Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

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Released 3-Jun-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 100:31
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Irwin Allen
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Walter Pidgeon
Robert Sterling
Peter Lorre
Barbara Eden
Frankie Avalon
Joan Fontaine
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Paul Sawtell
Burt Shefter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes, frequent
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Van Allen radiation belt way up high above the earth's atmosphere is on fire and the earth faces certain destruction. While on a test run in the new atomic submarine, the USOS Seaview, near the North Pole, Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon: Funny Girl: 1968, Forbidden Planet: 1956, How Green Was My Valley: 1941) and his crew encounter the world-threatening phenomenon. After contacting Washington, the Admiral and Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling: A Global Affair: 1964, Return to Peyton Place: 1961) learn that the Van Allen radiation belt that rings the earth has been set alight by a freak meteor shower, and with the earth's temperature reaching 135 Fahrenheit (about 60 degrees Celsius) and rising daily,  there is only a short amount of time before all life on the planet is eradicated. Travelling to New York, Admiral Nelson addresses the United Nations, who is in emergency session with the world's leading scientists trying to find a solution to the terrible fate that seems to await humanity. With the world's scientific leaders in a deadlock, Admiral Nelson proposes his solution: launch an atomic weapon from the Seaview into the Van Allen Radiation Belt. This must be done at a certain time and from a particular point on the earth's surface in order to be successful. The Admiral concludes that this will in turn extinguish the fire that rages in the atmosphere. But all are not convinced and the Admiral faces much opposition. Deciding that his idea is the only hope for the human race, Admiral Nelson races to his sub and begins a journey to a point on the earth where he can launch his atomic device. But not all aboard think that the plan will work and while the race is on to the atomic missile launch point, a saboteur works to thwart the Admiral's plan. Will the Admiral and his crew succeed or is the plan doomed to destroy the planet?

    While this film was marketed as a science fiction and special effects extravaganza, it is in fact a real turkey and some of the plot points are just laughable. Firstly, the meteor shower that ignites the Van Allen Belt. If it is falling meteors that start all this catastrophe, then I'm afraid that we would all have been gone years ago. This whole meteor thing just doesn't wash. Secondly, the Admiral is too cocky with his plan and it is no wonder that someone aboard his boat is conspiring against him. I'm amazed that more of the crew didn't elect to throw the Admiral overboard. Admiral Nelson's decision to launch an atomic device into the atmosphere is unilateral and he entertains no other options. Finally, the main thing that works against this film is the entire premise and its setting. We are presented with a spectacular submarine action picture with the entire cast under the sea while the main threat to the world is in the sky. It just doesn't add up. We are offered a little undersea action in the way of some very unconvincing creature attacks and various other threats and the whole plot of this film seems to have been hastily thought out. Despite this film being called Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the USOS Seaview and its crew never actually travel to said bottom so the very title makes little sense. Perhaps if the destruction of earth was coming from below the sea bed with some sort of tectonic plate fault and the Seaview had to descend to before-unreached depths of the ocean to fix the problem, or if the Seaview was in fact a starship and while returning from some sort of deep space mission, it could return to the earth and find its atmosphere on fire. These things I could believe (well, sort of......), but not what we have here.

    Perhaps this was, in fact, convincing to an audience in the early 1960s with what would have been state-of-the-art special effects and an all-star cast, but unfortunately this film has not stood the test of time. I sometimes think that as this film is judged, so too will some of the turkeys of this current generation in turn be judged. Think of films such as Independence Day (1996) and Armageddon (1998) by directors Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay, who could be ranked in the same category as the director of this film, Irwin Allen (The Swarm: 1978, The Towering Inferno: 1974, The Poseidon Adventure: 1972) in regards to being masters of the big no-brain special effects-laden mass appeal movie. There is always a place for this type of film and it will appeal to many. This particular reviewer has fond memories of seeing this as a child on a Sunday night as a main feature right after The Walt Disney Show. Unfortunately, this same youthful wonderment could not be recreated with the film today, but perhaps it will be with another generation now that the film has been released on DVD. Time will tell.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    While reticent to enter the DVD market at first, Twentieth Century Fox has embraced the format and now, to the surprise of many, its products are amongst the best available. While this disc is not a total showcase of the format, Twentieth Century Fox Home Video has to be commended in their efforts to bring some of their back catalogue into circulation;  and this disc is no exception.

    Despite being over 40 years old, the transfer here to DVD is quite good considering that this film is not in the restoration category of something such as Cleopatra (1963). The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Although this title is reasonably old, the print committed to disc here is quite clear and very easy to watch. The picture is not razor sharp such as we have seen with recent titles like Moulin Rouge (2001). Nonetheless, we have on offer a quite reasonable transfer to DVD that is more than adequate. Only a complete film restoration could improve this title and at this time such a restoration doesn't seem to be required. Shadow detail is fairly good with much of the action taking place in darker underwater locales while still being quite clear. Low level noise seems to have been kept at bay.

    The quality of the colour of this title is quite good with much vibrant colour on-screen throughout the picture, and despite the film's age, there is little colour loss to be seen. There have been much newer films brought to DVD with much worse colour palettes displayed than the one afforded this title.

    There are some MPEG artefacts to be seen in this transfer. These come in the way of minor pixelization during some scenes. Stand-out times for this artefact are at 2:21, 5:26, 37:13 and 53:28. These macro-blocking issues are fairly minor and would probably be missed by all but the most pedantic of viewers. Most in search of this title shouldn't complain too much as this is the best that we have seen this title in many a year; probably since it was released theatrically. There is some minor aliasing at 65:20 which is seen on the support beams inside the Seaview, but this is not distracting. Edge enhancement is a minor issue with this title and can be seen on a couple of occasions such as at 4:48 and 23:17. There are a few film artefacts to be seen during this feature. These are not overly pervasive, but are noticeable at times. Most noticeable are the hair at the top of the screen at 2:52 and the line that tracks in the middle of the screen at 3:45. There is also some grain to be seen during this feature with a stand-out example being at 20:36.

    There are several subtitle options available on this DVD. A sampling of the English subtitles revealed them to be reasonably accurate, although not word for word.

    This disc is RSDL formatted with the layer change taking place at 70:13

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is a single English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack on this disc, formatted L-C-R-S.

    The dialogue quality is very good with all characters easily understood at all times. Audio sync is also very good with no issues of note with this title.

    The musical soundtrack composed by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter sounds very dated with the usual string-oriented music pieces and with the obligatory harp present. It seems that a harp must always make an appearance in any film set under the sea. While sounding old, this soundtrack does work with the fairly dated look of the film. Actor/Singer Frankie Avalon contributes his vocal talents to the film's theme song Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

    As stated above, the surrounds are mono as this film's audio is in Dolby Digital 4.0. This gives you 3 discrete channels across the front and a limited mono surround track. The surrounds are seldom used with this title despite the action present. Selecting a DSP program on your receiver and playing the movie back in an enhanced form of  ProLogic decoding may give you a better sound presentation. Not purely what is on the disc, but worth a try.

    As the soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 4.0, there is no dedicated low level channel. There is some redirected bass action, but it is still fairly muted and not extensively used as one would expect with an action title such as this.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a bare bones disc with little on offer in the way of extras.

    After the copyright warnings and distributors logos, we are presented with a full screen main menu. Our options are:

    The full screen menu is presented with an undersea theme with a wavy underwater look. Despite its appearance, this is a static menu with no audio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The Chapter Selections menu presents 4 chapters at a time out of the total of 28 with 4 images from each corresponding chapter presented. Chapter Selection options for the entire 28 chapters are available at the bottom of the menu. This menu is full screen, static, silent and is 16x9 enhanced.

    As per the previous menus, the Language Selections menu offers an extensive range of subtitles while leaving us with no audio option other than the original English Dolby Digital 4.0 mix. This menu is full screen, static, silent and is 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented is the original Theatrical Trailer which repeatedly tells you that "You Are There!". "You Are There when the giant creature attacks!" and so forth. While the film is presented in 2.35:1, the trailer is shown in 1.85:1 and is a stretched version of the 2.35:1 original. Therefore, all the images have a stretched appearance. Running time for this feature is 3:06. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is available in R1 as part of a Double Feature with the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage. It seems that we in R4 have basically the same film as R1 in a single feature format.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on: 

    Whether you value the extra film or not would probably determine which disc is the best value. This reviewer would call this one almost a draw.

Summary

    While not an offensive film, this early 60s turkey fails to inspire and challenge, but does seem to inspire fits of laughter, most notably in scenes that the director surely didn't intend. Unfortunately, this film has dated rather poorly and is probably only of nostalgic value.

    The video quality is quite good despite the film's age with only minor film and video transfer issues of note.

    The audio is fairly thin with not much surround and subwoofer activity noted. A shame given the location and subject matter of the film.

    The extras are almost non-existent with only a Theatrical Trailer present.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Monday, June 10, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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Comments (Add)
Fantastic Voyage in Region 4 - REPLY POSTED
I'm not so sure this film is a turkey! - Raven (read my bio)