Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bursting onto the scene in 1966, Fantastic Voyage promised to introduce a new era in science fiction, to take viewers to an amazing world they'd never explored before - the inside of the human body. With larger than life characters shrunk to microscopic size by temporarily squashing their atoms, it delivers a submarine adventure that strains credulity but delivers on action.

Like many so-called science fiction films, Fantastic Voyage is only really using these elements as a backdrop to what is a pretty standard Cold War thriller. The body in question belongs to a scientist in possession of vital knowledge but an assassination attempt has left him comatose with a potentially fatal blood clot in his brain. As our heroes race against time to remove it, they come to suspect that someone on their own team is an enemy agent - but who? Amid fantastic landscapes and macrobiological threats, thy must solve the mystery, fix the problem and escape before they return to natural size.

Copy picture

Stephen Boyd makes a suitably charismatic hero, though his noteworthy acting skills are set aside in favour of much clenching of the jaw and furrowing of the brow. There's a nod to women's lib in the form of Raquel Welch, though even at a tenth of micron in size she seems to have a uniform that's too small for her and she's only allowed to be an assistant, not a proper scientist. As senior scientist Dr Michaels, Donald Pleasance strives to bring some gravitas to proceedings, and he's helped by director Richard Fleischer's determinedly po-faced approach. Ultimately, though, this just adds to the camp atmosphere; the film is fun, but probably not in the way that was intended.

It's ironic that Fleischer was himself a former medical student (something which would also bear upon his later serial killer films) given just how silly the medical aspects of this film are. It also contains vast plot holes that even small children will be quick to spot. That it carries the viewer along anyway is thanks largely to its kitsch charm, its energetic pace and the stunning sets designed by Harper Goff, who previously worked with Fleischer on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. This is complemented by visual effects that still stand up fairly well, even if the ideas they're built around are rather wobbly.

Despite the many imitations it spawned, Fantastic Voyage still has a distinctive place in the film canon and it remains much more entertaining than most attempts to spoof it. It's not exactly introspective but it can still get the blood pumping.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2013
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Fantastic Voyage packshot
An intrepid team of surgeons is miniaturised and travels through the body of a patient in desperate need.

Director: Richard Fleischer

Writer: Harry Kleiner, David Duncan, based on a story by Otto Klement, Jermoe Bixby

Starring: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur O’Connell, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val, Barry Coe, Ken Scott, Shelby Grant, James Brolin, Brendan Fitzgerald

Year: 1966

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


EIFF 2013

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