By 1966, science fiction filmmakers took viewers to the center of the earth, the bottom of the sea, the end of the universe, and a variety of other places. One area which had not been explored on screen was inner space and the intricacies of the human anatomy. Director Richard Fleischer (who also helmed 1954’s TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and would later direct the futuristic SOYLENT GREEN in 1973) would take audiences on such a journey in this very ingenious, imaginative, and downright entertaining film which is now re-released on DVD with a variety of extras not found on the original 2000 DVD release.
Sometime in the near future, European scientist Dr. Benneche is about to be smuggled into the United States with his secret process of miniaturizing people and objects. The United States wants his information in order to be able to miniaturize enemy (i.e. Communist) armies. However, Benneche is the victim of a surprise attack and although not killed, he suffers a blood clot near his brain…a clot which leads to a coma and cannot be operated on in a conventional way. Benneche’s only hope is to use the technology available to miniaturize five scientists (Arthur Kennedy, Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasance and William Redfield) and their craft (Proteus) and inject them into Benneche’s body in order to find the clot and dissolve it with the aid of a hand held laser. It is a race against time though as the miniaturization process only lasts one hour. After that, the body’s natural defenses (white blood cells which attack foreign bodies and fight infection) will begin to destroy the ship and its occupants. Add to this a saboteur and other obstacles and you have 100 minutes of great special effects-filled fun.
One of the most memorable aspects of FANTASTIC VOYAGE is the fact that all the interiors of the human body were painstakingly re-created (with a great deal of technical advice from doctors) on the sound stages of Twentieth Century Fox right down to the smallest detail. What is so remarkable too is the fact that the film still holds up well by today’s standards and was done in an era (1966) without the use of computers. The Proteus is well-designed and the matte work is great considering how many years ago the film was made.
The cast of FANTASTIC VOYAGE is good, but the stand out performance goes to the always terrific Donald Pleasance as the manic Dr. Michaels. Raquel Welch really only stands around looking beautiful (which she most certainly does), but has the memorable scene in which antibodies wrap themselves around her gorgeous figure. Edmund O’Brien as the army general also has some good scenes as he and Arthur O’Connell pace feverishly in the operating theater.
Fox’s DVD is bit of an improvement in the picture department. It seems a bit sharper and better detailed than in the 2000 release (double billed with Irwin Allen’s VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA). The image is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The audio is in English (Dolby surround or mono), French (mono), or Spanish (mono). There is an audio commentary track with film and music historian Jeff Bond. In addition, there is a good documentary entitled “Lava Lamps and Celluloid: A Tribute to the Visual Effects in FANTASTIC VOYAGE” as well as a storyboard to scene comparison for the whirlpool scene, stills of the original props and models used in the film, behind the scenes galleries, and the original theatrical trailer. There is also an isolated musical score (beautifully done by Leonard Rosenman) track with commentary by film and music historians Jeff Bond, Jon Burlingame, and Nick Redman.
Overall, FANTASTIC VOYAGE is a welcome addition to the shelf of any science fiction fan who may just want to repurchase this for the extras which were lacking in the 2000 release. It is hoped that Fox will continue digging into its vaults and release special editions of THE FLY, RETURN OF THE FLY and most of all CURSE OF THE FLY.
Anyone interested in purchasing this title can visit out www.foxstore.com.
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