- Directed by Richard Fleischer
- August 16, 1966
After a defecting scientist is nearly assassinated, a submarine is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into his bloodstream with a small (no pun intended) crew inside in order to save his life.
Fantastic Voyage is one of those silly science-fiction movies that takes an improbable premise and runs with it. Shrink rays? Really? But the presentation of it all somehow makes the plot believable. I think the last time I saw the use of a shrink anything in science fiction was “One Little Ship” in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This movie popularized the use of shrinking in science-fiction for a long time because it was that well done but the concept has since largely fallen out of favor until the recent advent of Ant-Man in film. I am not sure superhero stuff falls under the specific science fiction banner. It intersects but is a genre unto itself.
A scientist (Jean Del Val) working behind the Iron Curtain who has figured out how to shrink things indefinitely has decided to escape to the West. The West wants his knowledge because while we can do it, the affect is temporary. Before he can escape, ‘enemy agents’ attempt to take his life.
We have the dashing hero Charles Grant (Stephen Boyd) who is a CIA agent. Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield) is a dutiful U.S. Navy officer that designed the Proteus, the submarine they will travel in. Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence) is the Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces (or CMDF) medical chief and a circulatory specialist and the highly stressed individual of the group. Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy) is a top brain surgeon enlisted to perform the surgery on the scientist. He is almost fatherly in his portrayal. Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch) is the technical assistant for Dr. Duval and the film’s resident eye candy.
The visuals of Fantastic Voyage are rather impressive for the era. Most of the threats that the heroes encounter are internal biological threats. There are random and out of left field uncontrollable element which screw things up and just stretches out the narrative a little longer. Somebody has a random accident just at the worst moment or the one character that freaks out early on.
The sets when it comes to the sub are strangely functional in appearance. You can believe that they have a purpose and you could actually find real world equivalents of them. They were not just there to fill up background space.
The finale is a little anti-climactic. It works but it’s just a bit too much of a neat wrap-up. One thing that bothers me, and maybe I missed the explanation, is how does the corpse of Michaels as well as the sub not start expanding and kill the individual they’re trying to save? The US could shrink people/things but not indefinitely. The other side could do it indefinitely and this dying scientist had that secret. The Proteus crew was running out of time to remain small and they were going to start expanding which started the ticking clock forcing them to hurry. So how does some damage to a sub and death prevent a corpse from expanding and exploding his body much like Ant-Man was suggested to do in Avengers Endgame? That bothered me as a child and still does.
Fantastic Voyage is a bit of fun and silly science-fiction that is a classic despite its issues. It’s entertaining from its from beginning to end and a certifiable classic. If you like old-school science-fiction you should certainly check this out!