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).