Tuesday, September 13, 2011


In 1977, NBC followed-up four TV movies about the water-breathing superhero known as "Mark Harris" with a single-season, hour-long weekly television series of 13 episodes. Now, Warner Archive has brought that series to Manufacture-On-Demand DVD with the 4-disc, Man From Atlantis - The Complete Television Series set.

As the series begins, there have been some changes made in the format used in the TV movies (reviewed HERE). Mark Harris (Patrick Duffy) has become more acclimated to the surface world and has taken on a more active role with the government-allied Foundation For Oceanic Research. No longer just a test subject for scientist Dr. Elizabeth Merrill (the lovely Belinda J. Montgomery, who, inexplicably, is absent from the final two episodes), he now commands the Foundation's deep-sea submersible, The Cetacean, and carries out missions at the behest of Foundation Director C.W. Crawford (Alan Fudge). Many of these missions consist of foiling the evil plans of capricious capitalist Mr. Schubert (the great Victor Buono) to accumulate wealth and power from the sea.

With the Cetacean's newly-redesigned command deck and presence of a regular bridge crew (including Communications Officer Jean-Marie Hon of Ark II), the weekly Man From Atlantis somewhat resembles an underwater Star Trek (the show's creators had strong ties to that seminal sci-fi series), but the overall tone of the show was much lighter than either its interstellar inspiration or the preceding Man From Atlantis teleflicks. In fact, while the show looks great - with consistently nice photography, great sets (the interior of the Cetacean submersible and the Foundation's underground headquarters are both really slick, by 70s TV standards), and marvelous, Old School miniature effects - the stories are no longer science fiction, and tend instead toward aggressively non-violent, kid-friendly fantasy.

With stories featuring mischievous imps, friendly (and unconvincing) sea beasts, misunderstood giants, mermaids, pirates and magical time-travel, as well as far too much Mister Schubert (who figures in 5 of the first 7 episodes) - a character that had been slightly menacing in the first TV movie, but was too genial, comic and physically unimposing to present much of a threat on the series - the weekly Man From Atlantis lacks any semblance of dramatic weight or real sense of adventure. The cast remains appealing, and the character of aqua-man Harris is very likable, but the weekly show is a definite step down from the four TV movies that preceded it, and just reeks of network interference based on timidity and/or condescension.

Guest stars in this single season include Laurette Spang (Battlestar Galactica), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dee Wallace, Pat Morita, Ted Cassidy, Dick Gautier, Pernell Roberts, Rene Auberjonois, John Shea and Billy Barty, among other familiar faces.

Warner Archive's presentation is remarkably nice. I don't know how much actual remastering was done on these episodes, but the 1.33:1, "full frame" transfers are surprisingly bright and clean, with only minimal occurrences of visible speckling or other detritus. The episodes are complete and uncut, and spread across four discs. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio is clear and free of distortion or distracting hiss.

If you grew up with Man From Atlantis and have the same sort of nostalgia for it that I do, the technical quality of these Warner Archive MOD discs is very nice, and definitely worth the somewhat higher price. But if you've never seen the show, or memories of it are somewhat vague, I'm not sure how well it will hold up. It is very much a 70s genre show aimed at a young audience, and while it's kinda fun and definitely charming, it's not really good science fiction. I enjoyed revisiting it and am pleased to have it in my collection; your mileage may vary (as they say).

BUYMan From Atlantis:  Complete Television Series  (Remastered, 4 Disc)


  1. Yeah, even as a kid I could remember feeling embarrassed that I was watching the final few episodes. In addition to the dumbed-downedness of it, there were all those unanswered questions about where he came from and why someone who just might have been from another planet called himself "Mark Harris".

    Turns out his signature swimming style--breast stroke minus the arms--is a pretty efficient way to move underwater if you have fins and a snorkel. When I got my SCUBA license, my instructor was impressed at how quickly I picked up the "dolphin kick". I didn't tell him I got it from watching TV.

  2. RE: the character's name -- Well, actually, it was Dr. Merrill (Belinda Montgomery) who named him "Mark Harris" in the Pilot film (after an old friend, as I recall); it's not a name he chose for himself.

  3. So, just to clarify, this set does NOT include the first 4 telefilms?

  4. Never mind. Just read your earlier posts. Sorry!

  5. I remember an interview Patrick Duffy did on "The Tonight Show," waaay back when it was hosted by Johnny Carson. Johnny asked Patrick about how he got the role on "Man from Atlantis"; Patrick said he showed up at the audition, one skinny guy in a room full of muscular bodybuilders. Worse, he didn't own a swimsuit, so he had to audition in his one unripped pair of Fruit of the Loom briefs, "and when they got wet, it was like Saran-Wrap!"

    Pity the costume he ended up with was just as revealing!

  6. I read somewhere that Belinda had taken ill and couldn't shoot those two episodes. But she wasn't gone for good. Unfortunately, the series was. :( I really wish they had done more with her character. Elizabeth was a strong presence in the TV movies, but in the show she eventually resorts to just twiddling her thumbs and looking worried on the Cetacean. :/