This gem from 1966 is one of science fiction’s most famous movies, and it benefits from having one of the genre’s most compelling stories. The concept was concocted by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby, with the screenplay being written by Harry Kleiner. Richard Fleischer directed; Donald Pleasance and Stephen Boyd starred, and Raquel Welch debuted in her first feature film starring role as a female scientist (a novelty in those days, evidently).
"Fantastic Voyage" takes the fascinating premise of miniaturizing a specialized submarine and a crew of five, so that they are microscopic in size, and locates it accordingly -- inside the body of an injured scientist whose survival is critical to global security. The crew’s mission is straightforward, but not simple: They have to navigate the patient’s circulatory system and vital organs, make their way to his brain, and vaporize a blood clot. And they have to do it in one hour, because that’s when the miniaturization process wears off and they will regain their ordinary stature. Along the way they fend off white blood cells, risk death in cyclonic environment of the lungs, and deal with a saboteur in their midst.
The special effects are comparatively primitive, but they often hold up well -- with the exception of the blue-screen effects photography, which stands out something terribly on this otherwise good-looking transfer, which was done in 2006 for the DVD release.
The special features include some intriguing stuff: Film historian Jeff Bond keeps up an informative, engaging patter all by his lonesome on one audio track, and joins with Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman to comment on the isolated score by composer Leonard Rosenman. There’s a featurette devoted to the film’s then-cutting edge visual effects and art direction (which accounted for half of the movie’s princely budget of $6 million). Another featurette presents the original storyboards for one adventurous sequence to the accompaniment of the finished film’s soundtrack. There are also TV spots and the original theatrical trailer.
This is a fun flick, not meant to be picked at (t least, not seriously) by overly literal viewers -- after all, the medium has a long and honorable tradition of ignoring physics and glossing over lapses in story logic. (And if you’re going to quibble over the mass/weight issue -- being shrunk wouldn’t mean being any less heavy, just a lot denser, after all -- then why not go whole hog and throw up your hands over the well-lit environs of the body’s internal channels?)
Nor is "Fantastic Voyage" meant to be remade using modern CGI techniques, some might argue, but with just such a remake in development we might get the chance for a comparison viewing some day soon.