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Fantastic Voyage


‘…even if the process work is poor by today’s standards, this voyage still seems fantastic today…’

‘The medieval philosophers were right. Man is the center of the universe. We stand in the middle of infinity between outer and inner space, and there’s no limit to either…’ is one of many pretentious lines in Richard Fleischer’s 1966 sci-fi fantasy, but for once, pretention is justified. Before Kubrick’s 2001 put the ‘awe’ into outer-space, Fantastic Voyage engendered some similar emotions with their trip to ‘innerspace’; the film follows an intrepid group whose submarine is somehow injected into the body of a prone scientist. The effects and production design won Oscars, and even if the process work is poor by today’s standards, this voyage still seems fantastic today.

A motely collection, the great Raquel Welsh, Stephen Boyd and Donald Pleasence are amongst those who don skin-tight plastic wetsuits to various degrees of attractiveness, but there’s a good half-hour of chat beforehand just to ramp up expectations. The miniaturisation process is covered in detail, as are the practices and rubrics of the Combined Miniature Deterrent Force who mastermind the project. One of the team is a spy, although that narrative takes a back-seat to tension as the crew of the Proteus navigate the internal workings of Benes (Jean De Val). Memorable moments include a trip through an ear canal, a lazer-firing escape through the brain, an exit through a tear duct, attacks by antibodies, and stopping the patient’s heart so that the ship can pass through in one piece.

‘Every beat separates a man from eternity…’ murmurs one of the doctors, while another considers converting to Hindu-ism because they value all forms of life, large or small. There’s a dash of philosophical insight in the script, keeping things interesting, and the prospect of the ship suddenly returning to full size keeps the film taunt. Welsh seems unusually buttoned down here, but was managing the transition from pin-up to serious actress with some success, while Pleasance gets to do this patented sweaty-brow/agitated-man thing.

Fleischer has previously pulled 20,000 League Under The Sea together for Disney, and knows how to get great visuals; the submarine itself looks pretty functional, and the educational insights into how the human body works are good for young audiences. Miniaturisation has staged periodic comebacks, from Innerspace to Ant Man, but Fantastic Voyage lives up to its title by telling on original story with some verve; it’s a classic of the sci-fi genre, with James Cameron reputedly mulling a remake. It would be nice if any reboot retained the 1960’s setting; this is the missing link between 1950’s space potboilers and the still awe-inspiring future-scapes of 2001.


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  1. I watched and reviewed Fantastic Voyage just last year. I’ve always loved the concept of shrinking within the human body. Though a remake might be an improvement of the visual, the 60’s was really the best time for it.

    • It was an idea way she was if it’s time; 50’s sci fi movies are pretty privative, but this has a big crazy idea and effects that must have amazed at the time.,

  2. What’s with you and Booky doing double updates per day? Can’t expect me to keep up. Plus, if you’re going to do two movies a day why can’t you do Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey? Or that flick with Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs?

    • Just got a Bob Clark boxed set and Plane on blu ray, it’s all hands to the pump. The Pooh thing is torture porn by reports, I think I can skip it. 65 looks worth a trip to the flicks. I just happened to see that the text for Fantastic Voyage seemed to have deleted itself leaving only a picture. So I revised and rebooted it for posterity. I’m not sure what else you could possibly have to do other than comments, but insist that you do try and keep up. What motivation do you need?

  3. I remember seeing this on network television after its theatrical run. It made quite an impression on me both from its subject matter and its visuals. I had not heard of a potential Cameron film, but if I were to entrust anyone to honor this film’s past while employing state-of-the-art technology it would be him.

    • Yes, I think it could be modernized, or even better retro-modernised, giving them nano bot tech in the 60’s. The idea really gripped me as a kid, exploring the human body as an environment, which is echoed in Strange World. A bbc Wednesday night film when I was a kid, the who notion of a submarine bursting through his forehead just seemed like a game changer in terms of scale. Gareth Edwards would have the right kind of vision.

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