Fox // 1964 // 676 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // November 22nd, 2006
"La, lala, la, lala, la, la, la...la, lala, la, lala, la, la,
-- Crane singing the secret musical code in "Escape to Venice"
In 1965, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was going strong on the small screen and James Bond's Thunderball was breaking the box office. The Soviets had spy satellites and LBJ sent 50,000 troops to Vietnam. And though the Cold War wasn't quite so cold, we were still living in an era of mistrust. Those themes and fears were the bases for Voyage to the Bottom of Sea: Season 2, Vol. 1. Monsters of the week need not apply.
In 1964, Irwin Allen made his first foray into the world of TV when he shrunk down his major motion picture Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and turned it into a weekly series. We've still got Richard Basehart and David Hedison (The Fly) heading up the crew of the submarine Seaview. Bland-but-beloved Bob Dowdell is there as the sub's exec and Terry Becker as Chief Sharkey. We also have recurring background players turned fan favorites Del Monroe and Paul Trinka. Allan Hunt adds a bit of youthful enthusiasm as surfer boy, Crewman Riley.
Other than cast tweaks, there were two major changes to the series in this season. First was the use of living color. For the first time, audiences got to see the lovely blue-green ocean with its bright, white-capped waves. Such a waste that the Seaview herself is nothing but a dull gray...oh. . wait. . time for major change number two! The addition of the bright yellow Flying Sub! This clever gadget was berthed beneath Seaview's command deck (and they were smart enough to retool the front windows of the sub model to match). The "sub" had a pilot and co-pilot seat and room for two more. Its unusual saucer shape made it visually stunning as it sliced upward, breaking the surface of the ocean to become airborne time and time again. The Flying Sub was so popular with fans that the model kit made by Aurora and then Monogram is still highly sought after today.
The second season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is an interesting mix of plots with the emphasis still on spying, action, and adventure. There are a few more fanciful storylines scattered throughout the season, but most don't go further than you see in a basic James Bond flick. Don't worry, though. If you're a fan of the monster-of-the-week stories, they'll be popping up real soon.
Let's take a look at what you get this time out.
Disc One: Side One
* "Jonah and the Whale"
The Mission: The crew is out to rescue Nelson and pretty scientist Gia Scala when their diving bell is swallowed by a whale.
The Debriefing: This variation on the biblical tale is delightfully claustrophobic. The real winner here is the whale's innards, a set that was used as human innards for the film Fantastic Voyage. Watch the rescue party tromp through fleshy blood and guts as they're battered by waves of water every time the whale swallows. A
* "Time Bomb"
The Mission: Nelson is on a spy mission to learn the truth about a Russian nuclear plant, unaware that he himself is a walking bomb set to explode when he comes in close contact with radiation.
The Debriefing: This very James Bond episode has Nelson as the love interest to naughty Ina Balin (sorry, I had trouble with that). It's full of gadgets, girls, and action.B
* "And Five of Us Are Left..."
The Mission: The Seaview discovers five WWII soldiers surviving since the war in an underwater cave. One, a Japanese officer, has trouble coping with the news that his country has lost the war.
The Debriefing: A very poignant episode that is quite different for this series. Not as fast paced and full of action as the others, it's extremely well written and acted. A
* "The Cyborg"
The Mission: The marvelous Victor Buono (Batman) guests as a scientist who insists that Nelson "donate" his knowledge to a Cyborg databank whether Nelson wants to or not.
The Debriefing: This is one of the first episodes to stray more toward the sci-fi/fantasy realm with faceless Cyborgs and a cheaply made set of four pieces of equipment in a dark room. All the points go to Buono, who is just delightfully wicked. B-
* "Escape from Venice"
The Mission: Traveling in Venice, Crane is wounded and framed for murder as he tries to deliver a coded musical message to the Seaview.
The Debriefing: Ah the song! The song has stayed with me for forty years! I can still sing it. Another truly Bondish episode with plenty of evil henchman, gadgets, lovely ladies and even a villain in a casino. A-
* "The Left-Handed Man"
The Mission: Nelson gets involved in political intrigue but beware the left-handed man
The Debriefing: An attempt at a more politically based thriller. Nothing special. B-
* "The Deadliest Game"
The Mission: Crane and the President of the United States are threatened by a possible nuclear reactor overload in an underground shelter.
The Debriefing: It's simple. Why is there a nuclear reactor in a underground bomb shelter? C
The Mission: Giant fish and sea monsters? No, it's not Monster of the Week, it's simply the result of a hallucinogenic drug sprinkled on the food in the Seaview's galley. Or is it?
The Debriefing: Confusing tale full of badly explained plot twists. C
* "The Peacemaker"
The Mission: Cold War tale that has an American scientist giving a bomb to the communists in order to keep the balance of power in the world. Seeing the error of his ways, the scientist wants to return to the US and he needs the Seaview's help to do it.
The Debriefing:Another interesting spy vs. spy tale that speaks to the idea of bombs for peace. A-
* "The Silent Saboteurs"
The Mission: Crane ends up with two Chinese agents (one good, one bad) claiming to be his contact when he combs the jungle for a weapon that can shoot down satellites in space.
The Debriefing: George Takei (Star Trek) guest stars in this story that owes it's look and feel to the war in Vietnam. B+
* "The X Factor"
The Mission: This time it's a toy company as the front for a spy ring looking to drain the knowledge of brilliant scientists.
The Debriefing: Instead of Victor Buono we have John McGiver but basically it's Cyborg all over again. C
* "The Machines Strike Back"
The Mission: When drone missiles begin firing on their own, Nelson tries to discover if it's a computer error or human sabotage.
The Debriefing:Another adventurous tale of near misses along with subtext about the dangers of man and his machines. B
* "The Monster from Outer Space"
The Mission: The Seaview retreieves a space probe from the sea without realizing that there is an alien Super Elastic Bubble Plastic monster still attached. The creature proceeds to enslave the entire crew with only Nelson and Sharky left to fight them off and save the sub.
The Debriefing: Ah finally! A true Monster of the Week episode. This episode is so bad, it's good. Really. Watching Shakespearean actor Richard Basehart fending off this rubber monster is priceless and I got this odd thrill seeing the generally bland Chip Morton take command of the Seaview away from the stalwart Captain Crane! B-
This set doesn't have as many great special features as previous sets. There is a nice photo gallery that includes the Mad Magazine send up of the series. There is also twenty minutes of behind the scenes special effects footage showing the Seaview models cooperating and not. It's amusing at first and tedious to watch by the end.
One unusual bonus involves the opening theme song. Apparently they had planned to go with a different theme for the second season but changed their minds (thank heavens) after the first outing. Fox Home Video has left that unusual alternate theme on the first episode just as it was when it aired in the sixties and I call that die-hard dedication to the fan base since this theme was never used when the show aired in syndication. Kudos to the folks at Fox.
What can I say here? I love Irwin Allen. Okay, so there could have been a few more extras and Hedison is still around -- why not have him do a commentary? Other than that, I've got no complaints.
Once again, Fox has done a tremendous job bringing back this classic series from the sixties. The print is crisp and clear. The sound is terrific and the packaging really does the show justice. Die hard Irwin Allen fans (and there are many of us) won't be disappointed -- and if you've never see the show, I'd give this season a try. Slightly lighter than Season One and not as silly as the later seasons, it's the perfect choice for the first timer.
The court finds Voyage to the Bottom of Sea: Season 2, Vol. 1 not guilty. Close all water tight doors. Batten down the hatches and get ready to dive, dive, dive.
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 676 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Still Galleries
* Behind the Scenes Special Effect Footage
* Irwin Allen News Network
* David Hedison Site