Fantastic Voyage pushed the concept of miniaturization further than anyone thought possible. By shrinking a crew of people down to microscopic size and inserting them inside the human body. If that plot sounds familiar, it’s because dozens of cartoons are practically required to make a Fantastic Voyage episode. I can’t tell you how many parodies I’ve seen before watching the original 1966 movie. I always assumed Fantastic Voyage was a Jules Verne story, but it’s actually 100% original aside from inspiration from The Incredible Shrinking Man. Though the novelization was written by sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov before the movie’s release. Richard Fleischer was the perfect director who already had submarine experience with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
A nifty miniaturized sub called the Proteus is manned by a crew for the U.S. Government. Their mission is to save the life of scientist Dr. Jan Benes who perfected shrinking technology. A failed assassination by the Soviet Union gives Benes a lethal blood clot that can only be removed by a precision laser within the body. The crew consists of a more heroic Stephen Boyd as CIA agent Grant, Raquel Welch as sexy technical assistant Peterson, William Redfield as ship pilot Captain Owens, Arthur Kennedy as suspected laser surgeon Dr. Duval, and Donald Pleasence as the much more untrustworthy medical officer Dr. Michaels.
Meanwhile, Edmond O’Brien and Arthur O’Connell play Military officers who help on the outside. The crew travel from the heart to the lungs avoiding antibodies and white blood cells along the way. The 1 hour time limit is stressful, but the most tense moment is in the ear canal where even the smallest sound can send a shockwave. Any interpretation of the movie has a different exit strategy, but the original goes for the eye. Fantastic Voyage can be a little dated with it’s colorful recreation of the human body, but it still looks really impressive for 1966. Enough to win an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction – Color. A sequel or remake might have improved its special effects, but Fantastic Voyage doesn’t need a franchise to be fantastic.