To my knowledge, it’s never been released on LP, CD, mp3, minidisc, reel-to-reel, cassette or even 8-track, but thanks to the miracle of the internets, I can actually hear it anytime. Though the movie that spawned it doesn’t yet exist on dvd, clips are available on the YouTube, including the scene containing my most wanted piece of music. The clip’s chock full o’ dialogue and sound effects, but the music’s there, behind the scene, right where it was originally meant to be.
It’s the big climax to the original pilot movie, Man From Atlantis, in which an amnesiac water-breather washes up on shore only to be drafted by the Navy. After defeating an evil villain, Mark Harris, the titular hero as portrayed by Patrick Duffy, chooses to return to the ocean and let the humans fend for themselves. But he soon starts recalling his wacky experiences on dry land and (spoiler alert) decides to return to his new friends, thereby launching a short-lived series of weekly adventures.
The telefilm aired in early 1977 and I soaked it up. I don’t know why I identified with the fish out of water story (except maybe that I was always the new kid in school because we moved around a lot, but surely that can’t be it, can it?) and diligently tuned in to the three subsequent telemovies and then, in the fall, the series proper. I ended up taping whole episodes onto cassette by sticking my recorder next to the TV’s speaker. And I got to record a rerun of the pilot film. And when I did, I continued to be drawn to that piece, the gentle opening, the melody itself, the slow build, the whole arrangement. I loved it the first time I heard it and it stayed with me. I think it summarized an experience for me, a sense of identification with the alien and the possibility that – well, no need to try to continue analyzing my own psyche here. Suffice it to say, I loved the music. I still do.
And I love the show -- in my memory. I fear the day when the episodes show up on dvd and I buy them and watch them and feel my childhood crumble all around me. Like what happened when I saw an episode of The Monkees in the eighties. I could have sworn, from what I remembered watching in the early seventies, that The Monkees was hilarious.
So Man From Atlantis remains unsullied and, well, special for me. As much as I can talk about his crazy swimming style (embarrassingly emulated by me all that summer in the public swimming pool) and the really cool submarine his pals tooled around in, it’s the groovy vibe of Fred Karlin’s score that continues to hold a lasting appeal to me. I still find myself humming the theme song and, even more, that piece, that emotional summation of Mark Harris’ experience.
Of course, there’s probably one other reason the whole series continues to haunt me. I was in junior high when the show aired and, well, there was this girl…
But that’s another story.