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Updated: December 14, 2022

This is for "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" Movie! Rare bilingual version, Japanese and English! 1961 - USA - 106 min. - Feature, Color.

AMG Rating:

Director Irwin Allen Genre / Type Science Fiction, Adventure Drama, Sea Adventure, Sci-Fi Disaster Film Flags Suitable for Children, Violence MPAA Rating PG. Keywords crew, exploration, nuclear, submarine, Admiral, space-exploration, radioactive Themes Race Against Time, Obsessive Quests, Daring Rescues, After the Apocalypse, Experiments Gone Awry Tones Tense, Atmospheric, Menacing, Intimate, Paranoid Color type De Luxe Cinematic Process CinemaScope Produced by 20th Century Fox Released by 20th Century Fox See Also DVD Release(s).

Walter Pidgeon is the nominal star of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, portraying Admiral Harriman Nelson, the designer of the submarine Seaview, a glass-nosed research submarine. The sub embarks on her shakedown cruise under the polar ice cap as the movie begins. Upon surfacing, however, the crew discovers that the entire sky is on fire the Van Allen radiation belt has been ignited by a freak meteor shower, and the Earth is being slowly burnt to a cinder. Nelson and his colleague, Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre), devise a plan to extinguish the belt using one of the Seaview's nuclear missiles, but they are denounced at an emergency meeting of the United Nations. Disregarding the UN vote against him, Nelson decides to go forward with his plan before the Earth is destroyed, hoping to get the approval of the president of the United States while his ship races from New York to the Marianas in the Pacific to launch its missile on time and target, with the world's navies hunting her down and communication with Washington impossible because of the fire in the sky.

Nelson must combat not only the threats from other ships but of the doubts of his own protege, Commander Lee Crane (Robert Sterling), the captain of the Seaview, about his plan and his methods, and the growing suspicion being spread by Dr. Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), a psychiatrist was visiting the vessel about his sanity, as well as the growing discontent of the crew, who would like to see their families before the end of the world, and the presence of one religious fanatic (Michael Ansara) who thinks the fire in the sky is God's will. Worse still, there appears to be a saboteur and possibly more than one aboard.

The plot is episodic in pacing and features elements that were clearly derived in inspiration from Disney's 1954 production of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, such as Nelson's eccentricity and the "outlaw" status of his ship; but the undersea maneuvers to tap the trans-Atlantic telephone cable (in order to reach Washington), the battle with a giant squid, a duel with an attack submarine, and a harrowing tangle with a WWII mine field would become standard elements of the series of the same name that followed this movie two years later.

Pidgeon brings dignity if not a huge amount of energy to the role of the admiral, and Lorre, Fontaine, Ansara, and Henry Daniell (playing Nelson's scientific nemesis) add some colorful performances, and Barbara Eden, as Nelson's secretary, is pretty to look at; and there are some excellent supporting performances by Delbert Monroe (aka Del Monroe, who appeared later in the series, as Kowalsky), Mark Slade, John Litel, Howard McNear, and Robert Easton. The real "star" of the movie, however, is the submarine Seaview and the special effects by L.B. Abbott, which, to be fully appreciated, should be seen in a letterboxed presentation of the movie.

Reviewing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea isn't easy it isn't Forbidden Planet, with lots of profound ideas scattered around its script, or even The Fly, with a story of human frailty at its core; nor is it even Journey to the Center of the Earth, with its outsized special effects, score, and casting; rather, it represents the fun side of science fiction cinema.

Producer / Director Irwin Allen was a popular culture maven if he saw the potential to recycle an idea into something new and profitable, and pitch it in a new or different way, he did it. Thus, his production of The Big Circus was a B-movie (or "nervous A"-movie) recycling of The Greatest Show on Earth, right down to having Peter Lorre (as opposed to James Stewart) in clown makeup; and Five Weeks in a Balloon was his more modest adaptation of a Jules Verne tale, done after Around the World in 80 Days. And Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was Allen's attempt to retell Disney's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in modern terms, even getting Peter Lorre into the new movie; nuclear submarines were still a source of wonder in 1961, and the Van Allen radiation belt surrounding Earth was still a new discovery, thus giving the movie a topical edge that the Disney film had l

Allen's direction is a little flaccid by today's standards, but the movie is great fun and paced perfectly, packing in about two hours' worth of excitement into just over 100 minutes of screen time, all of it looking sparklingly new and topical in its settings at that time. The finished film emphasized the things that Allen cared about most: Adventure, excitement, lots of undersea shots (Allen had a special fascination with undersea adventures, having made the Oscar-winning documentary The Sea Around Us), and some colorful star performances.

The special effects by L.B. Abbott are the real "star" of the movie, but Walter Pidgeon brings a certain eccentric dignity to the proceedings as the possibly "mad" Admiral Harriman Nelson (a pop-culture re-imagining of real-life nuclear navy gadfly Admiral Hyman Rickover), and the rest of the cast, down to the bit players, brings a lot of color to the film.

The television series subsequently spawned by this movie used most of the models and special effects designs as a jumping-off point, and became what was the longest-running non-anthology network science fiction series in history, lasting four seasons.

Walter Pidgeon - Adm. Harriman Nelson Joan Fontaine - Dr. Susan Hiller Barbara Eden - Cathy Connors Peter Lorre - Cmdre. Lucius Emery Robert Sterling - Capt. Lee Crane Michael Ansara - Miguel Alvarez Frankie Avalon - Chip Romano Regis Toomey - Dr. Jamieson John Litel - Adm. Crawford Howard McNear - Congressman Parker Henry Daniell - Dr. Zucco Skip Ward - Member of Crew Mark Slade - Smith Charles Tannen - Gleason Michael D. Ford - Crew Member Robert Easton - Sparks Jonathan Gilmore - Young David McLean - Ned Thompson Kendrick Huxham - UN Chairman Art Baker - UN Commentator Lawrence Gray - Dr. Newmar

Irwin Allen - Director / Producer / Story Author / Screenwriter Charles Bennett - Screenwriter Winton Hoch - Cinematographer Russell Faith - Songwriter Bernard Herrmann - Composer (Music Score) Paul Sawtell - Composer (Music Score) Bert Shefter - Composer (Music Score) George Boemler - Editor Herman A. Blumenthal - Art Director Jack Martin Smith - Art Director Walter Scott - Set Designer John Sturtevant - Set Designer Paul Zastupnevich - Costume Designer Ben Nye, Sr. - Makeup L.B. Abbott - Special Effects

Value: $200-Up.

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