Release Date: June 05, 2007.
Starring: Walter Pidgeon (Adm. Harriman Nelson), Joan Fontaine (Dr. Susan Hiller), Barbara Eden (Lt Cathy Connors), Peter Lorre (Comm. Lucius Emery), Frankie Avalon (Lt (j.g.) Danny Romano)
Written by: Irwin Allen & Charles Bennett
Directed by: Irwin Allen
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is an undisputable classic in 1960s sci-fi adventure film. Its dazzling visual effects and thrilling underwater photography made this film memorable to many. Tackling now what seems as a global warming problem today, the crew upon the atomic submarine Seaview risks life and death to prevent global catastrophe!
While on a routine dive at the North Pole, the crew’s sub is unexplainably being hit by some foreign objects from the sea’s surface. As they work their way into the clear and rise to the surface, Admiral Nelson and his crew are met with intense heat from a fiery sky! The polar ice caps are melting and iceberg chunks are falling into the sea. According to those on land, a radiation belt from space is heating up the earth intensely causing drought death around the world. It seems that underwater may be the safest place for the crew for now – that is until they are met with deadly giant sea creatures and enemy submarines.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is dated by the effects but not so much that it reduces the believability of this film. In fact, it’s the technical accuracy of the film that somewhat kills believability. While it hasn’t been one of my favourite classics, the film did spin off four seasons in television from 1964-1968, and are also available remastered on Fox DVD. Keeping the Cinema Classics Collection tradition, the keepcase is packaged in a thick cardboard slipcase and includes a four page booklet.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3.5/5
The 2.35:1 image is clean – no surprise here because Fox manages to deliver quality with its classics collection. The print looks good and the clean up job to eliminate any major artefacts from it has been successful. As a result, it’s a pleasing view. Resolution is only fair when comparing it to other titles. I was wishing the image could have more real detail than what it contains as I found it somewhat soft on an 8-foot wide screen (to be fair, 8 feet is much too big for standard definition video at my viewing distance of 14 feet.) It’s quite possible that some noise reduction has been applied to but I can’t confirm that. Regardless, there doesn’t appear to be any attempt to artificially sharpen the image either. All other aspects of the image are impressive; black and white levels, colour saturation and hues are all very respectable.
AUDIO QUALITY: 2.5/5
I’m somewhat torn as to what soundtrack I’m favourable to. As English options Fox has included both Dolby Digital 4.0 and 2.0 surround options. The original soundtrack is the 4-track system so I opted to listen to the 4.0 option first. As far as front channel separation is concerned, the dedicated L,C,R channels make this the superior option. What is disappointing is the encoded mono surround channel. Its dead quiet throughout most of the movie. When it is active, saying it’s hardly noticeable is an understatement. Even during the most aggressive moments of the film the surround level is too quiet. This leaves me wondering if it’s the reality of this soundtrack or if it was mistakenly encoded at too low of a volume. A quick switch to the Dolby 2.0 surround option makes the surrounds come alive with effects and music extending to the surrounds. The downside of the 2.0 presentation is that front channel separation is inferior. The soundstage is slightly narrower and panning between channels isn’t as smooth. An overall drop in volume level is also noticed. So you must decide what’s more important to you; do you prefer a stronger front soundstage or more surround envelopment?
The recording of the soundtrack is limited in fidelity. Low bass and high frequency isn’t present (I think the limitation of the system was 30-15 000Hz). I was disappointed listening to the score in the final mix. Resolution isn’t that great and it peaks frequently to the uncomfortable distortion level. Compare this to the isolated music score and you’ll be wishing that the isolated track could have been used as part of a whole new soundtrack reconstruction. The stereo orchestral score is much better sounding; the depth and detail that is almost completely lost on the final sound mix can be heard. Fox was wise to include an isolated music score.
Directional dialogue was a big thing during this era. I love listening to soundtracks with directional dialogue; using phantom imaging between channels, as actors move across large screens the dialogue “hovers” over top of them for a sense of realism rather than just having all dialogue shoved in a center channel like the soundtracks of today. Directional dialogue has been preserved on this film, although the execution of it in the original recording is rudimentary. It’s far from smooth during the pans and seems to skip across the screen instead. I can’t say I found it distracting, but I wasn’t impressed either. Although I’d rather listen to it this way than a remix that sums all dialogue to the center channel – a practice that’s been used by other studios in the past for video releases.
TACTILE FUN!! ZERO /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
No LFE channel = No Effects!
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2/5
Like an underwater diving adventure of the unexpected, a handful of features are found on this disc. While not treasures, most interesting is the 16 minute documentary Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality. It’s enhanced for widescreen TVs (nice!) and features interviews with historians, writers, and environmentalists about how science fiction writers have always been ahead of our time when it comes to world issues. The contrasting visions of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are discussed and seeing that global warming is the political hot topic right now in many countries, it is also one of the main topics of this documentary. It ties in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea along with other early science fiction films. Overall, it’s a good documentary.
Also included on this disc is some older interview footage with Barbara Eden (6.21, 4:3) on the film and director, a props display where you can select four props from the film and rotate them 360 degrees with your remote. Image galleries from production art, production stills, posters, lobby cards are also included as well as an Exhibitor’s Campaign Manual where you can select images and articles from to read at a closer view.
As mentioned in the audio portion of this review, an isolated score track is accessible as well as a commentary by the author of the 1992 book Seaview – The Making of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It’s a good commentary as he’s articulate with his words and clearly knows the project well. If there’s anything you wanted to know about the novel, the film, or the T.V. series, this is a commentary not to miss.
IN THE END...
This current wave of Cinema Classics from Twentieth Century Fox includes Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Fantastic Voyage, and The Neptune Factor. Even though the image and sound elements are dated, we can’t fault these releases if time and effort have been put in to restore these classics. Once again, Fox doesn’t disappoint on the delivery of these titles and I consider them a welcomed addition to any collection.
June 10, 2007.