Lt. Andre Saint-Avit (Jean-Pierre Aumont of Carnival of Crime) is found in the desert, delirious, half-starved, wailing about a lost city, an evil queen, and a friend he murdered. In flashback he tells his superiors how after a sandstorm he discovered the lost city of Atlantis -- improbably hidden under the mountains in the Sahara -- where the beautiful Queen Antinea (Maria Montez) loves and disposes of one man after another, and acts cruelly towards her subjects and her slaves. Andre's friend is Captain Jean Morhange (Dennis O'Keefe), who can resist the queen because he's headed for a monastery anyway. Before too long, Andre becomes the favorite of the queen, and presumably does a lot more than play chess with her, but then days go by and Jean is nowhere to be found and the queen isn't calling for Andre ... In his novel "Myron," the sequel to "Myra Breckenridge," Gore Vidal wrote about a Maria Montez flick called Siren of Babylon, and it was probably this picture he was referring to. Not quite a camp classic, it immediately suffers from the fact that it works up absolutely no sense of wonder over this apparently marvelous hidden city, which doesn't seem much different from the kind of places you'd find in those space-babes-on-the-moon epics. Maria Montez is indeed beautiful, if somewhat heavy featured, but her acting is barely adequate. She comes off like a particularly vicious drag queen (not to suggest that most drag queens are vicious). Aumont is fine in an impossible part, and an almost comically miscast O'Keefe doesn't look particularly good in a mustache and goatee. Other characters in the film include Lindstrom (Allan Nixon of Pickup), one of Antinea's cast-off lovers; Cortot (Alexis Minotis of Land of the Pharaohs), an alchemist who had his tongue cut out by the queen; the tragic slave Tanit (Milada Mladova) who dies a horrible death; and Blades (Henry Daniell), the court librarian and philosopher who acts as a kind of butler or assistant and who cackles and belittles the men, primarily acting like the loathsome little cockroach that he is -- Daniell easily offers the best performance in the film. (Movies like this should offer some kind of catharsis, but neither he nor his mistress ever get their comeuppance.) Antinea has her ex-lovers turned into immortal statues. Michel Michelet's score is interesting if a trifle overblown at times, and Karl Struss' photography is fine, especially a sequence in which Andre sees the mirage of an oasis of rushing water in the desert. Aumont and Montez were a real-life married couple from 1946 until 1951 when the Spanish beauty (born in the Domenican Republic) drowned in her bath after possibly suffering a heart attack. She was only 39. Director Tallas also helmed Prehistoric Women, which starred Allan Nixon. It is much worse than this.
Verdict: Everyone should see at least one Maria Montez movie. **.