Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Brigitte Helm
L'ATLANTIDE (1932). Director: G. W. Pabst.

Captain Saint-Avit (Pierre Blanchar) and Lt. Morhange (Jean Angelo) are on a mission in the Sahara when they somehow stumble across the lost city of Atlantis. There Saint-Avit becomes pathologically obsessive towards the queen, Antinea (Brigitte Helm of Metropolis), driving him -- at her direction -- to a despicable act against his friend, Morhange. This oddball French production can only be taken seriously if you look at it as a dream or allegory, as little in the movie makes much sense. Although there is some atmosphere in the claustrophobic tunnels through which the cast sometimes travel, there is no attempt at describing or elucidating the realities of this allegedly lost civilization. Brigitte Helm is no raving beauty (as Antinea was in the remake, Siren of Atlantis), but she is quite striking, although it's hard to judge her actual acting ability in this. With his quietly handsome and sensitive features, Pierre Blanchar makes an impression as Saint-Avit, although Jean Angelo is a bit more standard and blustering as his comrade. Vladimir Sokoloff [Beyond the Time Barrier] is excellent as the strange Count Hetman, who was apparently taken to Atlantis from Paris years before -- a long flashback showing him in Paris with Can-Can girls and the like interrupts the main "action," if you can call it that. The movie is strangely sensual, with interesting images throughout, and there are more actual love scenes in the picture than in the remake. What may keep you watching -- even if you can't wait for it to be over -- is Wolfgang Zeller's highly interesting musical score. The novel (by Pierre Benoit) that this was based on was also filmed as the silent film Missing Husbands, the aforementioned Siren of Atlantis, two other Pabst versions also made in 1932 starring Helm but with two different lead actors (Queen of Atlantis and Mistress of Atlantis), a 1972 foreign telefilm and a 1992 French remake, as well as Edgar G. Ulmer's Journey Beneath the Desert.  Pabst is most famous for the silent film Pandora's Box.

Verdict: A curiosity with some interesting elements, but not really an especially good picture. **. 


angelman66 said...

You have piqued my curiosity with this one, Bill, as I am a fan of Pabst's expressionist vision and this one's metaphysical Atlantis theme is right up my alley. Maybe I will like it more than you? Or is it just a lot of style with very little substance? Nevertheless, I am intrigued.

William said...

Definitely take a look at it if your a Pabst admirer. You may well like it much more than I did. It does have a certain --- something ...