Fox // 1961 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // October 26th, 2007
Captain Lee Crane: I appreciate your blind loyalty to the Admiral. I
felt that way myself until his lunatic actions started to follow a pattern.
Lieutenant Cathy Connors: Lunatic actions?
Capt. Crane: All right, is this rational? No search for survivors on ice floe Delta? Crash-dived in New York with police on deck? Sent a mini-sub into a minefield, which killed two of my men?
Lt. Connors: Well, he had to take the chance...
Capt. Crane: Drove a fine officer to sabotage and suicide. Produced a threatening note, which he probably wrote himself. Then he dreamed up this so-called murder attempt, which was actually his smoking in bed!
Lt. Connors: I believe...
Capt. Crane: And now the final straw...he approves of desertion, when we desperately need every able-bodied man on this sub! Lord knows what he'll do next!
Suffice it to say that if you watched primetime TV in the late '60s, or went to the movies in the early '70s, you likely saw an Irwin Allen project in some form or another. And if you didn't catch them in their initial runs, you've possibly crossed paths with the shows in syndication and the films on VHS or DVD release.
A TV and film producer, nicknamed "The Master of Disaster" for his work in the disaster film genre, Allen was responsible for classic films like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Swarm, and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. He also made his mark in television with famous series like Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, and The Swiss Family Robinson.
After delivering some lower budget film productions in the late '50s, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea came along to really boost Allen's career. It's interesting to note that out of all of Allen's work, only this motion picture release in 1961 made the move to a successful TV series of the same name that ran from 1964 to 1968.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition is the story of Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon), Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) and the crew of the USOS Seaview as they take the newest nuclear submarine in the U.S. fleet through its paces under the North Pole. But just when everything seems to be going tickety-boo and the on-board dignitaries are being treated to a complete tour, more disasters that one can possibly fathom (sorry!) begin to surface (sorry again!) and the crew of the Seaview find themselves taking on water...literally!
How many disasters or crises can one film contain, you may ask? Let's take a close look:
* Ice Bombardment
The Seaview is merrily cruising along on its sub-Polar course, when suddenly the ship is pelted by huge chunks of ice breaking free of surface icebergs and sinking into the ocean. Wait a sec...doesn't ice float? Okay, okay, I'll be quiet. After first diving deeper to avoid the sinking ice fragments, the Seaview surfaces and the crew is greeted by scorching temperatures and a sky that is literally on fire. They also discover a mysterious man named "Alvarez" who is stranded on an ice floe. Alvarez, a fanatically religious man, becomes the voice of doom and gloom for the rest of the film.
* Radiation Belt
Admiral Nelson contacts Washington and is informed the Van Allen radiation belt (yes, this really exists!) has been ignited by a meteor shower and Earth has been enveloped by a burning ring of fire (sorry!) that is steadily increasing the planet's temperature. Hence the reasoning behind adding "Global Warming Edition" to the title of this special edition DVD release, I suspect.
Not sure who the marketing whiz was that suggested this name, but it seems to be in relatively poor taste, given the somewhat grave reality of our actual environmental circumstances...but I digress. Admiral Nelson is invited to New York to attend an international meeting to discuss a strategy for dealing with the Van Allen belt, and receives a strongly negative response to his plan to launch a nuclear missile at the belt in an attempt to "burn it out." But damn the torpedoes, he returns to the Seaview to put his plan into action.
* Radio Troubles & Giant Sea Life
With radio communications down due to interference caused by the burning ring of fire, Admiral Nelson launches a plan to tap into the telephone cables lying on the bottom of the ocean. A team of divers ventures out of Seaview towards the cable, and just as they find the cable, a giant squid attacks the divers. Trust me, there's no CGI work to be seen here, and I'm pretty sure squid don't growl. The team escapes the growling squid, successfully taps into the cable, and returns to the ship. During a short conversation with London, Nelson learns the U.S. is cut off from radio contact and quickly realizes he is on his own to decide to launch the missile within the short time window available.
In my personal opinion, two words that should never have been put together are "nuclear" and "submarine." Isn't it bad enough that people are locked in a tin tube thousands of feet below the surface, without adding a nuclear reactor into the mix? With pressures mounting (really sorry!) and their deadline for missile launch looming, the crew begins to crack. Suddenly, the ship's generator is sabotaged, resulting in 10 hours of repair time, and both radar and sonar going dark. Despite the danger of pushing ahead before repairs are complete, Nelson gives the order to proceed on course.
Without sonar capabilities, submarines are effectively blind and run the risk of, you guessed it, running into stuff! The Seaview encounters a minefield, but luckily enough, the crew receives enough visual warning through the sub's front windows to avoid a direct hit. As the sub moves forward, one of the mine's cables becomes caught on one of Seaview's forward searchlights and a two-man mini-sub crew is sent out to cut the cable with a torch. The sub team successfully cuts the cable, but as the mine rises to the surface, it impacts another mine, resulting in a huge explosion that obliterates the mini-sub and causes heavy damage to Seaview. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Nelson orders the crew to make a slow retreat from the minefield and continue on course to launch the missile.
* More Sabotage
Admiral Nelson receives an anonymous threatening note in his cabin and a crewman commits suicide, ratcheting the crew's stress up even higher. The ship's doctor warns of the psychological impacts of the stress, not only on the crew, but also on Admiral Nelson and his judgment. As Lt. Connors goes to the Admiral's cabin to check on him, she discovers the cabin is on fire, with the Admiral in the middle of it. Potentially toxic gases from the fire force Seaview to surface to exchange air.
* Ghost Ship
As Seaview surfaces, they encounter a small vessel drifting off their starboard side. Captain Crane sends a rescue team over to the ship, but they return with news that the entire crew is dead from the heat.
* Mutiny & Hot Pursuit
Captain Crane is approached by a crewman who speaks for the entire crew, telling him that if the world is going to end as it seems, the crew feels they should be allowed to leave the ship to be with their families. To add insult to injury, a newspaper found on the drifting vessel informs Admiral Nelson that the submarines of the world have been ordered to stop the Seaview from firing its missile. At this, the Admiral grants those who wish to leave the opportunity to do so, while the rest of the crew continues on course. Captain Crane lodges a formal complaint that Admiral Nelson is unfit for duty, and ultimately has him removed from command. Just as Captain Crane is confronting the Admiral, sonar contact indicates another sub has found Seaview and is firing missiles at her.
* Giant Octopus (yes, I'm serious!)
The Seaview manages to escape the pursuing sub, only to be attacked by a giant octopus. Fortunately, the crew is able to electrically charge the hull, shocking and dislodging the eight-legged menace.
Octopus dislodged...check! Nuclear power down...also check! Captain Crane goes to the reactor room to find the cause of the problem and meets the ship's doctor who has disabled the reactors...she was the saboteur!
* "I have a bomb!"
Then along comes, you guessed it...Alvarez! In a desperate attempt to stop the missile launch, Alvarez shows up with a bomb, taking Admiral Nelson hostage and blocking access to the missile launch controls.
* Everybody Into The Pool!
Realizing there's only one remaining option for launching the missile in time, Captain Crane goes for another swim, to manually launch the missile from outside Seaview. With the missile launched in time, Admiral Nelson orders Seaview to surface immediately to witness the result. An impressive visual display causes the radiation belt to burn itself out, returning to the sky to normal in a rapid "we need to bring this thing to a close" amount of time before the film concludes.
* Abuse of Pencils
Finally, I feel it begs mentioning that at my count, no less than four pencils were either cruelly slammed to desktops, or snapped during the making of this film.
Eyes and Ears
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition is an impressive release, considering the film dates back to 1961. Colors and contrast are spot-on, and there is no evidence of print damage, dirt, or other distractions on the source print.
Given the fact that the film was released in a time before Dolby Surround, I was impressed to notice this release makes some nice use of the rear channels and subwoofer at times, and the audio quality is always clear. Resting more on dialogue than sound effects, it's not too surprising that the majority of the film's audio presentation remains anchored (sorry!) in the front and center channels.
On the extras front, we're treated to a commentary by Tim Colliver, author of Seaview: The Making of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Colliver shares interesting anecdotes, production information and other tidbits that are sure to please any fan of the film. There's also an option to watch the film with an isolated track of the film's score...fun during the action sequences, but not that great during all-dialogue scenes that don't contain any music!
The documentary "Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality" takes a somewhat disjointed look at how science fiction films not only entertain, but often predict technologies that are yet to come and even create awareness for important issues like climate change. A somewhat fluffy seven-segment interview with Barbara Eden is also included, providing a close look at many aspects of the film's production and development, as well as Eden's experiences on the film.
The "Original Props" supplement allows viewers to access rotating and still images of props of the Seaview, mini-sub, torpedo rack and sea mine, used in the film. The original trailer, including dramatic effects, over-the-top narration, and Frankie Avalon's song from the film, is also included. Production art and stills, posters and lobby cards and even a copy of the original Exhibitor's Campaign Manual are viewable in the "Galleries" section.
I find films like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition a joy to watch. Set during a time when nuclear submarines were a brand new idea, the Cold War was still ahead of us, and before the quality of our movie-going experiences were measured by CGI effects and Dolby Surround, this is a fun adventure film of the purest kind.
If you're willing to suspend some of your disbelief in exchange for a decent serving of extras and a fun old-school adventure film, step aboard the USOS Seaview for a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Sure, not all of the dialog or acting are that stellar, and some of the effects may be a little on the cheesy side, but overall, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition is a decent little sci-fi adventure treat. Not guilty. DIVE! DIVE!
Review content copyright © 2007 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Audio Commentary
* Isolated Score Track
* "Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality"
* "Barbara Eden Interview"
* "Original Props"
* Theatrical Trailer
* Wikipedia: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea