Thursday, May 12, 2016

Man from Atlantis

Science fiction need not take place in deep space. It can be just as at home in the deep sea.

Or at least you might make that argument for Man from Atlantis. I was reminded of that mid-1970s TV series when I saw this on Amazon. Actor Patrick Duffy, the star of Man from Atlantis and several other shows such as Dallas and Step by Step, is releasing a Man from Atlantis novel next month that he hopes will tie up a lot of loose ends about the show, a series he has remained passionate about all this time. It worked for Richard Hatch and Battlestar Galactica so why not? Anyway, when I saw that book, it brought back dim memories of my kindergarten self watching the show, likely while clutching a few Micronauts (this was still pre-Star Wars, I believe.) What it's exact storyline was...well, I couldn't remember.

Sadly, there aren't many long clips of the show on YouTube. Here's what I've been able to cobble together from a few online descriptions:

In the pilot telefilm (Telefilms! Remember those gifts of the 70s?) an unidentified man washes up on a California beach after a violent storm. He's dying and nobody seems to be able to save him until a marine biologist figures out that due to his webbed hands, putting him back in the ocean might work. This saves the unknown man. Not only does it save him, but he demonstrates he can completely breathe underwater and swim at high speeds. Though revived, this man has complete amnesia. He has no memory of his identity or where he comes from. A supercomputer is given all the available information in order to make a guess. This was the result: "Last survivor of Atlantis."

This Atlantean assumes the innocuous name "Mark Harris" and goes to work for the Foundation for Oceanic Research. While still learning the ways of human life, Mark's first official task is to assist the Navy in stopping an evil scientist known only as "Mr. Schubert." Schubert is deliciously played by Victor Buono whom you may remember as King Tut from the Adam West Batman. Schubert comes with all the evil genius trappings, including a lair built into the sea floor and a really cool submarine. This doesn't help him much as his plot is thwarted and his submarine is confiscated by the good guys. They rename the vessel The Cetacean and it becomes the vehicle for all further undersea adventures.

Next came the telefilm "The Death Scouts." I vaguely remembered the title. I mean, how could I not? Here's the intro:

Personal note: that clip came from very NBC station I watched the show on, WMAQ Chicago. I even remember the intonation of the narrator and the way he calmly said "And now...The Death Scouts."

Anyway, its all about aliens at the bottom sea who pull a "body snatchers" with two scuba divers and become the vanguard of an invasion force...thwarted of course by Mark Harris and his oceanic adventurers.

The third installment has a title no less unforgettable: "The Killer Spores."

A space probe falls back to Earth and crashes in the ocean. Mark recovers it, unaware that lethal, microscopic life-forms are all over it. I seem to have memories of my Dad joking around with me about this particular installment, but how or why I have no idea. I mean, how can you not take a title like "Killer Spores" seriously?

These three telefilms spawned a short-lived series that was by all accounts quite awful. I have sparse memories of the feature-length editions but none whatsoever of the series so I really can't speak to that. Apparently, Victor Buono returned often as Mr. Schubert in order to become something of an arch-villain for Mark Harris. Reading one of the episode descriptions now. "Schubert starts melting the polar ice caps and will only stop if Mark Harris is turned over to him." Live action drama at its finest.

I guess there was also a brief Marvel Comics series, including both an adaptation of first telefilm and original stories. There were also novelizations. I don't remember either of those but you can bet I'll be combing the dollar bins and Printers Row book fair this June.

The whole series is available on DVD at Amazon and probably other vendors as well. Very tempting. When I have a positive cash flow, I might just have to splurge.

Of course when exactly that will be is anybody's guess.

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