Donald Pleasence in Fantastic voyage

Not now, Cora!

Not just now, Cora!There are some great lines in Fantastic Voyage (some of them cited below), but I ended up going for a cheap joke at the expense of Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence. I was inspired by the strip in the middle of the postcard above here, which is a still from the DVD. (What she’s actually doing is zipping her wetsuit closed preparatory to leaving the submarine to help unclog intake filters.) In my defence, the film-makers blatantly included Ms Welch in the cast only for her well-endowed chest – she has minimal acting duties.

I don’t know when I first saw Fantastic Voyage. I’d like it to have been at a matinée performance when it was released in Britain in the autumn of 1966, but I suppose that’s unlikely. (I would only have been 8 years old.) In all probability I saw it first on television sometime in the early 70s. The puzzling thing is, though, I think I remember the colours, but I don’t think we had a colour TV at the time.

Now the Oscar-winning special effects seem dated. The sea of arterial red corpuscles looks suspiciously like a back-projected close-up of a lava lamp. But lense flares (for example in the picture below) do hint at one of the effects JJ Abrams was trying to recreate in his recent ‘re-envisioning’ of Star Trek. (See here.)
Fantastic voyage 1
A further source of memory confusion is that I almost certainly read Isaac Asimov’s novelisation of Fantastic Voyage (in which he corrected all the more gross scientific errors) before I saw the film.

Still, the scenes with the miniaturised submarine voyaging through a human body to deliver a surgical team to an otherwise inaccessible blood clot impressed me no end. It was one of the things that motivated me to achieve the high grade I did in my Biology O-level when I was 16. (Grade 2. I did better in Biology than in English Language. Which may not surprise any of my former students who have had the pleasure of studying English with me!)

Here are some of the great lines from the film I could have used but didn’t:

Arterial wall to the left!

They’ve crossed over into the jugular vein through an arterial veinous fistula!

That puts us right here which means we can head for the subarachnoid cavity.

The semilunar valve should be on our left any second now.

One other thought: In American films and TV series, 80% of the time, if one of the characters speaks in a British English accent, you know that’s the villain. Fantastic Voyage is no different. As soon as Donald Pleasence opens his mouth you know he’s the bad guy.
Donald Pleasence in Fantastic voyage
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The Internet Movie Database page for Fantastic Voyage (1966) here.

2 thoughts on “Not now, Cora!

    • A little further digging and I discovered Asimov was invited to write the novelization of the existing script before the the film was due to be released. He agreed, but only if he was allowed to fix the scientific holes. That was OK, but his fixes did not make it into the film as they had already started shooting.

      The fixes included, for example, having the submarine come out of the patient’s body though his tear duct and not get left behind as in the film. Even though the film makes it clear the submarine is “eaten” by white blood cells, Asimov pointed out that the miniaturised molecules of which the submarine was composed would, logically, also return to their original size after the 60 minute limit was passed, with fatal consequences for the patient.

      Anyway, delays in the filming and Asimov’s famous writing speed (very very much greater than yours truly) meant that the book was published before the film was released, so it looked as though the film was a travesty of Asimov’s book, rather than Asimov book being a correction of the film.

      Not many people know that! 🙂

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