tek's rating: ¼

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (PG)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 1961, but I didn't see it until 2016. (I got it as a double feature DVD that also includes Fantastic Voyage.) I kind of want to call it a B-movie, but I'm not quite sure if that's fair or not. It's got some good qualities and some schlocky qualities. Anyway, I'm glad to have seen it, and despite the fact that I wasn't wild about it, I still wouldn't mind checking out the TV series that was based on it, if I get the chance someday.

So, there's this experimental submarine called the Seaview, which is in the Arctic for its trial run. Its captain is Lee Crane, but along for the ride are a couple of admirals. One of them is Harriman Nelson, who had designed the sub, and is apparently one of the world's leading scientists. There's also a psychiatrist named Dr. Susan Hiller, and a Congressman named Llewellyn Parker (who expects to find fault with the sub), and a commodore named Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre), who is Admiral Nelson's somewhat snarky right-hand man. Also, Nelson's secretary is Lt. Cathy Connors (Barbara Eden), who is engaged to Captain Crane. While in the Arctic, the sub suddenly starts getting pelted from above by chunks of ice. They surface, and discover that the temperature has risen enough to melt the ice, and the sky is apparently on fire. Radioing home, they learn that the Van Allen radiation belt had caught fire, and they're ordered to return to New York for a United Nations meeting. But before they leave, they rescue a man they find stranded on an ice floe. He turns out to be a scientist named Miguel Alvarez (Michael Ansara).

At the meeting, Admiral Nelson presents his plan to fire a nuclear missile at the Van Allen belt at a specific time, from a specific location, which he believes would cause the belt to explode away from the planet. But another scientist named Zucco believes that if they do nothing, the belt will burn itself out at 173 degrees, two degrees shy of what would supposedly mean the end of life on Earth. Unfortunately, Nelson's plan would have to be enacted the day before that, so they can't wait to see whether Zucco is right or not. Nelson decides to take the Seaview to the Marianas, without authorization. While en route, they keep trying to radio the President to get authorization, but the radiation has made communications practically impossible. Tension among the crew mounts, as many believe this is the end of the world, and would rather be home with their loved ones. The situation is exacerbated by Alvarez, who believes what's going on is God's will, and Man has no right to interfere with it. (I easily thought of a couple of holes to punch in that logic, and Nelson himself punched a hole I hadn't thought of. But Alvarez was unmoved.) Meanwhile, Captain Crane begins to doubt Nelson's sanity. Eventually they learn that other subs have been ordered to stop them from firing the missile. Also along the way, there are some obligatory attacks by unconvincing sea creatures.

Anyway... I don't want to say how it all ends. But I will say there was a fair amount of drama, a bit of mystery, and it wasn't really a bad story. (I'll also say I think it just barely qualifies as science fiction, considering the technology was pretty close to what existed in reality, when the movie was made.) There was also a little bit of humor, some of which was actually intentional. And... I dunno what else to tell you. Oh, except the theme song was by Frankie Avalon, who also appeared in the movie as one of the crewmen, though I'm afraid I didn't recognize him. (I also failed to recognize Walter Pidgeon as Admiral Nelson, though I had seen him just a few months before I watched this, in Forbidden Planet.)


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