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* The Films of IRWIN ALLEN     * JAWS (1975)   * MOONRAKER (1979)   * THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)  




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Running Time: 100 mins.
Aspect Ratio: 2: 35: 1

Directed by: Richard Fleischer
Produced by: Saul David
Written by (contractual):
Harry Kleiner (screenplay)
David Duncan (adaptation)
Otto Klement (story) and
Jerome Bixby - as “Jay Lewis Bixby“ (story)

Director of Photography
: Ernest Laszlo
Edited by: William B. Murphy
Art Direction: Jack Hennesey,
Jack Martin Smith,
Harper Goff (Creative Production Researcher)

: Ben Nye
Special Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott , Art Cruickshank, Emil Kosa Jr.
Marcel Delgado (miniatures - uncredited)
Jason Richardson (restoration artist - restored version)

Music by: Leonard Rosenman


Stephen Boyd (Grant)
Raquel Welch (Cora)
Edmond O’Brien (Gen. Carter)
Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michael)
Arthur O’Connell (Col. Reid)
William Redfield (Capt. Owens)
Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval)
Jean Del Val (Jan Benes)
Barry Coe (Comm. Aide)
Ken Scott (Secret Service)
Shelby Grant (Nurse)
James Brolin (Technician)


After being escorted into the U.S. by intelligence agent Charles Grant (Stephen Boyd), an assassination attempt is made on the life of Iron Curtain scientist Jan Benes (Jean Del Val).  The reason?  The brilliant physicist possesses the secret to a scientific process which can alter the Cold War’s balance of power and / or make nuclear weapons obsolete.

Surviving the assault, Benes is left comatose with a mortal and unoperable blood clot enclosing on a vital region of his brain.  Awakened in the night, Grant is taken to the subterranean H.Q. of CMDF (Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces) - a secret offshoot of the U.S. military in the process of researching technology which can shrink an army “to the size of matchbook” for insertion anywhere in the world. 

The only glitch in the revolutionary process is that after one hour the shrunken subject(s) begin(s) reverting to normal size.  Benes was bringing to the west the knowledge to prevent this.  In a "Hail Mary" attempt to save the scientist’s life, Grant is ordered to become part of a surgical team shrunk to the size of a microbe then injected on a “Fantastic Voyage” aboard an atomic sub (the Proteus) into Benes’ body, where they hope to dissolve the clot with the piercing ray of an experimental laser.  

Two major problems.  1) - They can only remain miniaturized for one hour.  After that they’ll begin growing back to normal size, then, triggering the patient's immune system, be destroyed by white blood cells perceiving them as a  biological threat.  And 2) - One of their crew is a traitorous assassin determined to prevent the team from reaching the end of the 60 minute mission … even if it means sacrificing their own life to do so.

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FANTASTIC VOYAGE score: "The Proteus" (L. Rosenman)

* FANTASTIC VOYAGE began life as a Jules Verne-like film treatment detailing a miniaturization adventure in the 19th Century.  While the exact contributions of it’s four screenwriters remain sketchy to this day, the final contractual credits are listed as: “Screenplay by Harry Kleiner”, “Adaptation by David Duncan”, and “Story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby (as Jay Lewis Bixby)”.  

* While penning various genres (including westerns) under numerous pseudonyms, Bixby is best known as the science fiction / fantasy author responsible for the 1953 short story “It’s A Good Life” - adapted into one of the most memorable episodes of television’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and scriptor of some of classic STAR TREK’s most popular entries including “Day Of The Dove”, “By Any Other Name”, “Requiem For Methuselah” and “Mirror, Mirror” - which featured an evil alternate reality Enterprise crew.  

* Canadian scribe David Duncan would similarly work in multi-genres, but like Bixby, also become legendary for fantastical screen fiction such as Geroge Pal’s 1960 film version of THE TIME MACHINE and tv’s THE OUTER LIMITS (“The Human Factor”).

* Hired to helm FANTASTIC VOYAGE was Richard Fleischer (1916 - 2006).  The son of animation pioneer Max Fleischer (BETTY BOOP, POPEYE, SUPERMAN), Richard began his career directing cartoon shorts for his father’s studio before segueing into live action on “B” noir thrillers such as BODYGUARD (1948), FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (’49) and THE NARROW MARGIN (’52). 

* Chosen to take the clapboard on Disney’s biggest film at the time - 1954’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, Fleischer would become one of Hollywood’s top “A” list directors of epics including THE VIKINGS (1958), BARABBAS (’61), DOCTOR DOLITTLE (’67) and TORA! TORA! TORA! (’70).  Throughout the remainder of his career he would mix genres - tackling experimental material such as THE BOSTON STRANGLER (’68) and the ecological sci-fier SOYLENT GREEN (’73), while helming popular actioners like Charles Bronson’s MR. MAJESTIK (’74), dramas such as Dino De Laurentiis’ controversial MANDINGO (’75), the contemporary musical remake THE JAZZ SINGER (’80), and commercial fare such as AMITYVILLE 3D (’83) and CONAN THE DESTROYER (’84).  

* Two of Fleischer’s 20.000 LEAGUES production team would join him on FANTASTIC VOYAGE: “Technical Advisor” Fred Zendar, and Disney designer Harper Goff - the designer of LEAGUES’ the Nautilus.  For VOYAGE Goff would create the super sleek submersible vessel “the Proteus“.

* Multi-award winning science fiction novelist Issac Asimov was approached to pen a novelization of  FANTASTIC VOYAGE, but he originally declined, citing too many scientific “plot holes” in the script.  Upon assurances that the novel could be “his own” rendition of the story, he agreed and made numerous alterations in the book version.  

Director Richard Fleischer

* Among Asimov's changes: at the film’s climax the destroyed debris of the Proteus, partially “injested” by the attacking white blood cell, is left within Benes body as the crew escapes through the comatose scientist’s tear duct.  By rights the remaining debris should revert back to normal size as well … killing Benes.  Therefore in the novel the crew provokes the white cell into following them, that the ship’s debris may also be removed via the tear duct.  Also …

* In the film the crew replenishes it’s oxygen stores (depleted by the traitor / saboteur) by forcing air from Benes lungs into the Proteus’ tanks.  Logically the miniaturized crew should not be able to breathe un-miniaturized air.  Therefore for the book Asimov creates a sophisticated “processing device” aboard the ship which allows this.

* After attending a screening of the film with her father, Asimov’s daughter commented, “Daddy, won’t the submarine grow back to normal size now and kill the man?”.  To which the legendary novelist jokingly replied, “Yes, Dear.  But you understand that because you’re smarter than a Hollywood producer.  After all, you’re ten years old!”.

* Because Asimov was a quick writer; this coupled with the film’s production delays, the FANTASTIC VOYAGE novelization arrived in book stores in February of 1966 - six months before the film’s August premiere.  This lead many to mistakenly believe (as some still do) that the film was based on an Asimov novel.   

* The producer of FANTASTIC VOYAGE was Saul David.   Throughout the decade of the 1950s David worked at publishing house Bantam Books, where he was responsible for the label’s soon to become innovative practice of hiring popular novelists to pen original paperbacks for the company rather than relying upon licensed reprints of bestselling hardcover editions.  Two of David’s greatest successes in this regard were his acquisitions of mystery novelist Ross MacDonald and western scribe Louis L’Amour - both of whom had become displeased with their former publishers. 

* David would make the transition to Hollywood producer with his securing of Helen Gurley Brown’s book SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL as a property for Warner Bros.  He’d go on to 20th Century Fox where during the 1960s he’d spearhead the 1965 Frank Sinatra WW2 prison break adventure VON RYAN’S EXPRESS, as well as the studio’s three “spy fi-ers” - FANTASTIC VOYAGE, OUR MAN FLINT (’66) and IN LIKE FLINT (’67).  In 1975 he’d also produce the popular MGM science fiction epic LOGAN’S RUN.

* FANTASTIC VOYAGE’s iconic film poster painting is by British illustrator Tom Chantrell,  Having designed popular poster campaigns for films such as THE KING AND I, VON RYAN’S EXPRESS and ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., Chantrell today is best remembered as the artist responsible for the original sprawling STAR WARS (1977) one sheet movie poster image.   

* During the 1960s a string of big budget prestige films such as CLEOPATRA, HELLO DOLLY!, STAR!, and Fleischer’s own DOCTOR DOLITTLE threatened to bankrupt 20th Century Fox.  The studio at the time however was pulled from the brink of receivership by a string of mid - late 60s science fiction films, the first of which was FANTASTIC VOYAGE.  Following in it’s wake Fox’s “corporate bacon” would also be pulled from the griddle by PLANET OF THE APES (1968) as well as by it’s Irwin Allen produced TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL and LAND OF THE GIANTS.  

* Known to keep his budgets down by borrowing stock footage from the Fox film archives, producer Irwin Allen would also repurpose one of FANTASTIC VOYAGE’s “Benes interiors” sets (then in storage) as the innards of a gigantic sea creature which swallows an experimental bathysphere in the VOYAGE TO BOTTOM OF THE SEA Season 2 premiere episode “Jonah And The Whale”.  

* During the 1960s, future popular he-man actor James Brolin (to be made famous a decade later in ABC TV’s MARCUS WELBY M.D.) was a Fox studio contract player.  One of his earliest roles (though he face is covered throughout the film by a medical mask) is as one of the surgical “technicians” overseeing the insertion of the Proteus crew into Benes’ body. 

Cinematographer Ernest Laszlo and Director Fleischer on the main "Proteus" interior set.

* Brolin would go on to become a genre favorite actor among fans for starring roles in later films such as WESTWORLD, the original THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE CAR, NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER and CAPRICORN ONE.  His son, actor Josh Brolin, would pay homage to his father’s genre legacy with a starring role in Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 sci fi / horror parody-homage GRINDHOUSE: PLANET TERROR. 

* The music score to FANTASTIC VOYAGE was composed, orchestrated and conducted by Leonard Rosenman (1924 - 2008).  Rosenman is best remembered for cinema classics such as EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (both 1955), BARRY LYNDON (‘75) and BOUND FOR GLORY (’76) - the last two both Oscar winners.  Other respected scores include A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970),  his Emmy winning SYBIL (’76), FRIENDLY FIRE (’79), and genre favorites BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (’70), BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (’73), RACE WITH THE DEVIL (’75) and STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (’86).  Even with that list of credits many today still consider FANTASTIC VOYAGE his most experimentally impressive film work. 

* Rosenman and the film makers chose to leave FANTASTIC VOYAGE unscored until the beginning of the 2nd Act when the Proteus crew is injected into Benes circulatory system, beholding for the first time the wonders of blood oxygenation.   The film's "Main Title" piece is actually a sound effects montage treated "musically".   Bernard Herrmann had earlier used "musical sound effects" for the Main Title sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS (1963), and avant garde composer Gil Melle' would later use a similar approach for the opening of Robert Wise's THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971).      

FANTASTIC VOYAGE score: "Main Title" - Sound Effects Suite

The "Proteus" travels through the brain. Oscar winning special effects miniature photography
unit under the direction of legendary Fox studio technicians L.B. Abbott , Art Cruickshank
and Emil Kosa Jr. with Marcel Delgado

* A major critical and financial hit for 20th Century Fox, FANTASTIC VOYAGE (along with the same era’s James Bond and later PLANET OF THE APES series) became one of the first cinema mass market spin off product licensing franchises.  In addition to the popularity of Asimov’s novelization, the film would also lead to, among others, an animated Saturday morning series from Lou Schiemer’s Filmation Studios (FAT ALBERT & THE COSBY KIDS, GROOVIE GHOULIES, SHE-RA, JASON OF STAR COMMAND), a Gold Key comic book adaptation, and an Aurora Model kit version of the “Voyager” submersible - the miniaturized craft from the animated series as opposed to the film’s Proteus.

FANTASTIC VOYAGE's immensely popular "kid-focused" license / merchandising campaign.

* Director Joe Dante / producer Steven Spielberg’s 1987 sci fi / comedy / action-adventure INNERSPACE (written by Chip Proser and Jeffrey Boam) would prove a  popular rift on FANTASTIC VOYAGE.  In the film a hypochondriac supermarket clerk (Martin Short) is injected with the miniaturized submersible craft of a hot shot test pilot (Dennis Quaid) in order to keep the pilot and miniaturization technology safe from high tech industrial black marketeer / assassins.  INNERSPACE would win the 1987 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

* FANTATIC VOYAGE itself would earn five 1966 Academy Award nominations - including Best Film Editing, Sound Editing and Best Cinematography.  It would win two for Art Direction and Special Visual Effects.

* It’s legacy as a classic would be further enshrined by it’s inclusion on THREE of the AFI’s (American Film Institute)’s “Top” lists:  “100 YEARS - 100 MOVIES” (as one of the top 100 films of all time), “100 YEARS OF FILM SCORES” and “10 TOP 10” SCIENCE FICTION FILMS OF ALL TIME. 

*  In 1987 Issac Asimov penned and released the best selling novel FANTASTIC VOYAGE II: DESTINATION BRAIN.  While featuring “II” in it’s title (insisted upon by publishing marketers) it is NOT a sequel to the first story, but rather an original sharing with the former only the concept of a miniaturized crew injected into the body of a scientific colleague - in this instance to retrieve (via a prototype computer) actual memories trapped within the mind of the comatose patient.  It is none-too-subtly implied by novel’s end that the story takes place within the same fictitious universe as Asimov’s “Robot” and “Foundation” series books.

* In 1998, independent film soundtrack label FSM (Film Score Monthly) released for the first time Leonard Rosenman’s FANTASTIC VOYAGE as a 3,000 unit limited edition CD. 

* In 2001 Kevin J. Anderson (author of the STAR WARS, TITAN A.E., X-FILES and DUNE prequel spin-off books) released the third FANTASTIC VOYAGE novel: FANTASTIC VOYAGE: MICROCOSM - in which the crew of the Proteus enters the body of a dead alien crash landed on earth and, instead of white blood cells, finds themselves battling the creature’s internal nanotech-enhanced biology.   

*  Plans for a sequel and / or remake to FANTASTIC VOYAGE have been on the Fox planning boards since the early 1980s - roughly around the same time as it’s PLANET OF THE APES reboot efforts.  But it wasn’t until 1997, when ALIENS, T2, TITANIC writer / director James Cameron officially took the reigns, that re-launch plans became a reality. 

*  Originally to be directed by Cameron himself, the innovative filmmaker decided to focus on his AVATAR films (also for Fox) and instead serve as VOYAGE’s writer / producer.  Since then various names have been attached to the project under Cameron including writers Shane Salerno (ARMAGGEDON, SHAFT, SAVAGES) and Marianne & Cormac Wimberley (THE 6TH DAY, NATIONAL TREASURE), as well as directors Roland Emmerich (STARGATE, INDPENDENCE DAY) and Paul Greengrass (THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, UNITED 93). 

* At present Shawn Levy, the popular director of BIG FAT LIAR, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, DATE NIGHT, and (most importantly) the large scale sci fi sports drama REAL STEEL, is attached.  The new version of FANTASTIC VOYAGE is slated to be filmed in the immersive IMAX 3D format.     


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