FANTASTIC VOYAGE poster artwork


RAQUEL WELCH...Cora Peterson
EDMOND O'BRIEN...General Carter
ARTHUR O'CONNELL...Colonel Donald Reid
WILLIAM REDFIELD...Captain Bill Owens
JEAN DEL VAL...Jan Benes

Produced by SAUL DAVID


A great American named George S. Chappell once wrote a book entitled Through the Alimentary Canal with Gun and Camera. This pioneer work first appeared between hard covers, like a turtle, and, like a turtle, slowly sank from sight, but is known to have subsequently fluttered on and off the counters in paperback, having become with time more moth than turtle. Be that as it may, the book recounted an adventure that Mr. Chappell must have assumed was the purest personal make-believe, incapable of being imitated. Little did he guess (though I hasten to add that there was very little indeed that Mr. Chappell didn't guess; everything being equal, he always preferred guesswork to knowledge) that the movies were one day to steal his thunder and, with a flourish of technical pocketa-pocketa, conduct a long and thorough exploration of the circulatory system, with brief side visits at no extra charge to the lungs and lymph glands. The movie study is called Fantastic Voyage, and I can recommend it safely to every member of the family, provided every member of the family is either a brain surgeon or a scuba diver.

A thriller that combines contemporary espionage and biology with future invention---a specimen, in short, of I-spy-bi-sci-fi---Fantastic Voyage tells a story as simple and neat as it is outrageous, and one has only to turn one's critical faculties down to "Low," or perhaps "Simmer," in order to enjoy the continuous untying of its innumerable knots. We are asked to believe that, a few years hence, American know-how has devised a method of miniaturizing men and objects to the size of molecules. We plan to use this process as a military deterrent; unfortunately, our unnamed enemy has hit on the same process and intends to use it for the same purpose. The one drawback to the process is that it works for no longer than sixty minutes at a time. Having learned how to remedy this defect, a brilliant European scientist wishes to offer his discovery to us, but on his way here our enemy roughs him up, causing him to suffer a blood clot in the brain. The clot, which prevents the scientist from revealing his precious secret, cannot be operated on from outside, so a surgical team consents to be miniaturized and, aboard a miniaturized nuclear-powered submarine, injected by hypodermic syringe into the bloodstream of the anesthetized scientist. Their schedule calls for them to pilot their craft in such a fashion as to avoid the terrible maelstrom of the heart, gain the calm port of the brain, destroy the clot with a laser gun, and slip back into the world before the crucial sixtieth minute is up. Well, I don't need to tell you that practically everything goes wrong from the moment they enter the never-to-be-trusted carotid artery. That one of the two surgeons should prove to be in the employ of the enemy is bad enough, but Mother Nature is still worse; white corpuscles, anti-bodies, smoke-pitted alveoli---the injured man's innards brim with obstacles, and the only conclusion is that they are oddly beautiful as well as dangerous. If Twentieth Century-Fox is to be believed, the human circulatory system resembles nothing so much as a fun house at an amusement park designed by Gaudi and decorated by Tchelitchew. It is a notion that would have pleased Mr. Chappell, who knew a pretty phagocyte when he saw one.

The cast of Fantastic Voyage includes Stephen Boyd, as a security officer keeping an eye on the two surgeons, played by Arthur Kennedy and Donald Pleasence; Edmond O'Brien and Arthur O'Connell, as the top brass of C.M.D.F. (Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces); William Redfield, as the skipper of the submarine; and Raquel Welch, as the surgeons' assistant. As far as I know, this is Miss Welch's first featured appearance in a movie here, but such are the wonders of publicity that she is already a prominent figure in the entertainment world. As for her acting, she keeps her shoulders well back and speaks her lines with great distinctness, as I recall my grandmother when she recited Old Ironsides. The screenplay of Fantastic Voyage was written, not without some show of wit, by Harry Kleiner, and its brisk direction is by Richard Fleischer.

Review © 1966 THE NEW YORKER. All Rights Reserved.

Poster artwork courtesy of Casey Hopkins


Title and logo designed by Karen Rappaport