Friday, September 9, 2016

Fighting Commies With Shrink Rays, or Thoughts on Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage (1966) is a claustrophobic submarine thriller, a medical procedural drama, a Cold War spy movie with sci-fi elements and to the best of my knowledge, the only time these specific genres have been successfully mashed together.  Using the same basic technology that inspired Ant Man (2015), a team of scientists in a miniaturized submarine has an hour to repair the blood clot in a Soviet defector’s brain before they return to their original size. Sort of like endoscopic surgery, but with shrink rays.  Of course it’s not as easy as that sounds, and the sub will encounter white blood cells that perceive the sub as an infection, dwindling oxygen levels and Soviet saboteurs.
The first third of the movie is spent on exposition and set-up but interestingly, the miniaturized surgery is portrayed in something close to real time.  The refreshingly retro analog effects are achieved with models, animation, split screens, lighting and set designs that make the interior of a human body look like an alien world, at least from a microscopic perspective.
Raquel Welch stars as Cora Peterson, the technical assistant (Nurse? Sorry, it was the 60’s) and the breakout star of the film.  The movie came out the same year as One Million Years B.C. and the fur-bikini poster that turned her into the international superstar and diva she remains to this day.   Stephen Boyd, who you may remember Messala from Ben Hur (1959) portrays Charles Grant, secret agent and security expert.  And look out for the wonderful Donald Pleasance from The Great Escape (1963), Halloween (1978), Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967,with a fantastic theme song by Nancy Sinatra and while you’re at it, listen to Bj√∂rk’s cover), THX 1138 (1971), Dracula (1979) as Dr. Michaels, one of the mini-scientists.
Director Richard Fleischer had a notable career, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Soylent Green (1973) before moving onto Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Red Sonya (1985).  His movie Fantastic Voyage has been parodied and reproduced in so many movies and TV shows you could argue that it’s become part of our national culture, including Innerspace (1999), Osmosis Jones (2001), Deep Space Nine’s episode “One Little Ship” (1998) and Archer’s “Drastic Voyage” (2015).



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).