for you.

Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are bewildered Victorians in AT THE EARTH'S CORE, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are bewildered Victorians in AT THE EARTH’S CORE, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

Of the films on the list, I’d say Land That Time Forgot is easily the most “respectable.” It lacks the constant sexuality of People and it’s nowhere near as stupid as At the Earth’s Core. Now, Earth’s Core had Caroline Munro but she was sort of forgotten in the late eighties and early nineties. A mythic siren of PG-sexiness my generation didn’t grow up with.

And Warlords of the Deep didn’t have much U.S. distribution on home video. I’m not even sure it’s out now; I rented it (on R2) from Nicheflix the moment I could but I had never even come across it on VHS at that point and I was always on the lookout. As for Arabian Adventure, like I said, I sort of forgot about it even existing. I know I saw the seventies Sinbad movies but not much after I was seven or eight.

Goliath Awaits, the only entry on the film not a theatrical release (Goliath was a syndicated prime time miniseries), is there because it is such a perfect postscript to Connor’s other fantasy films.

John Dark produced all of Connor’s fantasy films–not Goliath–and they had a lot of similarities between them. They were period pieces. Land and People take place in the late 1910s, At the Earth’s Core is set in the Victorian era, Warlords is early 20th century (nothing too specific) and Arabian Adventure is, you know, some kind of fantasy era of Arabia. It’s not supposed to be very good; I know I have to see it now but I’m not looking forward to it.

They mixed American actors down on their luck with British actors who were just doing another gig to pay the bills. They launched no careers–unless they helped Sarah Douglas along to Superman II or Ratzenberger to “Cheers”–yet they are incredibly memorable films. Kino Lorber even got Connor to do commentary on their recent Land That Time Forgot blu-ray. It’s not a cult classic, but only because it the eighties weren’t long enough for it to catch on enough before Jurassic Park. It’s a quasi-cult classic.

Thorley Walters, Sarah Douglas, and Patrick Wayne star in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Thorley Walters, Sarah Douglas, and Patrick Wayne star in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

And they aren’t good. Well, People That Time Forgot is good. I’d love to hear a commentary on that film to see if Connor was being stylistic or they just didn’t have the money. But the other films aren’t good. Earth’s Core and Warlords are both awful. Back when I got them all (well, I owned Land and People) and watched them one week, my friend Jim was worried I had lost my mind. “What are you doing to yourself?” he said. Later, after I saw Goliath Awaits–I had first heard about it in high school, but had not found the full length version until 2007 or so–I mailed Jim a copy immediately. Such lunacy most be shared.

Over the years, even before the site, I have reexamined the interests of my youth, or even just the films people said were good when I was a youth, and tried to be as objective as possible. Good and enjoyable aren’t the same thing. A well-made movie can be entirely unrewarding (or partially unrewarding). Navigating nostalgia and how it interacts with the viewing experience of a film is simultaneously frustrating and fun. Critical thinking can be fun. Much like talking about these Kevin Connor films.

What’s upsetting about the films, listed chronologically, is how they don’t inform one another. Connor leapfrogged. Okay Land, bad Earth’s Core, good People, bad Warlords, haven’t seen Arabian but heard it’s even worse than the bad, then underwhelming TV mini series Goliath. It’s inconsistent to say the least. It does seem, however, even though there was so much cast and crew crossover, People and Land were their own franchise. Connor and Dark and McClure’s collaboration wasn’t the franchise.

Doug McClure and John McEnery star in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Doug McClure and John McEnery star in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

While we were recording “Alan Smithee,” Matt and I would often decide–talking about the bad movie of the episode–the story of its making would probably more interesting than the resulting film itself. We never did any of the Kevin Connor movies for an episode; we probably should have at least done one. Is there some great story behind the scenes of these films? Maybe, but I think not.

But for at least ten years, in the seventies and eighties, many of these films filled children’s minds with imagined lands and some inappropriate thoughts about cave girls. They aren’t insignificant, they shouldn’t be forgotten. I’m just not entirely sure they’re worth seeing. Other than People That Time Forgot. I think I wanted, as Matt and I were discussing what to do with “Alan Smithee” (we ended up closing it down), to try to get an interview with Sarah Douglas about her fantasy and sci-fi work as she’s now awesome on Twitter.

What do these films of Connor’s deserve now? A good book. I wish I had the time and resources to write it. I’ll have to hope to read it instead.

Warlords of Atlantis (1978, Kevin Connor)

If you ever want to see John Ratzenberger fight a giant octopus, Warlords of Atlantis has something to offer you. Actually, it’s hard to completely dislike a film with a giant octopus, especially one attacking a ship. It’s so silly, it can’t help but amuse. I do have to wonder, since there was a giant octopus in the poster for The Land That Time Forgot (Connor’s first film with Doug McClure–Warlords is the last), if the octopus wasn’t a recycled idea. Kind of like Ed Wood’s giant octopus….

Warlords of Atlantis is a bad film, but again, so dumb it’s not particularly offensive. It’s too long–there’s a big difference in a Kevin Connor film between eighty-nine minutes and ninety-six. With Warlords’ ninety-six, he manages to add an additional set piece the film doesn’t need. It’s a mish-mash of a film anyway, borrowing from each of the previous McClure and Connor (and producer John Dark) collaborations. A ship here, a submarine here, a cavernous city here. There’s too many characters for the film to sustain–at least seven the audience is expected to recognize by name–and it’s not interesting. Warlords’ Atlantis, populated by a bunch of soon-to-be-Nazis, isn’t particularly interesting. Discovering a lost world only works if there’s some discovery going on, not a huge population of bad guys to fight.

The special effects–though some of the miniature work is good–are pretty bad. I do like how they have a real monster hand coming up in front of a rear screen projection, an idea I imagine they lifted from John Guillermin’s King Kong. There are a lot of matte paints and cinematographer Alan Hume is BAD at matte paintings. He shot Return of the Jedi, which had a number of awful matte painting shots too, so it’s not a budgetary thing. He just doesn’t do it well. There’s also the bad music… the film just doesn’t work. It’s too clean (on nice film stock) and the story is too silly. While Doug McClure’s in decent leading man form–I realized, watching the film, Doug McClure is the vanilla soft serve of actors–his character is empty. You’re not watching a late nineteenth century American inventor, you’re watching Doug McClure. The film doesn’t even try to convince the viewer otherwise. McClure’s sidekick, Peter Gilmore, is bad. The Atlantians are bad (and have silly hair and outfits). It’s got to be bad if the scantily clad human slave-girl (played by Lea Brodie) gives one of the film’s better performances.

There are also frequent attempts at humor throughout. They fail.

Since Connor’s not a bad director (though he’s got to be the most wildly inconsistent), there are a handful of nice shots. While Warlords is bad, the pacing is what does it in. At the very least, monster movies with bad special effects and bad acting have to move.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Connor; written by Brian Hayles; director of photography, Alan Hume; edited by Bill Blunden; music by Michael Vickers; produced by John Dark; released by EMI Films.

Starring Doug McClure (Greg Collinson), Peter Gilmore (Charles Aitken), Shane Rimmer (Captain Daniels), Lea Brodie (Delphine), Michael Gothard (Atmir), Hal Galili (Grogan), John Ratzenberger (Fenn), Derry Power (Jacko), Donald Bisset (Professor Aitken), Ashley Knight (Sandy), Robert Brown (Briggs), Cyd Charisse (Atsil) and Daniel Massey (Atraxon).


Scroll to Top