The dvd release of the original 1977 pilot has now been followed by the release of the TV-movie collection and the entire series - truly a dream come true for anyone who remembers this show from it's initial NBC run.
The original pilot aired in 1977 up against SONNY & CHER on CBS and THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR on ABC. Talk about your proverbial "Sophie's Choice!" What was a gay 13 year old boy to do??? Especially since VHS and DVR had yet to be invented!
I opted to watch MAN FROM ATLANTIS, because it was the closest thing to Aquaman or Sub-Mariner that I would probably ever see on network TV and I could always catch those dumb old variety shows in reruns. Smart thinking!
I remember sitting on our plastic-covered living room couch, Mego Aquaman by my side as the opening tiles began.
Pretty soon we were introduced to young Patrick Duffy (a very youthful 32 years old) as an amesia victim who washes up on the shore all blue and covered in seaweed. When doctors try to save his life to no avail, brazen young Dr. Elizabeth Merrill (played by Belinda J. Montgomery) steps in realizes what this dude needs is to be thrown back in the water. Before you know it, he begins to heal and Doc Merill nurses him back to health.
The Foundation for Ocean Research decide to call him "Mark Harris" through tests they determine that he has special abilities, such as super strength, the ability to breathe under water and to leap from the water into the air. Basically, they notice his physiogamy is similar to that of a dolphin, so they begin to treat him like one!
See how this scene is faithfully recreated in the Marvel Comics' adaptation...
Dr. Merrill takes a liking to Mark, even though he can't communicate with her. He does hang on her every word and stare deeply into her eyes with his colorful contact lenses.
The Foundation begins to have secret meetings about Mark and how he can be useful to them.
They determine that he can do all their dirty work and since he can't talk back, they'll be very little resistance. He does resist at first, and even escapes, but the good Doc knows just how to reach out to him.
He shares a tender moments with Doc Merrill. Oh by the way, he's got webbed feet and hands! Only his nails are a bit manky. Paging Madge and her Palmolive! Pretty soon we find out that Mark is super-intelligent and speaks English. But he lacks human emotion, you might say he's bit of a "cold fish".
So Mark begins helping out the Foundation and swimming in his tank wearing his skimpy yellow shorts. In fact the camera lingers on his tight little bathing suit quite a bit. Little does he know he's being watched...and not just by gay 13-year old boys (33 years later) but by the villainous Mr. Schubert (played by the immense Victor Buono), who hopes to use Mark for his own evil schemes!
You see, Schubert has a cult of very schlubby people working for him, even a lady who looks like Vivian Vance!
All of Schubert's people wear the same costume. Oh, except for this one guy. Didn't he get the memo?
Well after a lot of boring underwater bullshit concerning bombs and whatnot, Schubert finally tells Mark that he just wants to be "his friend."
His special friend?
Mark ponders the friendship as he stands there dripping in his tighty yellows.
As Schubert (and the viewers) ponder Mark's buns.
Some crazy shit happens, things blow up, water fills Schubert's secret lair and people drown. Then Mark is given a secret identity...as Stephen Colbert!
After his heroic deeds, Mark is given the opportunity to leave and search for his people.
But it turns out he can't say goodbye to Elizabeth...and thus we have the premise for the weekly series.
And the series of novels...
And the monthly comic book...
And so the saga of the MAN FROM ATLANTIS begins...and I'll be back tomorrow with more Mark Harris and Patrick Duffy goodies. Now eat your kelp!