Director: Irwin Allen
Writer: Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett
Cinematographer: Winton Hoch
Producer: Irwin Allen
by Jon Cvack
Although Netflix streaming is rapidly losing its movie streaming market share, one thing they are doing right is providing Ultra-HD 4k versions of classic films. I first noticed the quality when checking out El Dorado (1966), which looked as though it had been shot only years ago, allowing the movie to look precisely how Howard Hawks intended, and making you realize how abysmal the compression has been. Often older movies have that fuzzy, faded, and compressed look that reminds me of seeing the endless slate of westerns playing on TMC. After El Dorado I checked out The Sons of Katie Elder (1966), and while not nearly as crisp, provided another solid transfer, providing another modern feel to it all. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea soared with it this remastering, in which the CinemaScope allowed the technicolor blues and reds to pop from the screen. Again the film looked as though it had been shot only years with ago, with nothing except the cast and effects to show off its age.
The story involves a submarine crew aboard the state of the art Seaview, led by Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) who commands a dangerous mission in which the sub fell out of radio contact for 96 hours in order to study the underbelly of the Arctic ice cap. Soon the mission takes a nasty turn when the ice sheet above begins to crack apart and fall upon the ship. Narrowly escaping, they receive word from Mission Control that a meteorite has broken through the Van Ellen Radiation Belt (a real thing), spreading a miasmic heat wave across the world. The Seaview scientists then devise a plan to launch a nuke into the Val Ellen Ring which would somehow cause it to cave in on itself and stop the heat barrage.
I’m not sure if it was the crisps colors and the bizarre world they created (it’s hard for me to compare this to anything but a Wes Anderson film) which allowed me to buy into the ridiculous premise, but it doesn’t play as crazy as it sounds. Discord grows between the men, with some arguing a nuclear explosion could hasten the heat wave. Eventually factions form and the divisions widen, with Captain Crane mutinying against his superior Admiral (Harriman Nelson; who in a bizarre coincidence I had just a watch a film ago in Command Decision (1948), thinking he was amazing and the perfect General archetype).
It’s upon revisiting the synopsis and seeing the details written out with such brevity (admittedly I broke the movie into three parts due to starting a new gig, causing me to forget the more minor details), but the film deals with everything from religious zealots to saboteurs to psychologists, all while they battle giant squids and travel into underwater minefields. The film is fun to look at that the style fills into all of holes and bizarre developments, as it all works because it’s all rooted in a caricature of reality; taking place in a climate changed world. It’s far from the greatest sci-fi film from the period, and while worth checking out, makes me more excited to see others receive such a crisp update where the world can fully shine.
BELOW: Imagine this except with a clean print that looks like it was produced today
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