VOYAGE TO THE
BOTTOM OF THE SEA
I am really jazzed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainmentís DVD double features, a series of discs, which I hope, will continue long into the future. Especially since these wonderful DVDs are being released at a bargain price of $24.98. Another thing I find really cool about this double feature series, is the fact that Fox has chosen the majority of its initial offerings from the CinemaScope era, which up to now, has been overlooked on DVD. VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA / FANTASTIC VOYAGE ($25) are two very enjoyable science fiction movies from the sixties that make for a perfect eveningís entertainment.
1961ís VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA is the tale of high tech nuclear powered submarine called Seaview, which is being put through its paces by it creator Admiral Nelson (Walter Pidgeon). After performing a three-day test below the ice of the North Pole, the Seaview resurfaces to discover that the sky has caught fire and the Earthís temperature has risen dramatically. After contacting Washington, Admiral Nelson is informed that the Van Allen radiation belt is burning and that his presence is required at an emergency scientific meeting to be held at the United Nations. With the help of his aid Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre) Nelson formulates a plan to put out the fire in the sky, before the Earth is rendered lifeless. Unfortunately, the rest of the worldís scientists disagree with Nelsonís plan, which they feel will destroy the world. Believing that his plan is the only thing that can save all life on Earth, Nelson orders the Seaviewís Captain Crane (Robert Sterling) to set a course for the exact coordinates required to implement his plan. However, before the Seaview arrives at its destination, some of the crewmembers threaten mutiny, while the rest have to wrestle with a giant squid or two. The cast of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA also features Joan Fontaine, Barbara Eden, Michael Ansara, Frankie Avalon, Regis Toomey, John Litel, Howard McNear and Henry Daniell.
When I was a kid, I must have seen FANTASTIC VOYAGE about 800 times. Heck, it seemed to play on television every couple of weeks and I tuned in every time, just to check out Raquel Welch in her tight fitting white scuba outfit. The plot of FANTASTIC VOYAGE involves some cold war politics, assassination attempts and a bit of brain surgery. Wait a minute, I left out the most important aspect of the story, FANTASTIC VOYAGE features a journey through the human body in a miniaturized submarine. FANTASTIC VOYAGE stars Stephen Boyd as Grant, an agent who has helped the military bring a defecting scientist to the United States. Unfortunately, after leaving Grantís care an attempt is made on the scientistís life, which leaves the man comatose and suffering from brain damage.
With standard brain surgery impossible, the military will use their latest scientific breakthrough to miniaturize a submarine and surgical team, and then inject them into the dying scientistís body. Grant finds himself riding shotgun on the mission because the government doesnít quite trust brain surgeon they are sending in, even though he is the best man in his field. With a sixty-minute limit on the miniaturization process, the microscopic surgical team finds themselves facing a number of unexpected complications as they make their way to the scientistís brain. FANTASTIC VOYAGE does try to be anatomically accurate, although some of the sets of the human body look a little too much like the tile covered Holland Tunnel to be believable. Todayís CGI special effects could be incredibly realistic, if anyone ever chose to remake FANTASTIC VOYAGE (no, I donít consider INNERSPACE a remake). Still, the story is very entertaining and most of the dated (Academy Award winning) special effects can be overlooked, thanks to the solid cast and well-plotted story. The cast of FANTASTIC VOYAGE features Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur O'Connell, William Redfield and Arthur Kennedy. Look for a very young James Brolin in a bit part.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a terrific job of transcribing both films to DVD, thanks to brand new 16:9 enhanced transfers that offer both CinemaScope films in their 2.35:1 aspect ratios. VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA has a crisp and detailed appearance, as well as offering better saturated hues than one is likely to find on other DeLuxe color films from the same period. FANTASTIC VOYAGE was made five years later, but the colors appear faded in comparison to VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Still, FANTASTIC VOYAGE looks infinitely better here, than it did when it was issued as a wide screen Laserdisc. The Laserdisc was truly horrible, with a soft grainy image and washed out colors- yuck! Here, FANTASTIC VOYAGE is provided with a clean, sharp transfer that eliminates the serious film grain issues that plagued the Laserdisc (although minor traces are still present). Both films are transferred from relatively clean prints, displaying only a trifling of blemishes. Blacks are accurately rendered on both movies, although shadow detail is very limited on both. Digital compression artifacts rarely make their presence know on either film.
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA sports a Dolby Digital 4.0 channel mix that ports the filmís original four channel stereo sound mix into the discrete format. Dialogue moves across the entire forward soundstage in relation to the characters on screen position. The surround channels see very limited use, but this is how the film was mixed for theaters in 1961. Dialogue is crisp sounding, while the filmís music and sound effects are reproduced without distortion, even though the frequency response is limited. A Dolby Surround soundtrack is also provided for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. FANTASTIC VOYAGE has been given a new Dolby Surround sound mix for this release, which sounds pretty darn good. The track wonít blow anyone away, but it does open up the soundstage, while maintaining clean sounding dialogue. Also included is the original monaural soundtrack, which doesnít sound all that good. Both movies also feature French monaural soundtracks, plus English and Spanish subtitles. Basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as theatrical trailers for all the titles Fox issued in their first wave of DVD double features.
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and FANTASTIC VOYAGE make a great DVD double feature for anyone who loves old time Hollywood entertainment (Fox, please keep them coming). At $24.98 for two 16:9 enhanced wide screen movies, this DVD is a steal. Highly recommended.
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