Fantastic Voyage Review

Fantastic Voyage

You know all those episodes of shows where people get shrank down and go around the inside of a human body? Well, this is what they’re all, in some way, based off of. That’s why I chose it for the 60s entry in the “Sci-Fi films I haven’t seen” decades marathon. It’s another one of those “seen it parodied so much I wanted to see the original” kind of things. So, beyond its importance to science fiction in general, is it still fun to watch, now in 2018? Well…

Synopsis:

The United States and the Soviet Union have both developed technology that can miniaturize matter by shrinking individual atoms, but only for one hour.

The scientist Dr. Jan Benes working behind the Iron Curtain has figured out how to make the process work indefinitely. With the help of American intelligence agents, he escapes to the West, but an attempted assassination leaves him comatose with a blood clot in his brain.

To save his life, agent Grant, pilot Captain Bill Owens, Dr. Michaels, surgeon Dr. Peter Duval and his assistant Cora Peterson are placed aboard a Navy submarine at the C.M.D.F. (Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces) facilities. The submarine, named the Proteus, is then miniaturized and injected into Benes. The ship is reduced to “about the size of a microbe,” giving the team one hour to remove the clot before they begin to expand again…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Fantastic Voyage 3

Hey look, matching white jumpsuits! Hey look, the woman doesn’t have a white shirt underneath like the men! ….

Agent Grant (Stephen Boyd) – Agent Grant is an… agent, who helped Dr. Benes escape to the US. Thanks to already having knowledge of something few do, he is then chosen to take part in a most unusual mission…

Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence) – Dr. Michaels is the soft-talking, suspicious looking, totally not evil scientist who works with the team looking to help save Dr. Benes’ life…

Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy) – Dr. Duval is a top-class brain surgeon who feels up to the task of clearing out a deadly clot inside Dr. Benes from inside… using a giant laser. Makes sense, I’m sure brain surgeons do that stuff all the time!

Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch) – Cora is Dr. Duval’s assistant. She, well, assists him in his various experiments.

Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield) – Captain Owens normally captains submarines, which I guess he still is here, just using a submarine within a human body. Not too different, then!

Dr. Jan Benes (Jean Del Val) – Dr. Jan Benes knows the secret of permanent miniaturization, but wishes to share this miraculous discovery with the US rather than Soviet Russia…

Plus more!

The Good:

Fantastic Voyage 2

An incredible voyage indeed! … Wait, I mean, fantastic voyage. Sorry.

The story was extremely ambitious, especially for the time. Given the limitations, it’s a testament to the crew that it doesn’t look too bad now, being fair too it. The crew was good to watch, even if it was pretty cookie cutter in terms of personality: Agent Grant (no last name given, or first name given… not sure) is your straight up heroic protagonist, Dr. Michaels might actually give Albert Wesker from Resident Evil 1 a run for his money in the “so blatantly evil that it boggles the mind how people could NOT see it!” stakes (not even including the fact he’s bald and therefore just looks like his iconic version of Blofeld!), Captain Owens is your friendly, jokey crewman, Dr. Duval is your “the wonders of science!” guy while also constantly quoting ominous, often religious, text for dramatic purposes (and to further establish him as the nice guy scientist against Mr. Blofeld), and finally, because it’s the 60s, Cora is your eye candy.

The crew often get into perilous situations, like running out of air in an airtank and having to refill it by putting a hose into the wall of a nearby lung, or having to cross the heart in a certain amount of time, leaving the people outside the body to stop Dr. Benes’ heart to let them through. My favourite was when they were in the ear and everyone in the surgery room outside the body had to stop and make no noise whatsoever as the slightest sound would shake and disrupt the crew in the ear, and potentially killing them. Of course one nurse drops some scissors, and the reverberations cause the crew to go flying, including Cora ending up entangled in … stuff, which Benes’ body takes as an invasion and sends white blood cells to kill her. It’s a very odd film, when you think about it…

The finale includes Blofeld turning out to be the traitor rather than the nice religious surgeon, somehow to everyone’s surprise, and the submarine crashing into the brain leading to the traitor being eaten by white blood cells. They destroy the clot and all leave via the tearducts.

Overall, it’s a fun adventure, though not without faults…

The Bad:

Fantastic Voyage 4

Behold! The wonders of Inner Space! (Do you get it? Instead of Outer Space… Fine, they made it up, not me…)

Ignoring technical limitations, there are long sequences of the film, especially in the first half an hour, all about the shrinking effects and the long process of injecting them into the body. It got old fast, especially as the novelty of the special effects just aren’t a thing any more.

I also couldn’t help but think about how they left the wreckage of the submarine in Benes’ brain, meaning it would have expanded and cracked his skull like a melon as the crew were similarly returning to normal size. Reading the Wikipedia page, it seems famed writer Isaac Asimov thought the same thing when he wrote his novelization (probably the only time I’m able to compare myself in any way with the man…)

It’s also one of those films that just ends. The crew return to normal size and look relieved, and then it shows the end title card. It’s so abrupt that it’s frankly jarring… Once again from what I’ve read, apparently there was an epilogue where we find out that damage to Benes’ brain meant he’d forgotten how to keep permanent shrinkage (oo-er?) as some sort of irony thing, but it was cut…

Overall Thoughts:

Fantastic Voyage 1

The spaceship! … I mean, the submarine. Geez, this film is ripe with me typing the wrong thing, apparently…

Ignoring the painfully slow first third, the rest of the film is an enjoyable, basic sci-fi adventure. It won’t wow you, but it will entertain you, so just suspend your disbelief and relax… That being said, I can’t see myself rewatching it, it was harmless fun, but not exactly the kind of exciting or fun thing that I’d like to watch again.

3 Star Watch

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