Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea

"Seaview's job is never finished.
As long as there are destructive forces in the world.
As long as there are secrets of nature to be probed, believe me, there'll be work for us." -Admiral Nelson-

The amazing, titillating, action-packed and colorful mind of Irwin Allen was brought to life in a host of great entertainment throughout the 1960s and 1970s in both film and television.

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961) was next in a long run of grand, epic, big, bold production efforts by writer/producer/director Irwin Allen.

Allen's name was synonymous with the epic film including such pictures as The Lost World (1960) and Five Weeks In A Balloon (1962). His name is even more notably tied to the disaster picture thus the name that often accompanied the man---master of disaster. The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Towering Inferno (1974) and The Swarm (1978) are all memorable classics chock-filled with grand ideas. And, another thing Allen was known for, big name stars. Even more impressive and memorable to science fiction aficionados was the fantasy worlds of Allen's television arm of work including Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1964-1968), Lost In Space (1965-1968), The Time Tunnel (1966-1967) and Land Of The Giants (1968-1970). All are special and impressive in their own right.

Part of the inspiration for revisiting the fantasy worlds of Irwin Allen has been the pleasure of reading author Marc Cushman's trilogy of authorized books accounting Irwin Allen's path to Lost In Space, which includes some significant coverage on Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea among other films. The book's are highly informative and offer a Seaview-like window into the world of Allen's science fiction I haven't quite had the pleasure of submerging upon (one too may underwater euphemisms, but Allen might be proud).

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, the film, introduced us to the science fiction submarine known as Seaview. Complete with its glass-nosed, observational face and a nuclear arsenal it remains one of the great maritime and nautical vessels. It would be a key character to the film and series that was critical to success in Allen's mind, a man who relished the technical and production work of his creations more than his dialogue.

The film was made for roughly two million dollars and the implementation of those sets and props made it possible to receive a green light on the Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1964-1968) TV series that followed three years later, Allen's first major foray into a proper TV adventure series.

The film and the series draws obvious inspiration from the world of Jules Verne of which Allen was clearly inspired.

The film is largely deficient when it comes to story and driving a sound narrative, but the sheer color and inspiration on screen more than compensate at times for its shortcomings.

Performances are universally good even when the script by Allen and Charles Bennett is less than buoyant in quality.

And when all else fails Allen always populated his productions with stars. Barbara Eden (I Dream Of Jeannie) is a joy to watch here along with a cast that includes Walter Pidgeon, Michael Ansara (a true genre stud who appeared in all kinds of science fiction), Peter Lorre, Joan Fontaine, Frankie Avalon and Robert Sterling. Of the entire cast only Eden and Avalon remain as of this writing.

The cinematography, effects work and costume and set designs are all meticulous and the picture quality here is generally glorious on Blu-Ray.

Pacing too was mostly far superior to pictures of the period such as Byron Haskin's Robinson Crusoe On Mars (1964), a film concept that wasn't too far off in idea from Allen's own space family Robinson castaways in Lost In Space. There was indeed a great deal of jockeying at the time for the rights to make a space family Robinson story happen and the always persistent, driven and creative Allen was the victor.

The use of a fake squid and a real octopus in Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea may be jarring to some, particularly young eyes, but there is something rather sensational about effects work that doesn't rely on a computer. Science fiction from the 1960s and 1970s was exceptionally detailed and creative and still looks staggeringly epic. This fan of the period is as down with the creative work of the day as an undersea periscope

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea offers a bizarre science fiction tale regarding the Earth surrounded by a fiery and radioactive Van Allen Belt. Now Allen had an ego, but could this be another less than self-effacing nod to his own legacy in film?

It may be imperfect science fiction, but alas Allen was all about escapist entertainment and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea makes for a fairly immersive affair given its vintage. The film is by no means essential viewing to the series, but worth your time if you're a fan of Irwin Allen's production work and attention to detail. It shouldn't disappoint as colorful, quality science fiction B movies go.

Director: Irwin Allen. Writer: Irwin Allen/ Charles Bennett.


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