We all have those movies that we’ve been wanting to catch for the longest time, but for whatever reason have failed to do so. Either we keep missing it or nobody plays it anymore and you can’t find the home video release or streaming version. Well, I have a few of those, so I decided to make an article series about finally watching those movies. Introducing a new article series here at BW Media Spotlight:
As it says on the tin (semi-literally since it’s a drawing) Finally Watched is about finally watching those movies. And for our first entry we start with one that I haven’t seen despite ties to other versions of it. 1966’s Fantastic Voyage spun off an animated series (loosely based) from rising animation studio Filmation, and a video game which I own for the Atari 800. And yet I’ve never seen the movie. At my late grandfather’s house there was a copy of the book, the only sci-fi book I recognized in the bunch, so when we were dealing with their effects I was able to obtain it for my library. It was written by Issac Asimov, a legend of science fiction, so I assumed the movie was based on the book. But when I went to examine it for a Chapter By Chapter review, I noticed it is actually a novelization. As such, I didn’t read it until I saw the movie. Which I haven’t done for years.
Recently Cinemax did a free preview weekend and I happened to see the name in the television guide so I recorded it. I think I caught part of it once as a kid and wasn’t too impressed, but I’m an adult with…some…different tastes. And I’m really looking forward to watching this movie. Then you get a review of it to see what I thought. So it’s time to finally see this movie. I’ll try not to spoil too much in case someday you want to finally watch this movie as well.
RELEASE DATE: 1966
RELEASED BY: Twentieth Century Fox
STARRING: Raquel Welch, Arthur O’Connell, William Redfield, Steven Boyd, Donald Pleasence, and Arthur Kennedy
SCREENWRITERS: Harry Kleiner, Jerome Bixby, Otto Klement, Edward O’Brien, & David Duncan
DIRECTOR: Richard Fleischer
GROSS REVENUE: $12 Million
IMDB SCORE: 6.8 out of 10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 93%
The plot: Both our side and the other side (guess who that is given the time this movie was made) have discovered the secret of miniaturization, being able to shrink whole platoons to fit on a bottlecap. Now you can sneak whole armies across enemy lines…but be fast because it only lasts an hour. A scientist may hold the key to extending that time limit but the other side gets to him first, attempting assassination. Comatose with a blood clot in his brain, the only chance the Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces (CMDF) has to save his life is to shrink a specially designed submarine and her crew to go into his body and destroy the clot since it’s in a spot too risky to operate normally. The team consists of the sub’s designer and pilot, a surgeon and his assistant, the agent who brought the scientist in the first place, and the doctor in charge, but there’s a reason the agent is in there: one of the others is a traitor!
Why I wanted to see it: I’m the squeamish type (in fact I walked away from the TV a few times during the movie), which is why I avoided the movie when it played on TV more often. But as I said in the intro I used to watch the cartoon (which I now know was way off from the movie it’s based on) and played the video game. Not to mention how many TV shows have paid homage to the movie (many sci-fi shows, especially kids shows, have done an episode where the heroes go inside someone to heal or cure them) or movies have taken the premise in other directions. Ironic considering the movie was created because it was untapped sci-fi territory. Even educational productions have used the concept from Disney rides to The Magic School Bus. You can even make the case that DC character The Atom even owes some of his life to this movie. It’s a must-see movie at this point.
What did I think?: It was a really good movie. The actors don’t ham things up (although you will recognize who the traitor is before his reveal if you really pay attention–I was expecting his cries for help to have a Russian accent, but either the director didn’t think of it or the actor couldn’t pull it off). With the sabotage angle only one scene felt like a forced tension moment. The saboteur was trying to get the mission scrubbed, and while you’d think simply having someone enlarge to supersize in your head would kill you there is alto a threat to the crew from the scientist’s own defense system. There are also some human moments that break the tension as we check in on the people monitoring the progress of the crew. The surprising part is that Rachel Welch is nobody’s love interest nor is she weak beyond being an assistant. Although she does have to get rescued from antibodies. She’s not even used as a sex symbol in this movie, which is a shock given the movie she’s most known for.
I like the design of the Proteus, the sub created for this mission, or at least a sub available that could do the job. The miniaturization sequence is multi-stepped, and there is a lot of attention to detail in the process that most of the homages lack trying to speed things along. You have to appreciate the effort. There is also explanations of everything they’re coming across and why certain things happen. Since most of my medical association has been as a patient or having nurses in my family I can’t vouch for the accuracy versus action, but it certainly feels believable.
Of course you also have to discuss the special effects. While a few things were obviously hand-drawn and run through a filter, the majority of the effects are practical, and they come off as realistic. Given that even the miniature cameras they used today weren’t around back then and nobody had been inside the human body like this before it at least looks like how you’d expect, and what we laypeople wouldn’t expect (like why the blood isn’t as red as it is coming out of you) is explained. It’s almost educational if it’s completely accurate.
Was it worth the wait?: I think so. While it’s not a movie I’d watch again, that’s more to my squeamish nature, and I will have to do the novelization eventually for Chapter By Chapter, it was worth watching if only because of it’s importance to science fiction. I mean, it was important enough to have Issac freakin’ Asimov do the novel adaptation! That should say it all. Fantastic Voyage is a movie sci-fi fans should check out to see where all the homages come from and it’s also a good move on its own apart from the historical significance.
And that does it for the first installment of Finally Watched! There are more to come because there are a lot of movies, and even a few TV shows, that I have always wanted to see, and making article series to make me do stuff seems to be a surprisingly good motivator. And I have some more DVRed movies to watch, so I won’t be running out of topics anytime soon.
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