(director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriter: adapted from a story by Jay Lewis Bixby and Otto Klement/Harry Kleiner; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: William B. Murphy; cast: Stephen Boyd (Grant), Raquel Welch (Cora Peterson), Edmond O’Brien (General Carter), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels), Arthur O’Connell (Col. Donald Reid), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Jean del Val (Scientist, Jan Benes); Runtime: 100; 20th-Century-Fox; 1966)
“Fantastic Voyage is an absurd but entertaining trip into inner space.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fantastic Voyage is an absurd but entertaining trip into inner space. It’s a sci-fi adventure boasting some neat special effects and art direction. It won two Oscars, one for Art Direction (Jack Martin Smith and Dale Hennesy) and one for Special Visual Effects (Art Cruikschank).

A leading scientist (Jean del Val) defects to the West and is immediately shot in an ambush. He’s rushed to a secret military hospital in critical condition. He’s very important to the military team running the top secret operation CMDF (Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces), headed by General Carter (Edmond O’Brien) and supervised by Col. Donald Reid (Arthur O’Connell). The scientist is the only one in the world who has valuable info on how to control those who are miniaturized from growing back. At present, they can only be shrunk for not more than 60 minutes.

The only way to save the scientist’s life is to have a medical team in a miniaturized submarine be injected into the bloodstream of the patient and to operate from within his brain on the clot in the one hour time frame they will remain reduced in size. The voyagers will be reduced to the size of a microbe. The mission members include: the best brain surgeon in the world, but someone who is not supposed to be reliable, Dr. Duval (Arthur Kennedy). Duval will perform the delicate operation; while, his medical technician for the last 5 years, Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch), will assist him. The one in charge of the ship and its navigator through the circulatory system will be Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence). Michaels will also make sure that Duval operates correctly when using the laser beam, and his decision will count if there are any disputes. The uptight Captain Bill Owens will steer the nuclear powered submarine; and, the James Bond wannabe, Special Agent Grant (Stephen Boyd), will be in charge of security (Dr. Duval might be a traitor) and he will also run the wireless to maintain communication with the control tower.

The voyage landscape is a beautiful trip among the corpuscles and fibers and antibodies. This is totally a tacky special effect film, as unfortunately the dialogue is asinine and the characters are uninvolving. The fun is in trying to find which one is the traitor, but the traitor is too obvious. He’s sweating profusely and twitching from the onset, so much so that he offers no challenge in being discovered. This is one of those films that could have been great if… . Unfortunately the film is too stiff and too full of medical briefings to amount to much more than a feast for the eyes. Raquel is along so she can get into a wet suit and we could see what she’s stacked up to be.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the paragraph.

Conflicts on the voyage concern turbulence from an unknown source that takes the submarine off course into the jugular vein instead of the carotid artery. The traitor messes with the laser beam and causes a short in the electrical valve circuit system. The submarine gets stuck because of fibers clogging the vents, so it must journey to the inner ear. Absolute silence is demanded in that area, but a nurse drops a scissor in the operating theater and there is a temporary shattering effect. Also, antibodies attack the submarine and when that’s repelled, the submarine will eventually get destroyed by the actions of the traitor. The four remaining survivors swim out through the optic nerve of the eye just before the hour is up and they return to their normal size.