20th Century Fox’s colorful, entertaining science fiction movie won two deserved Academy Awards for its visual effects and set decoration/art direction and was nominated for three others (sound effects, editing, and cinematography).
FANTASTIC VOYAGE's high-concept plot, delivered by screenwriter Harry Kleiner (BULLITT) based on story elements by David Duncan (THE TIME MACHINE), Otto Klement, and Jerome Bixby (IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND EARTH), is clever, but also contains holes, inconsistencies, and downright illogic that can drive you crazy if you let them (Isaac Asimov corrected some of them in his 1966 novelization).
A defecting Soviet agent is attacked before he can tell the U.S. government his secrets. The only way to repair the blood clot in his brain is to miniaturize a submarine, inject it into his bloodstream, and allow a doctor to zap the clot with a laser from inside the brain. What could go wrong? Plenty, including a dastardly saboteur (who can it be?) and deadly antibodies that attach themselves to curvy Raquel Welch’s skintight wetsuit.
Aboard the Proteus are frogman and agent Grant (Stephen Boyd), surgeon Duval (Arthur Kennedy) and his assistant Cora Peterson (Welch), doctor Michaels (Donald Pleasence), and sub pilot Owens (William Redfield). Monitoring the crew from outside are Army men Carter (Edmond O’Brien) and Reid (Arthur O’Connell). Not only do they have to zip up the carotid artery, zap the clot, and get out of the man’s body, they have to do it in sixty minutes or else they’ll revert to their normal size and make a bloody mess.
As I mentioned, the writing is subpar with bland characters and dialogue. How much it matters in an adventure of this spectacle is up to you. Richard Fleischer’s (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA) direction is calm and allows his effects guys to carry the burden, which they do with great skill. FANTASTIC VOYAGE was a hit (perhaps audiences were reminded of Fox’s earlier smash VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) and spawned a Gold Key comic book, a Saturday morning cartoon series, countless spoofs and parodies, and an unabashed direct-to-video ripoff, ANTIBODY starring Lance Henriksen and Robin Givens, in 2002.