Irwin Allen's visually impressive but scientifically silly Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
updates 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
as the world's most advanced experimental submarine manoeuvres under the North Pole while the Van Allen radiation belt catches fire, giving the concept "global warming" an entirely new dimension. As the Earth broils in temperatures approaching 170 degrees F, Walter Pidgeon's maniacally driven Admiral Nelson hijacks the Seaview
sub and plays tag with the world's combined naval forces on a race to the South Pacific, where he plans to extinguish the interstellar fire with a well-placed nuclear missile. But first he has to fight a mutinous crew, an alarmingly effective saboteur, not one but two giant squid attacks and a host of design flaws that nearly cripple the mission (note to Nelson: think backup generators). Barbara Eden shimmies to Frankie Avalon's trumpet solos in the most form-fitting naval uniform you've ever seen; fish-loving Peter Lorre plays in the shark tank; gloomy religious fanatic Michael Ansara preaches Armageddon; and Joan Fontaine looks very uncomfortable playing an armchair psychoanalyst. It's all pretty absurd, but Allen pumps it up with larger-than-life spectacle and lovely miniature work.
Fantastic Voyage is the original psychedelic inner-space adventure. When a brilliant scientist falls into a coma with an inoperable blood clot in the brain, a surgical team embarks on a top-secret journey to the centre of the mind in a high-tech military submarine shrunk to microbial dimensions. Stephen Boyd stars as a colourless commander sent to keep an eye on things (though his eyes stay mostly on shapely medical assistant Raquel Welch), while Donald Pleasence is suitably twitchy as the claustrophobic medical consultant. The science is shaky at best, but the imaginative spectacle is marvellous: scuba-diving surgeons battle white blood cells, tap the lungs to replenish the oxygen supply and shoot the aorta like daredevil surfers. The film took home a well-deserved Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Director Richard Fleischer, who had previously turned Disney's 1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea into one of the most riveting submarine adventures of all time, creates a picture so taut with cold-war tensions and cloak-and-dagger secrecy that niggling scientific contradictions (such as, how do miniaturised humans breathe full-sized air molecules?) seem moot. --Sean Axmaker
Sixties sci-fi double bill. In 'Fantastic Voyage' a group of medics (Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy and Donald Pleasence) and a submarine are miniaturised and injected into the bloodstream of a top Czech scientist, who was shot while defecting, in order to carry out delicate, life-saving surgery. Travelling though his body is hazardous, but far more dangerous is the suspicion that one of them is a traitor. They race against time to perform the surgery and escape from the body before they return to their full size. Whilst in 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' USN Admiral Nelson (Walter Pidgeon) takes command of a technologically advanced atomic submarine. With a group of eminent scientists (including Joan Fontaine and Peter Lorre) on board, Nelson sets out to save the world by exploding an undersea belt of lethal radiation. The film inspired a long-running television series.