Those fans — and the curious, like me — should embrace Warner Archives’ pair of releases that bring the show to the DVD surface for the first time: “The Complete TV Movies Collection” and “The Complete Television Series,” at two and four discs, respectively.
Yes, before NBC made it an official series, the fantasy first was a string of made-for-TV movies, or essentially extended-length episodes. Of the two sets, the “TV Movies Collection” is the more vital of the two, containing the aquaman superhero’s ever-important origin.
That finds the man literally washed up on an ocean shore, post-storm, having no idea who or where he is. And, hey, what’s with these gills and webbed feet? Tests by the Foundation for Oceanic Research determine that he may be the lone survivor of the fabled underwater city of Atlantis. Seriously, as the FOR computer reads: “LAST CITIZEN OF ATLANTIS ? ? ?”
Once he’s returned to normal — or as normal as one who can outswim a dolphin can be — the man (né Mark Harris) and his water-breathing abilities are put to good use, helping locate a lost sub in the ocean. As with each episode, some underwater threat lurks (often courtesy of Victor Buono), and Mark is underway in quashing it. Mermaids, jellyfish and death spores abound.
But here’s only so much one can do — at least on a TV budget — under the sea, and I’m afraid “Man from Atlantis” has done it by the time it began its 13-episode run. The series quickly gets waterlogged and dreary; its stories lack the fun of other superhero series of the era, which may explain its short life on air. When Mark time-travels to Shakespearean days, one could argue the show already has jumped the, er, shark.
How strange it is to see Duffy so young, so trim and, when spectacled, so looking like a marionette from Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds.” As glassy-eyed peacenik, his acting approach here is hardly to act at all. It’s easy to imagine Keanu Reeves in the role as Duffy shows little emotion and spouts lines that cement the character’s tenuous connection to our land and air: “There are no sea monsters in the place you call ‘the trench.’”
There is, however, a chum bucket of disappointment. At least the discs look quiet clear and nice — no adjusting of the rabbit ears are necessary. —Rod Lott