Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: August 24th, 1966 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Richard Fleischer Actors: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur O’Connell, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val

 


 

A

plane lands, greeted by an armada of military troops, signaling the arrival of someone very important. With all the hubbub and the sounds of revving engines, words cannot be heard; but it’s evident that an elderly man, escorted by Grant (Stephen Boyd), must be protected at all costs. So when the VIP’s fleet of armed guards are attacked, with a vehicle collision that knocks him unconscious, he’s rushed to a secret hospital facility, marked by the letters CMDF (Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces).

In the middle of the night, Grant is picked up by some cloak-and-dagger type men, who are unable to provide any explanations. Finally, however, the Pentagon’s General Carter (Edmond O’Brien) fills in some details. The crucial, smuggled witness, a scientist named Benes (Jean Del Val), has suffered a brain injury leading to a coma, preventing him from relating vital information about powerful technology. Top brain surgeon Duval (Arthur Kennedy) and his assistant Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch) are tasked with saving the man, but the chief of the medical station (and a circulatory specialist), Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence), along with the general, believe that a surgical assassination is imminent. And Grant is needed for security.

“I don’t wanna be miniaturized!” The big reveal is that the CMDF has the capability of shrinking any object – living tissue included – down to a microscopic level. This notion is presented with the utmost sincerity, though it’s still a bit of a shock to hear; a suspension of disbelief is absolutely imperative. As it turns out, a 4-person team of surgeons, as well as Grant, are to board an experimental submarine, which is to be shrunk down small enough to be injected into Benes’ carotid artery. Once inside his body, they must traverse the arterial system to the brain to break up a blood clot. But they only have 60 minutes to accomplish their mission – otherwise, they’ll start to return to their original size, which puts them in danger of being attacked by Benes’ natural immune system (long before they burst out of his body like some sort of monster).

“We can’t be certain of anything.” The film is obviously futuristic, but not so much that it appears as if set in an alien world. Instead, with its top secret, underground lab, amusingly designed right alongside the submarine, the sci-fi elements feel appropriate and exciting. It’s a highly innovative premise, and one that doesn’t rush into the more outrageous components; scientific jargon, blinking computer panels, exhaustive procedures, and a steady build to miniaturization help with giving audiences time to accept the outlandishness of it all, as well as to generate suspense. With its continual creativity – and foreshadowing, of course – things immediately go wrong, forcing the crew to contemplate going through the potentially turbulent heart.

The actors are convincing, even if they don’t express an adequate amount of elation during the initial stages of their voyage. Pleasence is the highlight, however, immediately demonstrating the panic that would come with rapid reduction, claustrophobic conditions, and such an overall radically mind-blowing experience. It takes nearly 40 minutes before the vessel (named the Proteus) enters the bloodstream, but it’s worth the wait; viewers are treated to a wealth of impressive sights, like those found in the cosmoses of “Star Trek.” The plotting is clever and original, while the imagery (particularly set designs) is exceptional (earning the picture a Best Special Visual Effects Oscar); from a tracking device to the beating of the heart to short circuits to sabotage to a crisis in the lungs to a fiasco in the inner ear, “Fantastic Voyage” is a nonstop adventure of sizable proportions. “White corpuscles!”

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10