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Fantastic Voyage Review

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A Soviet doctor defects, but is almost killed in the attempt. As he lies dying, a US submarine crew is shrunk and injected into his body, in order to target and destroy the blood clot in his brain that threatens his life. But there may be a saboteur onboard - and they only have one hour...

★★★★★

The most celebrated of all director Richard Fleischer’s exuberant B-movies that cluttered up the sixties with sunny absurdities like talking animals or humans who can talk animal, this tale of a journey through the human body by miniaturised submariners still carries the high charge of imagination. Just the idea of these trippy, gloopy representations of the body’s inner workings, and their endless ghoulish fascination, stand up to the test of time, and the film despite the cheesy excesses of its second-tier cast, is a blast.

The crew of the tiny Proteus might as well be body parts of the movie such is their lack of depth: the stiff, heroic captain (Boyd), the slightly crazed scientist (Pleasance), the more genial scientist (Kennedy) and his shapely female assistant (Welch) who has to peel down to a figure-hugging wet-suit. Who would have thought? Well, the producers, who aren’t making any pretence at this being more than an expert piece of juvenilia. The nearest the film comes to a subtext is the conflict between the crew’s scientists one of whom professes a belief in a God, and the film, in a hangover from the paranoid leanings of 50s sci-fi, contains a strong anti-communist bent i.e. the Godless.

You’re not really going to watch such bubbly nonsense for its political voice, the best reason to join in is the action Fleischer assembles on this whistle stop tour of the main organs. Naturally, the mission goes awry as the ship gets caught in the rapids of the jugular vein, has to traverse the pumping heart, and awakens armies of corpuscles and antibodies that play havoc with Welch’s wetsuit. It’s a bright burst of silliness and wonder.

The effects may have dated, as have the Cold War themes, but the almost real time adventure still has some tension to offer.