Siren of Atlantis
Cast & Crew
Gregg G. Tallas
Jean Pierre Aumont
After wandering the Sahara Desert for three months, rescued French Legionnaire Lieutenant Andre St. Avit tells his superior officers the incredible tale of how he discovered the lost continent of Atlantis: While St. Avit and four of his fellow Legionnaires search the Sahara Desert for a lost archaeological expedition led by François Masson, St. Avit and hean Morhange become separated from the rest of the search party. The two are abducted by Tuaregs, a tribe of desert nomads, who take them on an arduous journey to the city of Atlantis, in the heart of the Hoggar Mountains. In Atlantis, the fabled home of an ancient civilization that is believed to be extinct, St. Avit and Morhange are taken to see the ruling queen, Antinea. Before meeting the queen, the two Legionnaires meet Blades, a powerful figure in Atlantis, who introduces them to a group of European men, including Le Mesge, who serves as Antinea's court philosopher. The men all speak highly of Antinea but explain that when she tires of her lovers, she disposes of them by encasing them in metal. St. Avit then receives an amulet from Antinea, which is a symbolic indication that she desires to meet him. As predicted by Le Mesge, St. Avit finds himself unable to resist Antinea's beauty and charms, and falls instantly in love with her. At the same time, Morhange, not yet entranced by the queen, sees through her scheme, and together with a female court dancer, Tanit Zerga, plots an escape. Morhange and Tanit are caught while attempting their escape, and later, Tanit, fearing Antinea's harsh punishment, kills herself. Angered by Tanit's death, Morhange visits Antinea and shouts insults at her. Antinea responds by vowing to destroy Morhange, and has him confined to a room next to hers. Conspiring with Antinea, Blades lies to St. Avit, telling him that Antinea has chosen Morhange as her new lover. St. Avit becomes so enraged that he stabs and kills his friend. St. Avit immediately regrets killing Morhange, and after fleeing Atlantis, is found by a rescue team and taken to his garrison. St. Avit concludes his story of Atlantis by confessing to the murder of Morhange, but his officers do not believe any of his story. Instead, St. Avit's story is dimissed as the tale of a deluded soldier who spent too much time wandering lost in the desert. St. Avit himself soon begins to believe that the Atlantis experience was a dream, until one of Antinea's bodyguards, brought in as prisoner to the outpost, gives him the queen's amulet. Still in love with the queen, St. Avit mounts his camel and rides off in search of her. The lovestruck Legionnaire never makes it to Atlantis, however, and is found dead in the desert, still clutching the amulet in his hand.
Jean Pierre Aumont
Walter S. Mayo Jr.
Roman L. Pines
Pierre Benoit's novel L'Atlantida was first filmed in 1921 in France by director Jacques Feyder, starring Stacia Napierkowska. In 1932, German producer Seymour Nebenzal made French and German versions of the novel under his corporate identity of Nero-Film. Both of the 1932 versions entitled L'Atlantide and Die Herrin von Atlantis were directed by G. W. Pabst and starred Brigitte Helm. In October 1946, Nebenzal announced that husband-and-wife Jean-Pierre Aumont and Maria Montez would appear in a new, American adaptation of L'Atlantide. However, in February 1947, according to correspondence in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Nebenzal was advised by PCA chief Joseph I. Breen that his screenplay was unacceptable under the provisions of the Production Code "by reason of the improper treatment of illicit sex, the use of hasheesh, and other details."
Despite Breen's objection, shooting began in the spring of 1947 under Arthur Ripley's direction. In early May 1947, responding to a request from Breen for a copy of the revised script, Nebenzal wrote, "We re-wrote the script as we proceeded with the shooting of the picture, and the beginning has still to be done. When we have a complete script we will be most happy to send it to you. At any rate, we have carefully followed the suggestions made by your office."
The PCA awarded Siren of Atlantis a certificate in December 1948 "with the understanding that the fade out on Aumont and Montez on the couch has been omitted, that the two dagger thrusts have been omitted in the killing of Aumont's friend, and that the last shot of Montez in the white dress has been trimmed one third."
A January 1949 New York Times news item gave the following account of the production: "Seymour Nebenzal's picture Siren of Atlantis, completed some eighteen months ago at a cost of $1,300,000 is about to see the light of day after extensive revisions which have added another $250,000 to the production bill. A trial engagement in Las Vegas, Nev., convinced Nebenzal that audiences could not understand the Pierre Benoit story because it was 'too philosophical.' So last summer the producer raised additional capital to recoup the original investment and sent the picture back to the cameras for two weeks with John Brahm directing."
According to the New York Times article, Morris Carnovsky's role was eliminated as he was not available for the new scenes, and Henry Daniell replaced him with a new characterization. Neither Brahm nor Ripley, who directed the original picture, was willing to take credit for the final version, and so film editor Gregg Tallas, who synthesized their efforts, was billed as the director of the picture. A modern source adds that United Artists rejected Nebenzal's rough cut and insisted on additional shooting and retakes. The situation was further complicated, according to a June 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, by the fact that Maria Montez initially refused to appear in the necessary retakes until she was paid deferred salary due to her. This issue was eventually resolved, however, and by late June 1948, the film was in production once again at Goldwyn Studios under director John Brahm.
During the 1947 production period, Nebenzal announced that a unit had photographed approximately 12,000 feet of exteriors at El Golea in Algiers for use in the film. However, a Hollywood Reporter review of the film's press preview in Los Angeles on December 10, 1948, mentions "the clever inclusion of some excellent camel and desert shots from the producer's earlier French version." A photographic layout in Life magazine in January 1949 highlighted the spectacular interior sets. This was Montez's last American film; she died of a heart attack in Paris on September 7, 1951 at the age of 31.