Science Flick-Tion: Fantastic Voyage (1966)

(Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with classic and not-so-classic sci-fi/fantasy/horror films and their denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views – so get to the CBN forum, for d’ast sake!)


Everything must be remade.” It has been the credo of Hollywoodsince the talkies came into vogue.

That said, we have been treated to some great silver screen redos over the course of film history. I hope the same will be true for one of my favorite sci-fi classics, Fantastic Voyage.

If you haven’t heard – and where have you been, the Dark Dimension? – a James Cameron-produced 3-D (oh God, when will this newest fad die?!) remake of Fantastic Voyage (1966) is in the works even as we speak. Since the project is “in development,” some of the info I am giving in this review may be time-sensitive, but I will endeavor nonetheless.

Word has it that Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) is set to board the Proteus as director, based on a screenplay from Shane Salerno with a polish by Laeta Kalogridis.

At the suggestion of CBN editor/publisher/good friend Matt “Mulk” McGloin, I used my Wayback Machine (see my TV columns) and journeyed back to the land of Batman, Lost in Space and other TV treasures to see the Richard Fleischer original.

I am glad I did.

For the uninitiated – you know who you are! -- Fantastic Voyage was written by Harry Kleiner, based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. Curiously, as I recall, Bantam Books obtained the rights for a paperback novelization based on the screenplay and approached the great Isaac Asimov to write it. Because the novelization was released six months before the movie, many people mistakenly believed Asimov’s book had inspired the movie!

The film stars Stephen Boyd, Edmund O’Brien, Donald Pleasance and, for you old Mork & Mindy fans – Raquel Welch! (Na-noo.)

In the sci-fi classic, America and the Russians (how odd?) have both developed technology that allowed matter to be miniaturized using a process that shrinks individual atoms, but its value is limited. Objects only stay miniaturized for a limited amount of time depending on how much, er uh, shrinkage (sorry, Mr. Costanza) the object undergoes. (Dr. Pym. Calling Dr. Pym …)

Scientist Jan Benes, working behind the Iron Curtain (da, is true: Iron Curtain), has figured out how to make the shrinking process work indefinitely. With the help of the CIA, he escapes to the West but an attempted assassination leaves him comatose, with a blood clot in his brain.

To save his life, Charles Grant (the agent who extracted him, played by Boyd), pilot Captain Bill Owens (William  Redfield), Dr. Michaels (who is later revealed to have a fear of small spaces, played by Pleasence), surgeon Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy) and his assistant (“the girl,” a 1960s staple) Cora Peterson (Welch) board a specially-designed nuclear submarine, the Proteus, which is then miniaturized and injected into Benes.

The ship is reduced to one micrometer in length, giving the team only one hour to repair the clot; after that, the submarine will begin to revert to its normal size and become large enough for Benes’ immune system to detect -- and attack!

The crew faces many obstacles on their fanstastic journey. An aeteriovenous fistula forces them to detour through the heart (a temporary cardiac arrest must be induced to avoid destructive turbulence), through the inner ear (all in the lab must remain quiet to prevent similar turbulence) and replenish their supply of oxygen in the alveoli of the lungs. When the surgical laser needed to destroy the clot is damaged, it becomes obvious there is a saboteur (another 1960s staple) on the mission. They cannibalize their radio to repair the laser.

When they finally reach the brain clot, there are only six minutes remaining to operate and then exit the body!

The traitor, Dr. Michaels, knocks Owens out and takes control of the Proteus while the rest of the crew is outside for the operation. Duval successfully removes the clot with the laser, but Michaels tries to crash the sub into the clot area to kill Benes. Grant fires the laser at the ship, causing it to veer away and crash. Michaels is trapped in the wreckage and killed when a white blood cell attacks and destroys the Proteus.

Luckily, Grant is able to save Owens from the ship and they all swim desperately to one of the eyes, where they escape via a teardrop seconds before they return to normal size.


“Cosmic” or not, we are talking great sci-fi here! I wish the remake nothing but success.