on 9 November 2013
FANTASTIC VOYAGE [1996 / 2013] [Blu-ray] The Most Fantastic Journey Ever Imagined! Four Men and One Women on the Most Fantastic, Spectacular and Terrifying Journey of their Lives!
An incredible journey through the inner workings of the human body is now even more spectacular in Blu-ray high definition.
In this Academy Award® winning sci-fi adventure starring Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence and Raquel Welch, an elite medical team in their state-of-the-art submarine, the Proteus, is shrunk down to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of an ailing scientist to save his life. Battling the body's powerful natural defences – as well as a saboteur in their midst – the crew is in a race against time to complete their mission before the miniaturisation wears off.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Won: Best Art Direction for Color for Jack Martin Smith, Dale Hennesy, Walter M. Scott, Stuart A. Reiss. Won: Best Special Effects for Art Cruickshank. Nominated: Best Cinematography for Ernest Laszlo. Nominated: Best Film Editing for William B. Murphy. Nominated: Best Sound Editing for Walter Rossi.
Cast: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur O'Connell, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val, Barry Coe, Ken Scott, Shelby Grant, James Brolin, Brendan Fitzgerald, Brendon Boone (uncredited), Kenneth MacDonald (uncredited) and Christopher Riordan (uncredited)
Director: Richard Fleischer
Producer: Saul David
Screenplay: Harry Kleiner, David Duncan (adaptation), Jerome Bixby (story) and Otto Klement (story)
Composer: Leonard Rosenman
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Video Resolution: 1080p [Color by Deluxe]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono, French: 5.1 DTS-HD, Castilian: 5.1 DTS-HD, German: DTS-HD Mono and Italian: 5.1 DTS-HD
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 96 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Cinematic journeys come in all shapes and sizes, but what makes a motion picture voyage truly "fantastic?" Well, if Richard Fleischer's 1966 genre classic is any indication, all one really needs are a dying communist defector, a super-secret government facility, a shrinking ray, a miniaturized submarine, and Raquel Welch in a tight wetsuit! A prototypical high concept sci-fi adventure flick, the film is full of dazzling imagination and inventive special effects, creating an engaging adventure that still manages to hold up fairly well. Some elements are a bit dated, but the movie's sense of wonder is palpable, and its lasting influence is evident from the moment the main titles start, all the way until the screen fades to black, taking audiences on an astonishing expedition into the mysteries of the human body.
After a defecting Cold War scientist is gravely injured during an assassination attempt, the government scrambles to find a way to save his life. With a dangerous blood clot in his brain, the only option becomes surgery, but traditional means simply won't work. Instead, an intrepid crew strapped inside a specially designed submarine are shrunken down to microscopic size and injected into the scientist's bloodstream. With only 60 minutes to spare before they return to full size, the group will have to locate the clot and remove it while constantly facing deadly threats from the dying man's own natural defences and a potential saboteur on board.
The first 38 minutes of the film are dedicated to careful setup, economically, yet methodically laying the groundwork for the incredible adventure to follow. After a stylized, dialogue-free opening and an inventive main title sequence, the mission is established clearly, the objectives are conveyed, the dangers are discussed, the crew's roles are defined, and the rules of the process are all detailed, highlighting little bits of information that will become pertinent as the plot evolves. Throughout it all, director Richard Fleischer maintains a slow but intriguing style, building up anticipation for the characters' inevitable entry into inner space. Long, wide shots using up the entire frame of the CinemaScope image are common place, and in a potentially risky move, Fleischer forgoes the use of a musical score until we enter the patient's body, giving the audience a delayed visual and auditory jolt.
Once the fantastic voyage itself really begins, the movie enters a wondrous world of effects heavy imagery and tense dangers. All the while, the story's 60 minute deadline ticks down perilously in the back of our minds, and Fleischer actually has the expedition play out more or less in real time. Each new location brings upon fresh challenges, and one after another the crew is forced to work their way through cleverly designed obstacles that play up the inherent hazards of the human body. Excursions into the bloodstream, the lungs, the inner ear, and even the brain are all given an ethereal, otherworldly beauty, and the pre-computer era sets, production designs, and elaborate special effects techniques reveal a remarkable level of painstaking craft and ingenuity.
Of course, as impressive as a lot of the visuals remain, the effects work isn't without some notable age-related stumbles. Wires holding up the actors are clearly visible in several scenes, and compositing issues with the pre-computer blue screen shots cause a few odd anomalies, and at one point, a sliver of the Captain's head is erased. Still, these flaws are all understandable, and especially given the film's ambitious scope, the results are rather incredible... and appropriately trippy.
A little less forgivable, however, are the actor's oddly wooden and flat performances. Coupled with frequent technobabble and thin philosophical musings, the cast's dry line readings lack personality, making it hard for any of the characters to really stand out. Sure, not every element of 'Fantastic Voyage' has aged as well as others. Yes, there are flaws in the special effects, the narrative is full of clichés, the pace is a bit slow, the acting is mostly ineffectual, there are a few unintentionally funny moments, and the whole thing takes itself a little too seriously, but as a pioneering example of high concept science fiction adventure, the film is actually kind of perfect. Endlessly imitated and parodied, this is a creative, entertaining, visually mesmerizing, painstakingly crafted, and defining piece of genre film making and one that fully earns the "fantastic" in its title.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The film is presented in a stunning 1080p Color by Deluxe transfer in and awesome 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Shot with 20th Century Fox's CinemaScope process, the film features impressive widescreen photography and very creative visual designs that still impress. The print is in fantastic shape with a light to moderate layer of natural grain and virtually no signs of age or damage. With that said the film's heavy reliance on compositing work and optical effects does lead to a comparatively rough and grainy look in many of the VFX heavy scenes which pre-dominates the films second and third acts. Thankfully, clarity remains strong, and though the movie has a fairly soft look, fine details and textures are apparent, revealing many of the little intricacies in the design work. On that same note, however, the high definition image also brings out a lot of the understandable deficiencies in the 1960s special effects, leading to many shots where wires and blue screen issues are clearly visible. Colours are nicely saturated, and once the characters embark on their journey into inner space, we are treated to lots of ethereal hues that pop from the screen. White levels are well balanced, but blacks do look a tad milky in a few shots. Nearly pristine, 'Fantastic Voyage' makes its way to Blu-ray with a great, respectful transfer free from unnecessary manipulation. There are some inherent weaknesses to the original shooting methods, but fans should be very pleased with this authentic presentation.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The Blu-ray is provided with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono track. I primarily listened to the surround sound remix, but also sampled the mono mix, and each track offers a strong experience. Dialogue is clean and relatively full for a film of this age. The 5.1 remix mostly respects the movie's mono roots, subtly adding a more expansive sense of space with some welcomed directional effects. The main title sequence is especially noteworthy, with creative design work that features a plethora of engaging "sci-fi" effects. The film's inventive musical score is also spread nicely with solid fidelity. Distinct surround use is minimal, however, and most sounds are relegated to the front speakers. With that said, minor ambiance and echoes of music cues do hits the rears, bolstering the soundstage. The original mono track is also very effective, and though it lacks the directionality and enhanced dynamic range of the surround mix, it provides an authentic experience. Both tracks are thankfully free from any major age-related hiccups like hissing, but I did detect some minor background static/crackling during isolated instances. Whether you go with the 5.1 or original mono track, 'Fantastic Voyage' sounds great, giving purists an untainted mix and those open to remixes a respectful upgrade that avoids unnatural gimmicks.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Film and Music Historian Jeff Bond: Jeff Bond provides a steady stream of trivia about the film's production, offering details on the films award winning special effects, its sets, music, sound design, cast, script changes, and historical place within the evolving motion picture industry. Though a little dry, the commentary is packed with information and is worth a listen for fans.
Special Feature: Lava Lamps and Celluloid: A Tribute to the Visual Effects of Fantastic Voyage  [480i] [1.33:1] [17:40] Is a great look at the film's then ground-breaking special effects. The documentary focuses on the film's award winning visual effects. Interviews with Hollywood effects supervisors are included along with behind-the-scenes photos and sketches, highlighting all of the impressive and painstaking techniques that were used to bring the film's visuals to life without the use of computers.
Special Feature: Whirlpool Scene: Storyboard to Scene  [480i] [1.33:1] [2:22] This special feature actually offers three versions in the production process, which are available by using the red button on your remote control.
Trailer and TV Spots  [480i] [1.33:1] [13:07] There is a film trailer and three TV spots are viewable separately or together. If you want to see what real faded colour looks like, then have a look at these.
Special Feature: Isolated Score Track with Commentary by Film and Music Historians Jeff Bond, Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman: Leonard Rosenman contributed a rather unusual score, and one which makes an entrance surprisingly late in the film, one which reminds me personally of the works of Milton Babbitt or Roger Sessions. The score doesn't enter the film until well past the half hour mark, which gives the three commentators a nice breathing room to discuss 20th Century Fox, the Nick Newmans and Leonard Rosenman. They wisely bow out right before the music starts.
Finally, ‘FANTASTIC VOYAGE' is easily one of the most distinctive science fiction films of the sixties, and I personally would rate it, especially In terms of concept if nothing else, and second only to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.' It's easy to look back on the practical and photochemical effects from the vantage point of shinier technology and find them somehow less than convincing, but that's like holding Georges Méliès to the same standard as James Cameron. While some of the performances and even the dialogue are a bit on the clunky side now and again, overall the film is a viscerally exciting piece of filmmaking, well-paced, and even if it takes a while for the miniaturisation and insertion into the body to happen, and ultimately, extremely tense and suspenseful. Older viewers and even those who first saw `Fantastic Voyage' on television as children are going to be delighted by this new Blu-ray, and younger viewers may well find themselves unexpectedly entranced by it as well. That is why this has been a firm favourite film of mine, as when it was first shown in the cinema, we all wanted to join the crew of the Proteus submarine and see if what the crew saw of the inside of the body, was actually true and ever since it has been a firm sci-fi favourite of mine with other films released in the 1960s, But now I can view this brilliant film whenever I want to indulge in some good sci-fi pleasure and I am so lucky to now add this brilliant film to my ever increasing Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso