Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
One of the supposed masterpieces of the Danish silent screen, Atlantis certainly enjoyed a pre-release furor second to none. Whether the finished film actually was the box-office success its producers, The Great Northern Company, had hoped for, is debatable. Suffice it to say, the film came in for heavy criticism, especially by Norwegian critics who thought the shipwreck melodrama had been released too soon after the infamous sinking of the Titanic in April of 1912. Atlantis was not based on that catastrophe (the American Saved from the Titanic, released less than a month after the sinking, had scooped everyone anyway) but was derived from the works of German novelist Gerhart Hauptmann. Hauptmann had reportedly conjured up his story of the sinking of an ocean liner and its descent into the realm of the sunken continent of mythology on an actual voyage to America. Accompanying the author were Austrian operetta diva Ida Orloff and circus acrobat Charles Unthan. Both Orloff and Unthan secured themselves major roles in the screen version, along with Danish matinee-idol Olaf Fønss. The Great Northern spared no expense filming the drama (off the coast of Zeeland, a Dutch province, incidentally) and obtained an international cast that also included such future luminaries as bald-headed comedian Torben Meyer, later a favorite of Hollywood director Preston Sturges, and a Hungarian filmmaker named Mihaly Kertész. The latter, who would change his name to Michael Curtiz in Hollywood, handled the crowds and played several bit parts. (Some historians have spotted comedian Carl Schenstrøm, later the tall half of the Pat and Patachon comedy team, playing a waiter in the film, but his participation has not been fully established). Although the finished film probably did not earn back its investment, it garnered invaluable prestige for the company.
High Artistic Quality, High Historical Importance