26 June 2002 | dkelsey
Exotica meets film noir
The setting of this film suggests that it will be similar to the escapist fare which Montez starred in at Universal. She plays the man-hungry Queen Antinea of Atlantis, which is located inside a mountain in the Sahara Desert, into which two officers of the French Foreign Legion stumble. Within this setting, however, the story played out is not an action adventure, but psychological melodrama, involving a femme fatale, obsession, deception, jealousy, murder, guilt, repentance, and fatalism.
There are many noirish resonances: the monochrome photography of the claustrophobic torchlit chambers of the underground kingdom, the obsession of St. Avit (Jean-Pierre Aumont, Montez' real life husband) for the queen, the amoral cynicism of the court librarian Blades (Henry Daniell), and the alienation of all the characters. The nearest thing to normality is the Legion outpost. The film ends with a strong suggestion that nothing has been resolved and that the same sequence of events is about to be replayed.
This was Tallas' first film as director. He had previously been an editor, and indeed edited this film as well as directing, but the film's producer, Seymour Nebenzal, probably had more influence over the mood of the piece. Two years earlier he had produced "The Chase" (which also ended with the suggestion that it was all about to start again), and three years later produced "M" - clearly a man with a taste for the noir. The two uncredited directors also have noir credentials. Arthur Ripley had directed "The Chase" for Nebenzal, and John Brahm had directed "The Locket."
The film suffers from somewhat disjointed narrative flow in parts, although this may be due to damage to the surviving copies. Whatever its faults, it is better than many reviews suggest, and is surely the weirdest amalgam of exotic "eastern" and film noir that you will ever meet.