Fantastic Voyage

imageI have recently watched the classic 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and written by Harry Kleiner, based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. The film is about a submarine crew who shrink to microscopic size and venture into the body of an injured scientist to repair the damage to his brain. The original story took place in the 19th century and was meant to be a Jules Verne–style adventure, instead Kleiner added a Cold War element. The film starred Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, and Donald Pleasence. Isaac Asimov also wrote a novelization based on the screenplay.Because the novelization was released six months before the movie, many people mistakenly believed the film was based on Asimov’s book.

It takes place during the Cold War with both The United States and the Soviet Union working on technology that can miniaturize matter by shrinking individual atoms, but only for a limited amount of time, depending on how small the item is miniaturized. A scientist Dr. Jan Benes (Jean Del Val), working behind the Iron Curtain, figures out how to make the process work indefinitely. With the help of the CIA, he escapes to the West, but an attempted assassination leaves him comatose with a blood clot in his brain.

To save his life, agent Charles Grant (Stephen Boyd), pilot Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield), Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence), surgeon Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy), and his assistant Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch) are placed aboard a specially designed submarine at the C.M.D.F. (Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces) facilities. The submarine, named the Proteus, is then miniaturized and injected into Benes. The ship is reduced to one micrometer, giving the team one hour (60 minutes) to remove the clot. After the 60 minutes have elapsed, the Proteus and its crew will begin to revert to its normal size, become vulnerable to Benes’s immune system, and (in the words of Asimov’s novelization) “kill Benes regardless of the success of the surgery.”

The crew faces many obstacles during the mission. An arteriovenous fistula forces them to detour through the heart, where cardiac arrest must be induced to avoid turbulence, through the inner ear (all outside personnel have to remain silent to prevent turbulence) and replenish their supply of oxygen in the lungs. However the surgical laser is damaged and during a critical phase of the operation, it becomes obvious that one of the crew is a Russian Spy. So they face a race against time to repair the device operate on Benes and leave the body before they revert to their normal size…

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