Fantastic Voyage (1966)

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Back in 1966, long, long before the world was turned upside down and inside out on Sept. 11, the world was a very different place. The movies were quite different and science fiction pictures depended more on good writing and less on special effects. Partly because the phrase “computer generated” was years away. In 1966, 20th Century Fox released a very clever, well-written and innovative movie called, “Fantastic Voyage”. The on-screen foreword informed the viewers that they were going to be taken to a place that no one had been before, and see things that had been, until that point in time, never been seen by human beings. I’m sure that this film had its fair share of technical advisors putting in a lot more than their 2 cents worth to make sure that the film accurately depicted human anatomy. The plot… A scientist, Jan Benes, has defected from behind the Iron Curtain, has, with the help of Grant, one of our top CIA operatives. Benes has decided to give his expertise with Miniaturization to the US. The “other side” has no choice but to try to kill him before he can breathe a word of it. The assassination attempt is made, but Benes barely survives, falling into a coma. After the movie’s credits finish rolling, Grant is brought to a secret, gov’t location. There, he meets Gen. Carter, who is in charge of the CMDF – Combined Miniature Deterent Forces. They can shrink anything; cars, planes, tanks, people way down in size, thus enabling them to become unseen military weapons. The problem: both sides have this capability. Another problem is… there is a time limit. They can only stay miniaturized for 60 minutes. After that the object or person automatically starts to grow. Benes had the answer to this problem, but he will need special medical treatment to regain consciousness. That’s where Grant and a special team of doctors, technicians and such will have to go into action. After Grant meets the rest of the team, the surgeons in charge, Dr. Duvall and Dr. Michaels go over their plan to remove the blood clot in Benes’ brain. They will board a special Navy submarine, called The Proteus, be miniaturized and injected into Benes’ body by hypodermic needle. Naturally, the crew runs into Murphy’s Law and a job that was expected to take 10 to 15 minutes takes much, much longer. The ending in the movie differs quite a bit from the book written by Isaac Azimov (I know because I read it… twice), and there are a number sub-plot twists that made me shake my head, but seeing Ms. Welch in that wet suit made it more than worth while. I consider this movie to be one of my very favorite sci-fi/fantasy flicks from the ’60s. If you haven’t seen it yet, for whatever reason, I can suggest you spend the 100 minutes with some very fine actors, some of whom are no longer with us, such as Stephen Boyd (Grant), Edmund O’Brien (Gen. Carter) and Arthur O’Connell who was in charge of the medical team, and others like Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duvall), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels) and last but not least, the ever-beautiful, Raquel Welch as Cora Peterson, Dr. Duval’s technical assistant. One last thought…. if this movie was remade with present-day technology, i.e. computer generated imaging and the like, there’s no telling how it would dazzle the viewers’ eye.

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