Mania Grade: A+
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- Blu-ray Transfer: A+
- Rated: PG
- Staring: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence
- Written By: Harry Kleiner (screenplay), David Duncan (adaptation)
- Directed By: Richard Fleischer
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Original Year of Release: 1966
- Run Time: 100 Minutes
- Special Feaures: See Below
Fantastic Voyage Blu-ray Review
Still Fresh, 47 Years Later
By Robert T. Trate
October 21, 2013
Fantastic Voyage (1966) now on Blu-ray.
For some unknown reason, I had never seen Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage, which is odd because it is considered a classic PG rated piece of Sixties Sci-Fi popcorn fair. A fun, safe film that any and all kids could sit back and easily be entertained with. I say this in hindsight, now, after having just watched the film. Regardless, no one ever put this film in my hand and said, “check it out”. Since 20th Century Fox just released a Blu-ray special edition, I figured it was about time. What I got was truly fantastic and that just wasn’t the special effects.
Let us start with the trailer, shall we?
After watching this trailer, this is what I thought I was going to see: A man out of his element, played by Stephen Boyd, brought in on this “fantastic voyage”, where he would be both our window into this crazy world of science and our hero. There are few egg head, older scientists played by Arthur Kennedy and Donald Pleasence that Boyd would protect. Overseeing this operation would be two generals screaming about beating the Communists and saving the day. Finally, there would be a hot babe, Raquel Welch, for our hero to woo and fall in love with. All this would be done in about 90 minutes. Nothing too heavy, in terms of plot, and it would end with a chuckle. This was, after all, Sixties Sci-Fi. Boy, was I wrong.
Fantastic Voyage delivered a smart Sci-Fi adventure that is rarely seen today, let alone one that was released in the Sixties. The mission is to not only save one’s man life, but keep the dangerous new technology from getting into the wrong hands. The C.M.D.F. (Combined Miniature Defense Force) is in a secret race to harness the technology of shrinking men and materials. When the man with the secret to perfecting that technology is injured, the C.M.D.F. sends in “The Proteus” to save his life and the world. Our hero, Grant (Boyd) is our window into this crazy adventure. His mission is to not only protect the crew, but discover if a member of their team is actually a saboteur. Both Dr. Michaels (Pleasence) and Dr. Duval (Kennedy) are experts in their field, but both could be the saboteur. Cora (Welch) is Duval’s assistant and the tech of the group.
A lot hinged on Welch’s part in the film. Here, she was just 26 years old and not really known for anything outside of a few TV appearances. Her credits up to this point include “Call Girl”, “Stewardess”, “College Girl” and “Billboard Girl”. To have a lead role like this was a huge surge in her career. The hindsight of knowing who Welch is immediately turned her character into one that was going to be there for a love interest. Plus, this is a movie that contains wet suits and Welch had the ample assets to fill them out. What was really there was a fully fleshed-out character who never had one kiss or one romantic scene with Boyd. We got one or two quick shots of Welch’s wet suit, but nothing that was overly obvious or gratuitous (for Sixties standards or today). This story moved and there was little time to have a love scene or a kiss between two of its leads, anyway.
The spectacle, here, is the voyage and horrors inside the human body. The special effects for 1966 are a sight to behold in 1080p. The sad part is that the Blu-ray only heightens our awareness the of strings and blue screen shadows. A slight blue hue appears when we see our characters from either the left or right of the screen with images behind them. Over the shoulder shots are the best and the hue is gone. Yes, the strings are there, but there are enough wonders, horrors, and white blood cells to keep you fully entertained.
The Fantastic Voyage moves at a breathtaking pace. Leonard Rosenman’s score really only begins when they are inside the human body. From that point on, it is a full sixty minutes to get in and get out. The Blu-ray delivers a crisp, cool look to both the special effects, the sets, and costumes. This film really is a thinking man’s adventure, which is completely refreshing despite its 1966 release date.
Commentary by Film & Music Historian Jeff Bond
Isolated Score Track with Commentary by Film & Music Historians Jeff Bond, Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman
Lava Lamps & Celluloid: A Tribute to the Visual Effects of Fantastic Voyage
Storyboard-to-Scene Comparison: Whirlpool Scene
Original Theatrical Trailer
Robert Trate writes three columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.