(director/writer: Irwin Allen; screenwriter: Charles Bennett/story by Irwin Allen; cinematographers: Winton Hoch/underwater photography John Lamb; editor: George Boemler; music: Paul Sawtell/Bert Shefter; cast: Walter Pidgeon (Admiral Harriman Nelson), Robert Sterling (Captain Lee Crane), Barbara Eden (Lieutenant Cathy Connors), Peter Lorre (Commodore Lucius Emery), Joan Fontaine (Dr Susan Hiller), Michael Ansara (Miguel Alvarez), Frankie Avalon (Chip Romano), Regis Toomey (Dr. Jamieson), John Litel (Vice-Adm. B.J. Crawford), Howard McNear (Congressman Parker), Henry Daniell (Dr. Zucco, U.N. science chief); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Irwin Allen; Twentieth Century–Fox; 1961)

“It’s a film to be enjoyed for its DeLuxe Technicolor eye candy visuals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a film to be enjoyed for its DeLuxe Technicolor eye candy visuals, trick photography, special effects and its sometimes campy effects such as casting Peter Lorre as a noted scientist/commodore (he walks a shark in an aquarium). Irwin Allen (“Five Weeks in a Balloon”/”The Story of Mankind”/”The Lost World “) directs from his story and cowrites it with Charles Bennett.

At the North Pole, genius eccentric scientist/Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pigeon) launches his experimental nuclear-powered research submarine, the Seaview. When it emerges from tests under the Arctic ice-pack, the admiral discovers that the sky is on fire and attributes it to a passing comet having lit up the Van Allen radiation belt which circles the globe. This incident causes intense heat on the Earth, to such a degree it has only three weeks to survive. It’s up to Nelson to save the world. The plan he proposes to the U.N. is to detonate a Polaris nuclear missile whose blast will remove the belt on a backward path into a far off point in space. Problem is that the U.N. science chief Dr. Zucco (Henry Daniell) and other world scientists vote to reject the idea as too dangerous. This causes Nelson to act on his own to save the world, as he tries to reach his objective launching point in the Marianas Trench. His ship crosses half way around the world, as the Earth’s temperature rises significantly with blistering heat and the Seaview battles giant sea octopi, pursuing submarines from the world’s navies, WWII mines, a saboteur, a religious fanatic and a mutiny from his crew who object to his iron-hand of rule.

Aboard the Seaview, the world’s most respected physicist, Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre), supports Nelson, while the ship’s skipper Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) opposes the plan. Crane is engaged to Nelson’s pretty secretary Cathy Connors (Barbara Eden), who is caught in the middle not knowing whether to be loyal to her boss or future husband. Also aboard are a pretty psychiatrist Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), who raises questions about Nelson’s sanity; a playful trumpet playing young officer Chip Romano (Frankie Avalon) who doesn’t take kindly to all the strict rules; and the rest of the large crew. The sub picks up a survivor, a voice of doom religious nut and scientist, Miguel Alvarez (Michael Ansara), who believes that the missile strike goes against the will of God.

This childish sci-fi film ignores basic science even though it pretends to be informative (the main plot point is flawed, since “the Van Allen Belt exists outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, so it could not possibly burst into flame as there is no oxygen to support fire”). Considering how limited is the screenplay, the acting is about as good as can be expected.

It was turned into the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-8).

REVIEWED ON 10/20/2008 GRADE: C+