Monday, April 27, 2015

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

I remember seeing this film when I was a kid and really being intrigued by it. I had a science book that used the same concept, following heroic adventures into the human body to see how it all worked. But this movie brought that whole concept to life and in such vivid color! I revisited the film in the mid-1990s and found it really slow to get started and kinda silly. But when I found out my wife had never seen it, I decided to give it another spin.

When a key soviet defector is ambushed, the attack causes a dangerous clot in the man’s brain. He falls into a coma. With vital security information locked away in the man’s mind, a super secret agency springs into action. They have perfected the science behind miniaturization, and with the proper tools (including state of the art submarine and a laser) they think they can destroy the clot from within.

But the process is still very experimental and anything can go wrong. On top of that, the miniaturization process only lasts for a limited time. If they don’t make it to the retrieval point, the will return to normal size within the man! While the special effects are the star of the show you also get Raquel Welch in a skintight jumpsuit and Donald Pleasence as a twitchy scientist who realizes he may be in over his head. Can the heroic scientists save the western world and survive the Fantastic Voyage?

Good Points:
  • Some amazing visual effects for its time
  • Once the voyage begins, the action moves along well
  • A fun and enjoyable concept

Bad Points:
  • Due to knowledge limitations of the time, some of the visuals are incorrect
  • Leonard Rosenman’s score may be so modern it is distracting
  • Takes a while to set up the premise

This is still a fun film. Yes the set up seems a bit long-winded now, but like Tron it was describing a new sci-fi concept for viewers of the time. The voyage itself is a blast, with some wonderful visual effects work from the miniaturization to the attack by the antibodies. There are a few holes in the plot and some over baked intrigue, but it adds to the fun. Well worth checking out (or revisiting) for an entertaining sci-fi adventure.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 4
Acting: 3
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. I remember seeing this one. I picked it up for cheap once along with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Fantastic Voyage wasn't as bad as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, but I still didn't really get much out of it. I remember finding Stephen Boyd's acting to be really dull, and as you noted the story to be extremely slow. It also didn't help that the filmmakers didn't seem to want to let Raquel Welch do anything apart from standing around looking pretty, instead of... you know... actually giving her some characterization and something useful to contribute to the mission. Honestly, I think I can see why Stanley Kubrick didn't like this film. If I remember correctly, the original title for 2001: A Space Odyssey was "Voyage Beyond the Stars", and then Fantastic Voyage came out, and Kubrick hated it so much he decided he didn't want the title to have any association with it.

    1. Well to compare this film with anything Kubrick made is a disservice to the movie. Few films could measure up to "2001". And this film closer to the old 1950s sci-fi films that focused on the power of science to solve the problem (even if that "science" was suspect). Much like those older films, the characterization in "Fantastic Voyage" is pretty thin all the way around, not just for Welch. Science is the real star here and by default so are all the impressive visual effects. "Fantastic Voyage" was really going for themes, something that Kubrick is always going for in his films. So yeah, Kubrick was going to hate this film. :)

      And while "Innerspace" was a comedic remake of "Fantastic Voyage" a solid remake could be attempted these days with this film and I think would be a blast. You could have better characterizations as well as better medical science applied. If memory serves a sequel was actually written by Isaac Asimov back in the 80s. That could be something fun to adapt. Thanks for the comment!

    2. End of the first paragraph should be "Fantastic Voyage" wasn't really going for themes..."

  2. I saw this in the theater in 1966 at age 13. At 13 Raquel was reason enough. I haven’t seen it in decades but I liked it at the time enough to read Isaac Asimov’s novelization. It might be fun to revisit at that.

    1. I had no idea Asimov tackled the novelization of the first movie. I just knew of his work on the sequel. Pretty darn cool.

  3. I always liked this movie, I never noticed that the setup was slow, but I'd agree that the draw are the special effects, which are great for the time period. You could probably stack this against the Transformer sequels and for me, it would win out. I don't know how I would feel about a remake, though would enjoy a sequel.

    1. I was actually thinking how many similarities this film has with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" from a style and structure perspective. Lots of parallels there. Overall, I had a good time with this one. And I'm more patient with slow building stories these days. I was an impatient youth in the 90s. :)