Starring Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasence
Directed by Richard Fleischer
When a defector from “The Other Side” of the Cold War barely survives an assassination attempt, a special team is sent in a miniaturized submarine and injected into his body to repair the damage against a ticking clock.
It became clear very quickly that this film was about the setting and situations and not about characters. We only get brief glimpses at the people assigned to go on this dangerous mission, and not much beyond their role in the operation. Grant, serves as the squared jawed All American strapping hero we is reluctant to accept the call of adventure at first but quickly falls into line. He briefly hits on Cora, the token female whom the generals are against sending on the voyage, despite her implied technical expertise. While she has the deck stacked against her, really her primary purpose in the movie is to look good in a scuba suit, because she does little else. We have a surgeon and a sub pilot whose names have already escaped me because once again, they serve no purpose other than their assigned roles. Finally, theres Dr. Michaels, the claustrophobic navigator, whose character gets the most depth only because Donald Pleasence is the best actor of the lot and can contribute much to such a scantily written part. He also commits sudden yet inevitable betrayal by the end, which isn’t to surprising given his typecasting in villain roles combined with the fact that if you’d been paying attention at all you’d have seen right through him, so the saboteur subplot doesn’t have a lot of depth to it. In fact that’s one of the film’s biggest faults. There isn’t a whole lot of tension for when our characters are in danger, because we just don’t have any characters that we care about to be concerned over whether they live or die.
Because of the urgency of the scenario the crew don’t have time to be trained or familiarized with their equipment and have to have it explained and prepared for them as slowly as possible. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the teams of beautiful super geniuses from the CSI dramas. At least there I can get a healthy serving of competence, science speak and inside the body camera shots. (Hat Trick!)
Once things get going, the crew seems to the encounter one obstacle after another. Each setback reads like the rapid-fire cliffhanger of an exciting Dan Brown novel, but in practice feels like a series of pit stops toward the ultimate goal. Each problem is solved with quick and easy MacGyver engineering with only small and limited consequences, so you’re just waiting for the next hurdle for them to jump over and then move on to the next one. The only time I was really shocked or scared was when Cora is attacked by antibodies and couldn’t breath (as she repeated tells us), but it wore off quickly when I saw their solution was to have four guys lean over her and start groping her chest.
The film is all about the voyage, and it’s an imaginative one at that, just not very well executed. The effects and sets are well designed and constructed, but haven’t aged well. You can see the wires in some scenes, but are fine otherwise so long as they don’t have too many shots of the crew standing in front of the rear projection windows engaging in dull surprise.
3 out of 5. Interesting, but sadly not fantastic.