Among Fantastic Voyage‘s many problems, the two salient ones are the general lack of tension and the utter lack of wonderment. Fleischer is responsible for both, though maybe not so much the first. The story can’t really be tense because there’s very little at stake. The film’s principal characters–reduced in size to perform brain surgery from inside the brain–have a time limit of sixty minutes before they automatically enlarge.
And the guy with the brain injury isn’t a character, he’s just some scientist who picked the U.S. over the Reds. It’s not like anyone really cares about him.
As for the lack of wonderment, Fleischer is hampered with old special effects, but plenty of old movies have lots of wonderment. He clearly just doesn’t get it.
There are two or three effective sequences in Fantastic Voyage, which can’t make up for the lame script or Raquel Welch’s insufferable performance. She doesn’t even talk her first ten minutes in the film and she’s clearly terrible. Fleischer and the screenwriters do manage to contrive a way to get her into a wetsuit, of course. Oddly, it’s for one of those effective sequences–Fleischer’s excellent with three dimensions.
When the film opens with Stephen Boyd and Edmond O’Brien, the two actors are so strong together, it seems like Voyage will be all right. Sadly, it’s not.
Boyd’s good, O’Brien’s good, so is Arthur O’Connell. Arthur Kennedy has good moments, Donald Pleasence has less.
It’s a tedious film. Great opening titles though.
Directed by Richard Fleischer; screenplay by Harry Kleiner, based on an adaptation by David Duncan and a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby; director of photography, Ernest Laszlo; edited by William B. Murphy; music by Leonard Rosenman; produced by Saul David; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Stephen Boyd (Grant), Raquel Welch (Cora), Edmond O’Brien (General Carter), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels), Arthur O’Connell (Col. Donald Reid), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval) and Jean Del Val (Jan Benes).
Posted in 1966, 20th Century Fox, Adventure, Color, English, Sci-Fi, USA
Tagged Arthur Kennedy, Arthur O'Connell, David Duncan, Donald Pleasence, Edmond O'Brien, Ernest Laszlo, Harry Kleiner, Jean Del Val, Jerome Bixby, Leonard Rosenman, Otto Klement, Raquel Welch, Richard Fleischer, Saul David, Stephen Boyd, William B. Murphy, William Redfield
The Last of Sheila has the most constantly deceptive structure I’ve seen in a while. Watching the time code on the DVD player (and on the laserdisc and VHS players before it, and the clock for televised films even before those inventions) really changes the way one experiences a film. I’m always telling my fiancée we watch films at home and see them at the theater. It’s a measure of control. One can pause, rewind–and stop (I guess this website is more about video-watching than theatergoing, otherwise it’d be called The Walk Receipt or something–it’d actually be called The Golden Ticket after a particular theater’s refund ticket). Anyway, during The Last of Sheila I kept frequent note of the time. It’s a mystery with a cast of familiar stars going somewhere and… mystery ensuing. Since it’s a closed location (a yacht) and Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins wrote (don’t know why I’m attributing this assumption to them, but I am), I figured it’d be stagy, like an adapted play. Obviously, I shouldn’t have made that assumption, just because the film’s all about Hollywood people. The film isn’t traditional–one could sit and use the time code alone to discuss how the story works. Lots of things happen at the thirty minute mark and then a lot happens around ninety minutes. It’s a two hour movie. Even with that frequent observation of the time code, I couldn’t tell where The Last of Sheila was going. I guessed at the culprit, but I never guessed at the eventual resolution, or how the film got there. It’s remarkable, especially since the film started out with director Herbert Ross doing all the lame stuff I associate with his name and it’s incredibly unfortunate Sondheim and Perkins didn’t go on to anything else. It’d be impossible for them to have topped Sheila, because one would have expected it from them–and the casting is incredibly important in ways I can’t possibly discuss without spoiling something–but I would watch a film, written by those two, about two kids who decide to open a pickle-farm. I imagine it would have been wonderfully effective.
As I said, talking about the cast is difficult, but there are some people I can point out. Obviously, Joan Hackett is quite good, but so is Ian McShane, who was once young and slim. James Mason is good. James Coburn I’ve never been able to figure out. He’s good in some stuff, but in other stuff he’s unbearably campy. I thought he was going to go campy for Sheila, but doesn’t. The only weak actor is Raquel Welch, who’s essentially playing herself. She can’t do it.
I was going to say one would have to be familiar with some film history to fully appreciate The Last of Sheila, but that judgment was wrong. It’s just a really good mystery. Even if the locations (and sets) bring more to it than Herbert Ross did.
Directed and produced by Herbert Ross; screenplay by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins; director of photography, Gerry Turpin; edited by Edward Warschilka; music by Billy Goldenberg; distributed by Warner Bros.
Starring Richard Benjamin (Tom), Dyan Cannon (Christine), James Coburn (Clinton), Joan Hackett (Lee), James Mason (Philip), Ian McShane (Anthony) and Raquel Welch (Alice).
Posted in 1973, Color, Crime, Drama, English, French, Mystery, Thriller, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Anthony Perkins, Billy Goldenberg, Dyan Cannon, Edward Warschilka, Gerry Turpin, Herbert Ross, Ian McShane, James Coburn, James Mason, Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch, Richard Benjamin, Stephen Sondheim