Just over 20 years before Dennis Quaid was miniaturized and found himself inside Martin Short, in Joe Dante’s escapist adventure Innerspace, Richard Fleischer last seen on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, returns with Fantastic Voyage.
Amidst the Cold War, America and Russia aren’t only in a nuclear race, they are in a miniaturization race as well. Unfortunately both sides are stuck with the same problem, it doesn’t last. After sixty minutes, the process begins to reverse itself.
The balance of power is about to shift, however, a Russian scientist is defecting, and he may have the key to stabilization.
Unfortunately an assassination attempt on his life, leaves him in a coma, with a brain clot in his head, and it’s up to a select team of surgeons and specialists to destroy the clot from inside the body. But someone on the crew may not be what they seem.
Even after some 46 years, the film is still a lot of fun, though some of the rotoscoping and special effects are less than stellar. Though some are as enjoyable as always, like Raquel Welch.
The crew is composed of wireman and agent, Grant (Stephen Boyd), Welch as Cora an assistant to Dr. Duval (Arthur Kennedy), rounding out the team is Donald Pleasance as Dr. Michaels, and William Refield as Captain Bill Owens, who serves as pilot of the Proteus, their miniaturized sub.
While not as all out fun as 20,000, Voyage is entertaining, and has some pretty fun moments as they travel through the defector’s body. There are some beats that feel exactly the same as Innerspace, which I know came later, but I saw it first – going to the lungs for air, the dangers of passing through the heart, as well as those of the ear canal.
They come under attack from antibodies and corpuscles, the antibodies seem to flit about like wraiths, and the attack scene on Cora is done very well.
One of the biggest problems I had with the film is that everyone, but for Donald Pleasance is rather cardboard-like in their performance. I know that they were mostly acting against blank screens and reacting to things that they couldn’t see, but there is a decided lack of imagination in their performances. It’s hard to buy Redfield as the Captain of the sub, as he didn’t inspire anything in me, but for boredom, I wouldn’t take orders from him at all.
One of the things I did like about this film, is that it is almost all told in real-time. Once our heroes have been shrunk the clock is running at sixty minutes, which we see counting down on various wall displays.
Fleischer has a talent for making fun films, and while 20,000 may be far and away my favorite, simply for the Nautilus itself, but he has another one coming up on the list soon enough with Soylent Green.
Fantastic Voyage, much like 20,000 before it, proves itself enjoyable family fare, and fun science fiction, with a concept that is probably due for a revisit.