Lieutenant André St. Avit (Jean-Pierre Aumont) has been found stumbling through the Sahara Desert in a state of some confusion, all the more surprising since everyone at his posting thought he was long dead, lost to the sands after setting off in a search party for a previous collection of troops who had gone missing out there. His superiors cannot get much sense out of him, but he is insistent on one thing: he murdered his best friend Captain Jean Morhange (Dennis O'Keefe) while he was away, and that place he has been all this time was the lost city of Atlantis. These claims are scoffed at, but André is convinced, and is brought before the officers to tell his tale...
A remake of L'Atlantide, Siren of Atlantis was the victim of a troubled production, seeing at least three directors run through its scenes, which might be surprising for a film barely over an hour long and filled with stock footage and borrowed sets - or maybe not. Its chief draw, then and now, was the famed screen beauty Maria Montez who guarantees interest from those film buffs who have a liking for camp; she may have been glamorous, but that doesn't mean she had the talent to back those good looks up, so as if to compensate for the way she intoned her lines through a thick accent and usually the same faraway expression on her face, she was dolled up to the nines in a manner that didn't solely attract her female admirers.
Those ladies loved to envisage themselves in Maria's place, being romanced by equally exotic leading men, in this case French import Jean-Pierre Aumont who made them swoon with hs debonair charms, but it was the following of gay men who really cemented Montez's place in the firmament of movie stars. One of the most famous drag acts of the sixties was Mario Montez, and he had named himself after her in tribute, imitating her characters' over the top and ever so swish sense of fashion and style, though there was something else, particularly in Siren of Atlantis, which proved an attraction and that was her irrestistable quality when it came to men. In this case in the title role of Queen Antinea she holds a whole city of hapless chaps in her vice-like grip.
So when André shows up at the lost city, which by all rights should not exist, he finds a bunch of fellows who long for the attentions of the Queen, yet in her imperious cruelty she holds back, treating 'em mean to keep 'em keen. This overpowering sexuality was what drove the plot, and while Montez didn't appear in the movie until over twenty minutes had passed, her influence was palpable, with the notion of a woman so overwhelming in her beauty that men are driven to insanity and even murder simply to sustain her attention the essence of camp and a perverse twist in the then-current film noir concept of the femme fatale. André wants to get away from Atlantis, but after a game of chess with the leading lady he is snared in her web, with the black widow allusions very much present.
This would probably be Montez's best movie if there had been enough care and attention visited upon the production as regards to what was seen in the final result, but there was an unmistakably B-movie air to what could have been the very epitome of screen opulence. While the black and white photography had its own allure, the sights of Atlantis really ought to have been more captivating, as if the crew were instructed to dust down the stock scenery from the last time Tarzan had been out in the desert, contributing to a "that'll do" air to the proceedings. As the plot moves towards its inevitable conclusion just as André has claimed - his superiors may not believe him, but we are wholly convinced because it's that sort of film - there are no surprises left, but the thick atmosphere of potent femininity exuded by Montez is weirdly compelling, the romance of it twisted into a sick obsession. Even the Queen's rival, token good girl Milada Mladova is sent hurtling over a cliff, useless before her power, creating a pulp fantasy of unfulfilled potential that's strange and uneasy. Music by Michel Michelet.