Fantastic Voyage (1966)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 4-Jul-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1966
Running Time 96:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Fleischer
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Stephen Boyd
Raquel Welch
Edmond O'Brien
Donald Pleasence
Arthur O'Connell
William Redfield
Arthur Kennedy
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $31.95 Music Leonard Rosenman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Fantastic Voyage is a very competently made movie from the mid 1960s. It sports some decent effects, both visual and audio, that later became popular with many TV shows, and defied the usual tenet that required that the audience to be confused with nonsensical 'technobabble'. Presented with an easy-to-understand plot, albeit with the suspect ability to miniaturize people and objects, it is very much steeped in the science fiction genre.

    The movie is well-catered for with a decent script and some reasonably good acting performances. The script is very clichéd, but manages to avoid the jingoism that accompanied many movies of this era. The flow of the story is augmented with some interesting 'special effects'. Mainly consisting of camera angles that simulated reducing size, there was also extensive use of matting to complete the picture of being inside a human body. Added to this were some nice sets including the interior of a small nuclear powered submarine and a funky looking laser and a very futuristic miniaturization chamber. One thing I did find amusing was the use of an underground parking facility as the base of operations.

    Since this movie has been a staple on TV and at film festivals for over 30 years, it's fair to say few people haven't seen it before. For those of you who haven't, a very quick synopsis is in order.

    The movie opens with Grant (Stephen Boyd) safely bringing a scientist vital to the CMDF (Combined Miniature Deterrent Force) into the country by airplane. After being relieved of his package and during the final car journey to CMDF headquarters, there is a failed assassination attempt in which the scientist suffers a near-terminal blow to the head.

    Grant is then co-opted into assisting a surgical team who are going to try and repair the damage to the scientist's brain by being miniaturized onboard a nuclear powered submarine, the Proteus, and injected into the bloodstream of the patient. From there, they will then have 60 minutes in which to navigate the body, reach the brain and repair the damage before the effects of miniaturization wear off and they begin growing and are attacked by the body's immune system. Naturally, there is a suspicion that there is a traitor in their midst who may attempt to sabotage the mission - hence Grant's presence.

    The crew comprises Grant as security and communications; Dr Michaels (Donald Pleasance), the cardio-vascular expert whose job it is to navigate them successfully to the brain; Dr Duval (Arthur Kennedy), the surgeon who will perform the surgery using a laser to repair the damage; Cora Peterson (Raquel Welsh), Dr. Duval's assistant and laser expert; and Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield), the pilot of the Proteus.

    There are a lot of interesting concepts used in this movie and it's worth a watch just to see how far our perceptions of the human body have come since the mid-60s. Naturally, anyone having seen the TV series 'The Human Body' might find some of this a little silly, but given the date of its release, it is still an entertaining piece of science fiction despite all its flaws.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Given the age of the source material, I would have expected a much poorer quality transfer, so it was most pleasing to discover that this was quite a reasonable viewing experience.

    The transfer is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness varied between scenes due to the composited nature of the film. Where there were no matte shots on offer, sharpness was very acceptable, whereas matted scenes showed more fuzziness with loss of detail. Shadow detail was more-or-less the same throughout. Fine detail and good depth are only discernible during more brightly-lit scenes. Grain was pleasantly subdued during the entire movie. Low level noise was not an issue during much of the movie, although some matte scenes did exhibit some very minor blooming.

    The most problematic aspect of the transfer was the colour. The palette used was fairly dark, with many of the early scenes utilizing large quantities of grey, giving a much darker feel to the movie. Once 'inside the body', so to speak, the primary colours of red and blue which were utilized so effectively in the theatrical release of the movie looked pale and washed-out. It appears that the matting process didn't take well to the digital transfer, with many of the background or overlay shots exhibiting a greenish tinge. This is fairly consistent with other movies I've seen of this ilk, since the older the movie the more likely the special effects/matting are likely to be noticed.

    Minor incidences of edge enhancement can be seen throughout the movie, but since there was a large amount of matting used, many of them don't stand out. A typical example is at 46:11 around the head of the Colonel (Arthur O'Connell) on the right of screen. There are some minor scratches and marks at the beginning of the movie with some fine lines appearing around the 48 minute mark. Generally, film artefacts are few and far between, attesting to the quality of the original source material. There is some minor aliasing (eg: 8:02 on the fluorescent lights in the ceiling) and other occasional break-ups, but they are so minor in most cases as to be incidental.

    The subtitles occupy the lower third of the screen and are in white. Although they do obscure the picture to a degree, they are very visible and easily readable.

    Although listed as an RSDL-formatted disc, no layer change was noted.

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

Audio

    I didn't expect much of a high fidelity soundtrack to accompany this disc - after all, movies from the 1960s were often accompanied by mono soundtracks. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of the front soundstage as well as the degree of rear envelopment provided by this soundtrack. To be honest, you'd be hard-put to categorize this as true 'surround', but after some of the efforts I've recently listened to, this disc was a welcome surprise.

    The soundtrack on offer was Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded in English. Since this was the only audio track on offer I naturally listened to it.

    The dialogue was easy to understand and the audio sync was spot-on.

    The most memorable part of the soundtrack was the music, or in many instances the almost lack of it. Many scenes used minimal music to enhance suspense, relying on a potpourri of sound effects to direct the viewer's attention. There were lots of trumpets, horns, soft plinking sounds, shrill flutes and oboes to simulate various happenings inside the body. The effect was quite elegant in its simplicity.

    There was some minor effects and music 'bleed through' noted from the surround channels. The overall affect was to give a more generous feeling to the sound than would have normally been possible. Unfortunately, none of the sound effects seemed to have been redirected to the rear channels which would have been a real bonus. As it is though, even this minimal usage was highly acceptable from a movie of this vintage.

    There was no LFE channel use on this disc.

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

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

    This has a running time of 3.17 and is presented in Full Frame (1.33:1) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at 192kb/s. It is very grainy, full of artefacts and very sixties in format.

R4 vs R1

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

    Region 4 misses out on:     Region 1 misses out on:     The Region 1 combination with Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea is precisely the same, except the opening menu has a slight change in the ordering of the options. Seeing as I have both versions, I'd recommend the R4 for its slightly better picture quality, *but* the R1 with the two movie pack was and still is a bargain if you shop around.

Summary

    Considering the age of the material, and the specific nature of the subject matter, Fantastic Voyage was a very entertaining movie for its time. The quality of the transfer, barring a complete digital remastering, is probably as good as you could expect. The audio is very reasonable and I doubt we'd ever see many extras for a movie whose recent past has seen it condemned to TV filler, SF film festivals or lost in the multitude of channels on cable TV. I've seen more recent vintage movies with worse releases, and given the quality cast this is worth a place in the collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Tuesday, June 26, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Shaun B
The DVD Bits - Mark W

Comments (Add) NONE