VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA

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Kelly Parks
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Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaVOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA - 1961
USA Release: July 12, 1961
Irwin Allen Productions / 20th Century Fox
Rating: USA: N/A

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA was directed by Irwin Allen (THE POSIEDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, THE SWARM) and written by Mr. Allen and Charles Bennett (NIGHT OF THE DEMON).

Spinning headlines tell us of the Seaview, a recently declassified giant submarine exploring the ocean beneath the north pole. The sub was the brain child of Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon: FORBIDDEN PLANET, THE NEPTUNE FACTOR) and because of its cost some in Congress call it "Nelson's Folly". In fact a skeptical congressman (Howard McNear: MY BLOOD RUNS COLD) is aboard, along with psychiatrist Dr. Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), there to study men under extreme stress.

It turns out this Navy ship has one other woman aboard: Lt. Cathy Connors (Barbara Eden: 7 FACES OF DR. LAO, THE STEPFORD CHILDREN [TV]) is Admiral Nelson's secretary and is engaged to Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling).

Admiral Nelson and his best friend/fellow scientist Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre: THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS, THE MALTESE FALCON, CASABLANCA, THE RAVEN, TALES OF TERROR) plan on using the Seaview to explore the ocean's mysteries. That plan is interrupted when the sky catches on fire.

More specifically, the Van Allen radiation belt catches fire up in space, resulting in a red sky and intense heat (I'll go into more detail about that in a minute). The surface temperature of the Earth jumps to 135 degrees Fahrenheit and climbing, causing melting ice caps, wilting crops, spreading deserts and massive forest fires.

The crew rescues polar scientist Miguel Alvarez (Michael Ansara: IT'S ALIVE, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, THE MANITOU), stranded on a melting ice floe. Alvarez found religion under the burning sky and preaches the inevitability of God's vengeance on mankind.

The Seaview goes to New York (travel by plane is impossible because of freakish weather and magnetic anomalies) so Nelson and Emery (two of the world's most respected scientists) can attend a meeting at the UN to try and decide what to do. Nelson has a plan: launch a nuclear missile into the Van Allen belt and detonate it, causing the belt to explode outward and put out the fire. But the launch has to take place from a precise location in the South Pacific in exactly 16 days.

Of course the other scientists of the world think Nelson's plan is preposterous and that all they have to do is wait and the belt will burn itself out. Nelson hops in his trusty submarine and off they go to launch the missile.

A long list of obstacles, including a mutinous crew, a saboteur, and not one but two giant squids stand in their way. Will they make it? You have to watch the movie to know that. But to know what I thought of the movie you have to read further, following this pause for a quick

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
Could the Van Allen belt catch on fire? Absolutely not. The Van Allen belt is a region in the Earth's magnetic field that traps sub-atomic particles from the solar wind (electrons in the inner belt, protons in the outer belt). Radiation is higher than normal inside the belts but it's still the hard vacuum of empty space. There's nothing there to burn.

Find more good and bad movie science at SCIENCE MOMENT.

Back to the movie. It didn't suck. The science was awful but the drama was compelling and the characters interesting. I was a bit annoyed that Captain Crane, the supposed hero of the movie, was constantly at odds with Admiral Nelson's willingness to sacrifice anyone and anything to save the world. Crane came off as more of a whiner than a military man.

And speaking of whining, the DVD has an extra I need to mention. Most of the extras are fine but one in particular, "Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality", was truly lame. It tried to use this movie's Earth being warmed by burning Van Allen belts as somehow prescient on today's Global Warming issue. Yeah, that Irwin Allen. He was a prophet.

I give the movie three shriek girls.

Shriek GirlShriek GirlShriek Girl
This review copyright 2007 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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