Friday 27 December 2019

Atlantis The Lost Continent 1961

I was very taken with this film as a small child. Its mix of fantastical elements, man beast makeup and miniature effects lodged in my young mind and I watched it on TV many times over my formative years. Looking at it now it no longer has quite the same effect but it does have some very effective miniature tank work supervised by  A. Arnold Gillespie.

The fish monster styled submersible was very effective as it silently surfaces in the distance behind the protagonist's boat on the process screen. The model was made from fibreglass on a metal frame. The miniature waves are really well done with a convincing scale and wind whipped crests. According to the excellent book The Wizard of MGM Memoirs of A. Arnold Gillespie a cut down war surplus Douglas Dauntless Dive Bomber fuselage was employed as a wind machine.

Joe Regan the wind and waves specialist in the MGM Lot 3 tank. The Dauntless wind machine can be seen to the left side of the sky backing with a 4 bladed propeller.
Many of the buildings that make up the Atlantean city were re-used from an earlier film Quo Vadis made ten years before in 1951. In fact some of the burning Rome miniature shots from that film also make an appearance here. The buildings were made from cement to allow them to be set on fire repeatedly.

Some of the ship models from the 1959 production of Ben Hur can also be seen floating in the harbour.

While the miniature work is very well staged, the optical effects of the crystal heat ray and some of the matte painting work seems a little below par.

The hero Demetrius has a dream involving this giant denizen of the deep.

A particularly unconvincing matte painting.

I feel this is a shot from another film with the triangular pit added as a matte painting.

Here the triangular pit is the full size set with matte painted surrounding ground.


Here again is a background from a previous film with the heat ray device and possibly some of the statuary added on top.

The volcano is painted on the backing.

Here it is a miniature close up cone section

Not sure what happened here but there is a green and magenta colour shift where the collapsing rock is falling.

I have seen these lava shots before in another film.

Miniature burning building collapse possibly from Quo Vadis.

An example of the crude heat ray optical effect.

The heat ray matte doesn't fit too well as it was probably traced from one frame in the sequence and doesn't articulate to follow the movement in the shot.

Quo Vadis burning Rome stock footage.

You can see the split and little brass catch used to hold the skull cap in place on this teaching aid skeleton.

The Ben Hur ship miniatures can be seen here.

Source: The Wizard of MGM Memoirs of A. Arnold Gillespie Art director / Head of Special Effects from 1924-1965, Edited by Philip J. Riley & Robert A. Welch, Published by BearManor Media.


  1. The fish submarine model became part of Forrest J. Ackerman's collection of film memorabilia and was displayed on a garden terrace outside his LA home for many years. Unfortunately, by the time I took the tour of Forry's "Museum" in the early 90's someone had come over his garden wall and stolen the front half of it (it was apparently built in two sections. I want to say that all together it would've been between 6 and 10 feet long...?). Forry was pretty broken up about it. The only time in the tour that he broke character and seemed genuinely upset...

  2. Yeah, the film looks pretty hokey nowadays, though I too liked it as a kid.
    As with most George Pal flicks it's packed with stolen 'stock shots' from other movies. The lava shots are from THE TIME MACHINE. The Roman arena and elegant architectural matte paintings are classic Peter Ellenshaw mattes from QUO VADIS (with newly matted in additional material such as that triangular pit thing). The sequence of the landslide is from another MGM picture, GREEN FIRE made in 1954, and also executed by Gillespie - a master of the craft when it came to miniatures.

    Keep up your fascinating work.



Most Popular posts in the last 7 days