Sunday, 21 September 2014
There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, and I Hope This Submarine Stays There!
I've recently had some problems with buying DVDs. During the summer I developed something of an addiction. I was practically buying a new movie every week, more often than I should have. It got chaotic, and I have this problem that once in a while I stumble across some movie and I just feel an overwhelming compulsion to see it. Sometimes it's not even one I expect to be good but my mind just won't shut up about it. It almost seems like the universe itself wants to make sure I see that particular film.
Back in August I had that happen to me when I was browsing around a few stores trying to alleviate the irrational stress that I was experiencing just before school started. I was looking through a bin of two dollar DVDs and found a double feature of Fantastic Voyage and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I didn't have high expectations from either but I felt an overwhelming urge to purchase the DVD, no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of it.
So I did, and I started watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I was hoping it would at the very least be a guilty pleasure or campy fun. I do like a good submarine movie and it helped boost my confidence to find out Peter Lorre was involved. I remember watching the trailer and thinking something like "Peter Lorre did ANOTHER submarine film? Count me in!" I didn't exactly expect this to be as amazing as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea but I was hoping for something. Sadly I was wrong to expect even that. What I got was a dull, boring, nonsensical adventure that not even Peter Lorre could save. How this film was so popular as to warrant a TV series is beyond me.
The premise is something that is completely ludicrous. Admiral Harriman Nelson is put in charge of a highly advanced futuristic submarine when some sort of issue with a nuclear plant (it's not very well explained) causes "the sky to catch fire". Literally there is a great big fireball developing around the planet somehow (never mind the fact that fire requires oxygen to burn) and for whatever reason Nelson has been invited to attend the U.N. hearing that attempts to find a solution to the problem. The plan that is agreed on is to wait, because apparently at a specific temperature the fireball will burn itself out.
Of course, because he is obviously a qualified professional who understands the situation, Nelson concludes that the respected scientists are wrong and the only proper solution is to get to the deepest part of the ocean and fire a torpedo (seriously), which will somehow knock the fireball off into space. Unfortunately he must reach the necessary spot within a month or else they'll "lose the angle of trajectory" whatever that means.
Also along for the ride is a government person (Joan Fonataine) who also happens to be a doctor and a civilian they conveniently managed to save (Michael Ansara). The race is on and of course they have to deal with a bunch of contrived problems including rival submarines, not very convincing octopuses, and saboteurs who correctly realize this is a stupid idea and try to put an end to it.
Yeah, as you can expect, this is not a very compelling movie. It's not even a very believable situation. The "near-apocalypse" isn't all that convincing (and nothing about it is ever explained in a way that makes the slightest bit of sense). This whole submarine is unrealistic and kinda silly as well. I mean since when did American submarine crews of the 1960's employ female secretaries? If they were going to go that route they might as well have just made the whole crew mixed gender since for the time period it would have been just has believable.
The effects are also terrible, even for 1961. I had hoped the film might have some good underwater photography but those scenes were incoherent at best and obviously fake at worst. There is a scene where a bunch of these guys have to go diving and get attacked by a giant squid. I couldn't really have cared less about what happened to them (especially since it was hard to tell anyone apart anyway), and the squid was barely visible and not very convincing. The models are never any good either, and the submarine itself just looks silly.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a waste of time and not worth watching at all. If you really, really want to see Peter Lorre in a submarine movie featuring a scene with a giant squid, there is a much better one that came out seven years earlier. In fact, you know what? This movie is just trying to be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and it is a disaster. In fact, forget about this film and just go watch the 1954 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's got Peter Lorre playing a sympathetic character for once along with James Mason and Kirk Douglas. It even has a scene with a giant squid that actually has tension and suspense, not to mention spectacular underwater sequences and a plot that is worth following.