Case Number 16431: Small Claims Court


Fox // 1967 // 711 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 21st, 2009

The Charge

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, in COLOR."

Well, at least it has that going for it.

The Case

It became typical of Irwin Allen productions (especially with over four decades of hindsight now) that, as a series progressed in years, its budget became noticeably trimmer and trimmer. Similarly, staff writers, they responsible for churning out episode after episode, also found the spectre of writers' block looming more and more often. As such, this fourth and final season of the venerable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series showed the fuel cells of the atomic-powered Seaview were all but down to fumes. While the overall production value remained high -- with vibrant colors and inventively visual sets -- the purpose behind each week's mission was largely makework for Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart), Captain Crane (David Hedison), and the crew. And, now entering a fourth year of scientifically-stretched catastrophes, globby and gooey monsters, and more contrived aliens than Ed Wood could have ever dreamed of, the folks in front of and behind the camera were clearly exhausted.

Customary for a season opener, this fourth year begins with the explosively colorful and calamitous "Fires of Death," set in the literal belly of a raging volcano (but fear not because the Seaview team are specially equipped with mylar fire suits and welders' facemasks in order to survive the noxious sulfur fumes and searing heat). After they make it out of that tight squeeze, they go on to fend off devilish doll makers, contemptuous conspirators, aliens from all planets imaginable, sea creatures from the briny depths, and even a contemptuous time traveler who may, one day, save everyone's skin. Along the way in this 13-adventure odyssey that's one half of the show's final season, you'll see plenty of effects pieces, the sort that served as trademark of an Irwin Allen production (and managed by a respectable effects crew under the guiding hand -- don't mind the wires -- of miniatures master, L.B. Abbott. Here you'll see plenty of footage of the various scale models of the Seaview as well as looks at the Flying Sub and other machinations. For fans of the show, as well as Allen's other productions of the day, these are the frosting on the cake of these fun frolics (aka "guilty pleasures").

Don't expect much in the way of well thought out plotlines, character arcs, or cathartic resolutions. William Welch, the man who penned the majority of the Voyage scripts here, appears to be running out of ideas (similar to Peter Packer across the studio lot who just churned out "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" to an aghast Lost in Space cast). Of course, as 20th Century Fox continued to shrink Allen's budget, that pain would be passed along to the writers, they who were likely given a peek at the box of props and guest star commitments and told to conjure up something within the boundaries -- but make it exciting!

Typical of Irwin Allen productions in the latter 1960s, the pennywise producer learned how to "leverage" his assets. In other words, creatures and set pieces seen in Lost in Space and Land of the Giants would appear redressed for this season of Voyage. Sometimes, the redressing was clever and, therefore, pardoned when creatively re-purposed in an alternate context. On the other hand, a cache of such props available in the soundstage across the lot also contributed to this season's descent into a rather uninspired "monster/villain of the week" format (comparing this to the superior intrigue of the series' first scintillating season).

It all boils down to a pretty but paltry outing for the Seaview crew. Die-hard fans of the show and those with childhood remembrances will undoubtedly enjoy these dalliances, each episode's title promising more than any sideshow barker could ever muster:

Disc One
* Fires of Death
* The Deadly Dolls
* Cave of the Dead
* Journey with Fear
* Sealed Orders
* Man of Many Faces

Disc Two
* Fatal Cargo
* Time Lock
* Rescue
* Terror

Disc Three
* A Time to Die
* Blow Up
* Deadly Amphibians
* Bonus Episode: Eleven Days to Zero (Re-cut unaired series pilot episode)

Each episode is presented in the original 1.33:1 full frame format. Fans will be happy to know that Fox has continued to provide competent transfers, the image looking clean, clear and crisp, and bubbling with well saturated colors. There is some source damage visible from time to time but certainly not enough to upend your dinghy. Audio is offered in the original 1.0 mono mix or you can elect a push to two-channel mono. Both tracks are clean and free of hiss or muting. Extras include a repeat appearance of the pilot episode, in color, this time ballyhooed as being "re-cut." It's a great episode but watch it last lest you find how sub-par these Season 4 episodes really are.

The Verdict

Yes, this first installment of Season 4 is guilty but, if you enjoy guilty pleasures from the wonderful world of Irwin Allen, then you'll be glad to see more of the show on DVD.

Review content copyright © 2009 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)

* English

Running Time: 711 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Bonus Episode
* Interview
* Photo gallery

* IMDb