Friday, May 1, 2015

Fantastic Voyage - 1966

No, not the swinging 1980 pop/funk song by the band Lakeside, but rather the 1966 movie of the same name.  This is one of those early "epics" that came along, sporting a tremendously high budget, a top notch cast, and an almost guarantee at an Oscar nod for best effects.  *Check real quick...Yes, it did win an Oscar for special effects and one for Art Direction.  Does that make this my first review of an Academy Award winner?  I'm too lazy to do the research and find out, but probably not.  War of the Worlds must'a won something.  *check again, yes it did, best special effects.

Breaking from my normal routine here, I can actually expound on the film biographies of these actors, cause they were actually in stuff!  Main leading man Grant is played by Stephen Boyd who was in Ben-Hur and The Fall of the Roman Empire.  Raquel Welch wasn't in much before, but this movie got her going with later roles in Myra Breckinridge and The Three Musketeers.  And then there's Donald Pleasence.  Another greatly underrated actor in my opinion, the guy was like a fucking open flame.  You would not fuck with the Pleasence.  He commands the scenery and is impossible not to watch.  Like Kinski, he looks like a total creep also (gee, do you think Pleasence will play a bad guy in this...?)

I missed the initial set up to this somehow, it seemed to just go very quickly, but essentially some super important guy is in some accident and has a blood clot in his brain.  They track down the best doctor, a great pilot, a top scientist, and some other people, and they decide they must save his life.  We follow main character Grant (Stephen Boyd) as he is taken from his old CIA work to the top secret government facility where they have the technology to shrink things down to a microscopic level.  Turns out what they plan to do is shrink him and his team down, inside a ship, inject them into the guys bloodstream, where they will make their way to the brain and destroy the blood clot.  Wow.

The plot is fantastic in it's reach, and the movie is quick to follow it's outrageous notion.  This movie does not dwell on explanation, science, or character interaction in the beginning.  We are thrown haphazard into the plot, the characters follow suit without question, and before you know it they're all in the ship, in the room with the shrink ray, and they're getting ready to "get down" (sorry).  The rest of the movie follows in this pattern.  It is an extremely fast movie, a movie that could've been longer, but they were used to short films back then (this movie is just over 90 minutes).  This was 1966, and the modern 3 hour epics didn't just come out every month like ours do now.

The ship has one hour in the body of the man.  Then it will start to grow larger, which would mean the man's body would sense a foreign invader and white blood cells will attack and kill them all.  Similarly, if they disrupt the natural "environment" inside the man, the cells will attack them.  So, the rest of the movie is in real time, amazingly, and we follow the full hour of these people encountering obstacles as they make their way towards his brain.

This movie was pretty damn fun.  It was as I said obviously very high budget, with all sorts of cool sets, interesting effects, and damn good actors.  The props and the design of it were great for the time and still manage to look cool, if not especially realistic.  I found everyone online on IMDb was clamoring about a remake...why, when half the fun of seeing this is the cool effects and in modern day that's going to be bland green screen CGI?

Some of the effects look pretty hokey, and that's one of those comes-with-the-territory sort of things that you're either going to love or hate.  For the time they were pretty good, although movies like 2001 and War of the Worlds look far better in comparison.

Also, I thought a couple of plot points needed some more explanation.  At one point they talk of sabotage by one of the men onboard the ship.  There is a scene of dialogue between Pleasence and Boyd wherein they discuss the difficulties they've had on their trip and how it is likely sabotage by on of the other two men on board.  But they never get back to that plot point and it's never made clear if in fact it was sabotage or not.  Also, the whole plot is to remove these blood clots in the brain.  Then in the end as the guys escape the body, the movie simply ends....So did the patient survive?  Did the stuff they did in the brain work?  It's an unanswered, annoying question.

All things considered, this one isn't as well known as the other classic adventure sci-fi's and will ultimately continue to not age well.  The effects weren't as good, the plot holes are stupid, and the movie wasn't as grand in scope.  It's a great idea, and the movie is a lot of fun, but it's more of a popcorn flick than greats like War of the Worlds.  I'm arguing between 4 and 4.5 stars in my head, and I'm going to go with 4.5, which makes this the first movie I've rated 4.5 on this site.  Nice!

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