Radiation goes bad in this Irwin Allen disaster flick that despite being made in 1961, holds up relatively well today and is just as suspenseful as it probably was on release.
Runtime: 1h 45 mins
As a radiation belt catches fire due to meteorites bursting through it, the world becomes the largest halogen oven ever. Will we all be cooked to death? (Yum)
The Disasters Faced
Heat, radiation, octopuses, pet sharks, cigars, smoke inhalation and a few missiles and miles for good measure.
The film very much gets going with a kick as the sky catches fire with some goofy light and early special effects cueing the end of the world as we know it. We’re introduced to a motley crew and given a tour of the massive sub that we’ll spend the vast majority of the film in. The sets are well done, as are all the crew of background characters busy doing their daily jobs. They even have 1960’s BBC News 24 piped in! As the crew take it upon themselves to save the world, the second half of the film picks up pace dramatically as problem after problem arises, half the time out of their own doing. These range from evil sea life, mine navigation and some good old mutiny in waiting. Whilst the standoffs between characters don’t quite reach their full dramatic potential, there are some good questions asked of how you’d deal with your final moments on Earth. The action comes thick and fast and the last 40 minutes really are a joy to watch and despite obvious miniatures being used for effects and their shortcomings, your attention is still well held today.
The sets are polished to the extreme and the 60s love of flashing buttons everywhere is prominent. The iceberg sections are well done, the animals are suitably made of rubber and the explosions are all full of steam. However because they are real, any regular reader here will know my preference of real but naff over stupid CGI any day. Plus there’s a fire which is just inches away from Walter Pidgeons bum!
Why It’s Worth Watching
The acting is excellent, the story as a whole is well presented and well paced. I did think it came to a very abrupt end though. The actual apocalyptic event gets about 15 seconds screen time at the end and was very downplayed. It could have done with everything maybe been shifted forward five minutes and the film being given a proper ending of sorts. Irwin Allen’s brand of ham, charm, romanticism and camp is on full display here. He is a showman and this film knows exactly how to put on a show and sets up his tone for his future, more disaster focused movies.
For those of you who enjoy a drinking game, I would suggest having a shot for every time someone lights up a cigarette or cigar but you’d be absolutely blotto in 15 minutes. The sheer amount of smoking in this film is bizarre. For a safer but still drunken way to have a drinking game down a shot each time Barbara Eden shouts “Lee” as she chases him around the sub for the entire film.
Peter Lorre plays Lucius who looks utterly out-of-place as the right-hand man of the admiral. He shimmies around confirming, moaning, bitching and slagging off everything.
**Spoiler** In the climax to whose the double-crosser, Joan Fontaine takes a fatal dose of radiation (I was waiting to see when those name tags would come in handy) and then goes head first into the shark pool. If the radiation didn’t get her, the shark certainly will!
Aside from the strange fight over nothing in the mens quarters where they then play fight happily thirty seconds after, it’s got to be the introduction of Barbara Eden as she dances and the camera is fixed firmly on her shaking booty. Interesting view! A special shout out to everyone in the big conference during the 137 degree heat that’s fully dressed in their national attire and not sweating a jot too.
The sub’s model and interior cost $400,000 so Irwin Allen convinced ABC-TV to use the set for a TV show which was popular and also very worth checking out. Also, Barbara Eden (Cathy) and Micheal Ansara (Miguel) were married at the time this film was made.
Slightly silly in places but actually well put together, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea stands the test of time admirably and is still a hoot to watch today. Get your sunscreen out and watch out for the rubber octopus!