film poster by Tom Chantrell
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Saul David|
|Music by||Leonard Rosenman|
|Editing by||William B. Murphy|
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
|Release date(s)||August 24, 1966(United States)|
|Running time||100 minutes|
Fantastic Voyage is a 1966 science fiction film written by Harry Kleiner, based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. The original story took place in the 19th Century and was meant to be a Jules Verne inspired adventure tale with a sense of wonder. Kleiner abandoned all but the concept of miniaturization and added a Cold War element. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, and Donald Pleasence.
Bantam Books obtained the rights for a paperback novelization based on the screenplay and approached Isaac Asimov to write it. Because the novelization was released six months before the movie, many people mistakenly believed Asimov's book had inspired the film.
The movie inspired an animated television series.
The United States and the Soviet Union have both developed technology that can miniaturize matter by shrinking individual atoms, but only for a limited amount of time, depending on how small the item is miniaturized.
Scientist Jan Benes, working behind the Iron Curtain, has figured out how to make the process work indefinitely. With the help of the CIA, he escapes to the West, but an attempted assassination leaves him comatose with a blood clot in his brain.
To save his life, agent Charles Grant (Stephen Boyd), pilot Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield), Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence), surgeon Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy) and his assistant Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch) are placed aboard a specially designed submarine at the C.M.D.F. (Combined Miniaturized Deterrent Forces) facilities. The submarine, named the Proteus, is then miniaturized and injected into Benes. The ship is reduced to one micrometer, giving the team one hour to remove the clot. After 60 minutes the submarine will begin to revert to its normal size and become vulnerable to Benes' immune system.
The crew faces many obstacles during the mission. An arteriovenous fistula forces them to detour through the heart, where cardiac arrest must be induced to avoid turbulence, through the inner ear (all outside personnel have to remain silent to prevent turbulence) and replenish their supply of oxygen in the lungs. When the surgical laser needed to destroy the clot is damaged, it becomes obvious there is a saboteur on the mission. They cannibalize their radio to repair the device. When they finally reach the clot, there are only six minutes remaining to operate and then exit the body.
Before the mission, Grant was briefed that Duval was the prime suspect as a potential surgical assassin. But as the mission progresses, he pieces the evidence together and begins to suspect Michaels. During the critical phase of the operation, Dr. Michaels knocks Owens out and takes control of the Proteus while the rest of the crew is outside for the operation. Duval successfully removes the clot with the laser, but Michaels tries to crash the sub into the clot area to kill Benes. Grant fires the laser at the ship causing it to veer away and crash. Michaels is trapped in the wreckage and killed when white blood cells attack and destroy the Proteus. Grant saves Owens from the ship and they all swim desperately to one of the eyes where they escape via a teardrop seconds before they return to normal size.
In the original screen play, there was a follow-up scene where we learn that because of brain damage caused by the submarine, Benes no longer remembers the formula for unlimited miniaturization. Surviving stills suggest this scene was filmed but never used.
Isaac Asimov, asked to write the novel from the script, declared that the script was full of plot holes, and received permission to write the book the way he wanted. The novel came out first because he wrote quickly and because of delays in filming. Director Richard Fleischer originally studied medicine and human anatomy in college before choosing to be a movie director.
For the technical and artistic elaboration of the subject, Richard Fleischer asked for the collaboration of two people of the crew he had worked with on the production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the film he directed for Walt Disney in 1954. The designer of the Nautilus from Jules Verne's adaptation, Harper Goff, also projected the Proteus; and the same technical adviser, Fred Zendar, collaborated on both these productions. The military headquarters is 100X30 meters, the Proteus 14X8. The artery, in resin and fiberglass, is 33 meters long and 7 meters wide; the heart is 45X10; the brain 70X33. The plasma effect is produced by chief operator Ernest Laszlo via the use of multicolored turning lights, placed on the outside of translucid decors.
Frederick Schodt's book, The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, claims that FOX wanted to use ideas from an episode of Japanese animator Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy in the film, but never credited him.
Biological issues and accuracy 
In the original movie, the crew (apart from the saboteur) manage to leave Benes's body safely before reverting to normal size, but the Proteus remains inside, as do the remains of the saboteur's body (albeit digested by a white blood cell), and several gallons (full scale) of a carrier solution (presumably saline) used in the injection syringe. Isaac Asimov pointed out that this was a serious logical flaw in the plot, since the submarine (even if reduced to bits of debris) would also revert to normal size, killing Benes in the process. Therefore, in his novelization Asimov had the crew provoke the white cell into following them, so that it drags the submarine to the tear duct, and its wreckage expands outside Benes's body. Asimov solved the problem of the syringe fluid by having the staff inject only a very small amount of miniaturized fluid into Benes, minimizing its effect on him when it expands.
Asimov also dealt with another logical flaw in the original, involving extra oxygen needed by the submarine's crew members. In the film, the submarine enters the lung and crew members pump oxygen into the submarine's stores. However, Asimov knew that the miniaturized crew members would not be able to breathe unminiaturized oxygen molecules. So, in the novel, the oxygen from the lung is processed through a miniaturizing device installed on board the submarine; there is no such device in the original film script.
There is also a flaw when the laser runs out. Grant uses it to stop the Proteus. After he fails to save Michaels, the four survivors swim for Benes' optic nerve, leaving the laser behind in Benes' head. No mention is made regarding this serious flaw, meaning the laser should have grown back, killing Benes.
Further literary license is taken for the final swim up Benes's optic nerve to safety. Raquel Welch's character was miniaturized to approximately .1 microns, or 250,000 times smaller than her normal stature of 5'6". If the crew of the Proteus escaped by following the entire two-inch length of the optic nerve, then Welch faced the equivalent of a 520 mile swim with less than six minutes to finish before growing back to 5'6" (thus killing the patient). Even with some de-miniaturizing along the escape route, the crew were still of microscopic size (less than .1 mm) on reaching the tear-driven surf at Benes's cornea - reducing the 520 mile swim to a still daunting five miles (in under six minutes).
The score was composed and conducted by Leonard Rosenman. The composer deliberately wrote no music for the first four reels of the film, before the protagonists enter the human body. Rosenman wrote that "the harmony for the entire score is almost completely atonal except for the very end when our heroes grow to normality".
The complete score was released in 1998 on compact disc, on Film Score Monthly records.
The film received mostly positive reviews and a few criticisms. The weekly entertainment-trade magazine Variety gave the film a positive pre-release review, stating, "The lavish production, boasting some brilliant special effects and superior creative efforts, is an entertaining, enlightening excursion through inner space — the body of a man." Bosley Crowther of the New York Times summarized, "Yessir, for straight science-fiction, this is quite a film—the most colorful and imaginative since Destination Moon" (1950). Richard Schickel of Life Magazine wrote that the rewards would be "plentiful" to audiences who get over the "real whopper" of suspended disbelief required. He found that though the excellent special effects and sets could distract from the scenery's scientific purpose in the story, the "old familiar music of science fiction" in lush new arrangements was a "true delight", and the seriousness with which screenwriter Kleiner and director Fleischer treated the story made it more believable and fun. Schickel made note of, but dismissed, other critics' allegations of "camp."
As of 2012[update], the film holds a 92% approval rating at the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus being: "The special effects may be a bit dated today, but Fantastic Voyage still holds up well as an imaginative journey into the human body."
Awards and honors 
- Academy Awards (1966)
- Won: Best Art Direction - Color (Jack Martin Smith, Dale Hennesy, Walter M. Scott, Stuart A. Reiss)
- Won: Best Special Effects
- Nominated: Best Cinematography
- Nominated: Best Film Editing
- Nominated: Best Sound Editing
- American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Science Fiction Film
After acquiring the film's paperback novelization rights, Bantam Books approached Isaac Asimov to write the novelization, offering him a flat sum of $5,000 with no royalties involved. In his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, Asimov writes, "I turned down the proposal out of hand. Hackwork, I said. Beneath my dignity." However, Bantam Books persisted, and at a meeting with Marc Jaffe and Marcia Nassiter on April 21, 1965, Asimov agreed to read the screenplay.
In the novelization's introduction, Asimov states that he was rather reluctant to write the book because he believed that the miniaturization of matter was physically impossible. But he decided that it was still good fodder for story-telling and that it could still make for some intelligent reading. Plus it was known that 20th Century Fox wanted someone with some science-fiction clout to help promote the film. To his credit, aside from the initial "impossibility" of the shrinking machine, Asimov went to great lengths to accurately portray what it would actually be like to be shrunk to that scale, such as the lights on the sub being highly penetrating to normal matter, time distortion, and other side effects that are completely ignored in the movie.
As noted above, Asimov was bothered by the way the Proteus was left in Benes, and in a subsequent meeting with Jaffe he insisted that he would have to change the ending so that the submarine was brought out. Asimov also felt the need to gain permission from his usual science fiction publisher, Doubleday, to do the novel. Doubleday did not object, and had suggested his name to Bantam in the first place. Asimov began work on the novel on May 31, and completed it on July 23.
Asimov did not want any of his books, even a film novelization, to appear only in paperback, so in August he persuaded Austin Olney of Houghton Mifflin to publish a hardcover edition, assuring him that the book would sell at least eight thousand copies, which it did. However, since the rights to the story were held by Otto Klement, who had co-written the original story treatment, Asimov would not be entitled to any royalties. By the time the hardcover edition was published in March 1966, Houghton Mifflin had persuaded Klement to allow Asimov to have a quarter of the royalties. Klement also negotiated for The Saturday Evening Post to serialize an abridged version of the novel, and he agreed to give Asimov half the payment for it. Fantastic Voyage appeared in the February 26 and March 12, 1966 issues of the Post.
Bantam Books released the paperback edition of the novel in September 1966 to coincide with the release of the film.
Harry Harrison, reviewing the Asimov novelization, called it a "Jerry-built monstrosity", praising the descriptions of science-fiction events as "Asimov at his best" while condemning the narrative framework as "inane drivel".
Related novels and comics 
Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain, was written by Isaac Asimov as an attempt to develop and present his own story apart from the 1966 screenplay. This novel is not a sequel to the original, but instead is a separate story taking place in the Soviet Union with an entirely different set of characters.
Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm is a third interpretation, written by Kevin J. Anderson, published in 2001. This version has the crew of the Proteus explore the body of a dead alien that crash-lands on earth, and updates the story with such modern concepts as nanotechnology (replacing killer white cells).
A comic book adaptation of the film was released by Gold Key Comics in 1967. Drawn by industry legend Wally Wood, the book followed the plot of the movie with general accuracy, but many scenes were depicted differently and/or outright dropped, and the ending was given an epilogue similar as that seen in some of the early draft scripts for the film.
A parody of the film titled Fantastecch Voyage was published in Mad Magazine. It was illustrated by Mort Drucker and written by Larry Siegel in regular issue #110, April 1967. The advertising-business-themed spoof has the crew—from L.S.M.F.T. (Laboratory Sector for Making Folks Tiny) -- sent to inject decongestant into a badly plugged-up nose.
1968 animated television series 
In the series, a different team of experts performed their missions in a craft known as Voyager, a submarine which featured wedge-shaped wings and large, swept T-tail, and was capable of flight. A model kit of Voyager was offered by Aurora Model Company for several years, and has become a sought-after collectors' item since then. As of June 2008, the Voyager kit has been re-released by the Moebius model company.
In 1987, director Joe Dante made Innerspace, which reworked the story of Fantastic Voyage, but remade as a comedy starring Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. A test miniaturized sub and pilot are injected into a grocery store clerk in error, instead of a test rabbit as planned. Now trapped in an unwitting human's body, the pilot needs to work with the clerk to escape and stop the bad guys from trying to steal the prototype technology.
Sequel/remake plans 
Plans for a sequel or remake have been in discussion since at least 1984, but the project has been stuck in development hell ever since. In 1984, Isaac Asimov was approached to write Fantastic Voyage II, out of which a movie would be made. Asimov "was sent a suggested outline" that mirrored the movie Innerspace and "involved two vessels in the bloodstream, one American and one Soviet, and what followed was a kind of submicroscopic version of World War III". Asimov was against such an approach. Following a dispute between publishers, the original commissioners of the novel approached Philip José Farmer, who "wrote a novel and sent [in] the manuscript" that was rejected despite "stick[ing] tightly to the outline [that was sent to Asimov]". "It dealt with World War III in the bloodstream, and it was full of action and excitement". Although Asimov urged the publisher to accept Farmer's manuscript, it was insisted that Asimov write the novel. So, Asimov eventually wrote the book in his own way (completely different in plot from what [Farmer] had written), which was eventually published by Doubleday in 1987 as Fantastic Voyage II and "dealt not with competing submarines in the bloodstream, but with one submarine, with [an] American hero cooperating (not entirely voluntarily) with four Soviet crew members". The novel was not made into a movie, however.
James Cameron was also interested in directing a remake (since at least 1997), but decided to devote his efforts to his Avatar project. He still remained open to the idea of producing a feature based on his own screenplay, and in 2007, 20th Century Fox announced that pre-production on the project was finally underway. Roland Emmerich agreed to direct, but rejected the script written by Cameron. Marianne and Cormac Wibberley were hired to write a new script, but the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike delayed filming, and Emmerich began working on 2012 instead.
In spring 2010, Paul Greengrass was considering directing the remake from a script written by Shane Salerno and produced by James Cameron, but later dropped out to be replaced by Shawn Levy. It is intended that the film be shot in native stereoscopic 3D.
In popular culture 
Many films, television shows, cartoons and video games parodied Fantastic Voyage:
- A 1980 episode of Saturday Night Live parodies the story with a miniaturized team of dentists sent to fix Anwar Sadat's teeth. Host Kirk Douglas plays the team leader.
- The film is alluded to in Season 4 of the medical drama series House, where the Emmy Award-winning 2008 episode "House's Head" jokes about exploring a patient's brain in a miniaturized submarine.
- The show is parodied in Season 2, Episode 25 of the animated Nickelodeon TV series Rugrats, and Season 1, Episode 14 of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, as well as in The Fairly Oddparents episode entitled "Tiny Timmy".
- Two Ren & Stimpy episodes parody the story, namely "The Cat That Laid The Golden Hairball" from season 2 and "Blazing Entrails" from season 4.
- In "Journey to the Centre of the Punk" of The Mighty Boosh, Howard and Lester shrink to microscopic size to fight a malignant jazz cell infecting Vince.
- It was also parodied on The Simpsons episode "Treehouse Of Horror XV". "Parasites Lost", Episode 2 of Season 3 of Futurama, is another Fantastic Voyage parody.
- "Fruitastic VoyOrange", Episode 12 of Season 1 of The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange was also a Fantastic Voyage Parody.
- Cow and Chicken did also parody Fantastic Voyage in an episode where Chicken ends up inside of cow in "Journey to the Center of Cow".
- "Fantastic Boyage" was also a Fantastic Voyage parodied episode of Dexter's Laboratory.
- "Operation: S.P.R.O.U.T." was also a Fantastic Voyage parodied episode of Codename: Kids Next Door.
- "The Death Camp of Tolerance" was also a Fantastic Voyage parodied episode of South Park.
- "Unremarkable Voyage" was also a Fantastic Voyage parodied episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
- Tiny Toons Adventures did also parody "Fantastic Voyage" inside of Plucky in "Inside Plucky Duck".
- It was also parodied in SpongeBob SquarePants in two episodes, as "Squidtastic Voyage" and "The Inside Job".
- It was also parodied in The Mask: The Animated Series as "Fantashtick Voyage".
- "The Journey" episode of Animorphs is based on, and mentions, Fantastic Voyage/
- In the "Emission Impossible" episode of Family Guy, Stewie miniaturizes himself and a spaceship to enter Peter's body and prevent Peter and Lois from having another baby.
- It was also parodied in the entire show, Ozzy & Drix.
- The Epcot attraction Body Wars was based on the film.
- The movie's title is parodied in the fifth novel in the Franny K. Stein series, Frantastic Voyage.
- An episode of Phineas and Ferb titled "Journey to the Center of Candace" had the boys in a submarine shrunken down and inside their big sister Candace.
See also 
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p. 254
- "Fantastic Voyage, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Menville, Douglas Alver; R. Reginald (1977). Things to Come: An Illustrated History of the Science Fiction Film. Times Books. p. 133. ISBN 0-8129-0710-8.
- Fischer, Dennis (2000). Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895–1998. McFarland. p. 192. ISBN 0-7864-0740-9.
- Maltin, Leonard (2008). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (2009 ed.). Penguin Group. p. 438. ISBN 0-452-28978-5. Unknown parameter
- "Full cast and crew for 'Fantastic Voyage'". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
- Asimov, Isaac (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954–1978. New York: Avon. p. 363. ISBN 0-380-53025-2.
- Asimov 1980:390.
- Asimov 1980:363
- Brodesco, Alberto (2011). "I’ve Got you under my Skin: Narratives of the Inner Body in Cinema and Television". Nuncius. Journal of the material and visual history of science 26: 206. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Asimov 1980:363-364
- (CD insert notes). Fantastic Voyage. Leonard Rosenman. Vol. 1, No. 3.
- "Fantastic Voyage Review". Variety. Reed Business Information. December 31, 1965. Retrieved 2010-08-01. (extract)
- Crowther, Bosley (September 8, 1966). "Screen: 'Fantastic Voyage' Is All That". New York Times. (registration required)
- Schickel, Richard (September 23, 1966). "A Wild Trip in a Blood Vessel". Movie Review. Life Magazine. p. 16. Retrieved 2010-09-09. (archive)
- "Fantastic Voyage Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "NY Times: Fantastic Voyage - Awards". NY Times. All Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
- Asimov 1980:366-370
- Asimov 1980:371
- Asimov 1980:390
- Asimov 1980:388-389
- Asimov 1980:407
- "Critique, Impulse, September 1966, p. 159.
- MAD Cover Site, MAD #110 April 1967.
- Asimov, Isaac (1994). I, Asimov. Bantam Books. p. 501. ISBN 0-553-56997-X.
- Sciretta, Peter (September 26, 2007). "Roland Emmerich Tries To Explain Why James Cameron's Fantastic Voyage Script Sucked". /Film. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
- "Exclusive: Emmerich On Fantastic Voyage". empireonline.com (Bauer Consumer Media). September 25, 2007. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
- Fleming, Michael (August 15, 2007). "Emmerich to Captain 'Voyage'". variety.com (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2007-08-15.
- Leins, Jeff (April 4, 2010). "Paul Greengrass Eyes ‘Fantastic Voyage’ in 3D". News in Film. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
- "SNL Transcripts: Kirk Douglas: 02/23/80". Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- Fantastic Voyage at the Internet Movie Database
- Fantastic Voyage at AllRovi
- Fantastic Voyage at Turner Classic Movies
- 3D Model of Proteus Submarine
- Various releases of music from the film