Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea(Fox Home Entertainment, 6.5.2007)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a bore. It may not have been a bore forty-five years ago, but it's boring now. This should be the kind of movie that you discover in a forgotten collection of VHS tapes while visiting family during the holidays and pop in for some much needed "me" time, only to be surprised by how universal, exciting, and touching science fiction can be, no matter how many years pass or how many rubber octopuses or plastic miniatures of submarines appear onscreen. At the end of a film with a title as exciting as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, you should feel better for having watched it and secretly imagine your car to be a sealed sub the next time you drive it.
Instead, Irwin Allen's film is exhibit A in the case against what I like to call "Cinema Rinky Dinky Do," that distinct type of American film from the late fifties and sixties, which features aging actors caked in make-up and hair dye -- to cover up the unforgiving brightness of Technicolor -- standing in front of sets that look like department store displays, spouting lines about threats to humanity while wearing belted jumpers that, fashionably speaking, remain khaki-tastic to this day. These films were too wide, too stark, and too fearful of television: every scene had to look like a movie.
Voyage's plot concerns the imminent destruction of Earth due to meteors piercing the Van Allen radiation belt, resulting in the sky literally catching fire. If something is not done quickly, the surface of the Earth will burn up in a heat wave, taking every living thing with it. Walter Pidgeon and Peter Lorre are on the case, but they are being antagonized by roadblocks at every turn in the form of political, environmental, and religious resistance.
Who knows, a young Al Gore may have loved this film, but Voyage could cripple the most astute critic because there is no subtext to be found. From the guysteric tizzyatrics of Pidgeon as he pleads for understanding from the United Nations to the Techniblur pace of the science on speed dial storyline, everything unfolds too quickly and too haphazardly. Revelations are replaced by vroomelations and not even the retro appeal of the Foam FX submarines and sea monsters can save this movie from mediocrity.
If I had to put my finger on how Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea makes me feel, I couldn't. It makes me feel nothing, which is a nightmare for a movie lover. It's the cinematic equivalent of kissing a corpse at the funeral of someone you didn't know with neither warmth nor familiarity registering. This film was a hit, however, so filmgoers in 1961 apparently felt something for it.
The extras on the disc include a pair of featurettes and an audio commentary by author Tim Colliver. These features dig into subjects such as the film's effects, the portrayal of global warming in films such as Voyage and The Day After Tomorrow, and Barbara Eden's recollections of shooting the film. -- Jason Woloski