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Blu-ray Reviews

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 11 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 06 2013 - 01:34 PM

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Blu-ray Review

Irwin Allen, master of the disaster film and one of the preeminent purveyors of sci-fi television in the 1960s, offers a tantalizing preview of his special effects marvels to come in the 1970s with his 1961 adventure Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Strictly popcorn fodder, the film nevertheless is a fun viewing experience thanks to a top-notch cast of stars and sterling featured players, terrific special effects, and the Cinemascope format which was the perfect vehicle (no pun intended) for delivering the story of a massively long atomic submarine on a perilous mission which in some ways functions as a precursor to the effects of today’s global warming.

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Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 1.0 DD (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Rating: PG

Run Time: 1 Hr. 46 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

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Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 10/08/2013

MSRP: $24.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon) is justifiably proud of his atomic submarine the Seaview. While showing off its marvels to a committee composed of psychiatrist Dr. Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), disapproving Congressman Parker (Howard McNear), and Admiral Crawford (John Litel), the ship is bombarded with ice that seems to be sinking. On investigating they find the Van Allen radiation belt circling the Earth has caught on fire and threatens to turn the planet into a cinder in a matter of weeks. Admiral Nelson and his friend Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre) have devised a plan of destroying the burning belt with an atomic missile launched from the sub, but before he can get the go-ahead from the President, all communication with Washington is lost. The Admiral decides to act on his own much to the displeasure of his second in command Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) and a competing scientist (Henry Daniell) who thinks the belt will burn itself out without anyone doing anything. Nelson has only sixteen days to get clear around the world to the Marianas Islands in the Pacific to launch the missile, but one peril after another (including a saboteur on board) slows down the ship’s progress at every turn.Irwin Allen’s story which formed the basis for the screenplay by him and Charles Bennett spreads out the obstacles the ship must face throughout the film’s running time (a ravenous squid, an angry swordfish, the generator going out, fire, gas, a near-mutinous crew, a mine field, an octopus, an enemy sub shooting torpedoes) although by the last quarter hour, the perils topple one on top of the other making the denouement seem a bit rushed and more than a little forced. The identity of the saboteur (these kinds of movies always seem to have one) will actually be a surprise for first-time viewers, and that character’s demise gives the audience a double dose of satisfaction. The Cinemascope screen is perfect for the enormously long Seaview which sometimes extends even beyond the film frame, and the widescreen is also perfect for accommodating the large cast of characters who on quite a few occasions stretch from one end of the frame to the other. Allen’s direction is sure and solid, but there’s nothing showy about his helming, and there are occasional problems with pacing when the sailors are lying around in their room listening to a broadcast or waiting around for something to happen. Special effects were pretty state-of-the-art at the time, and they still hold up today for the most part (the blast of the Van Allen Belt being the only real letdown in the film apart from a fairly unrealistic squid).For an adventure film, the performances are just fine with none of the stars outshining any of the others. Walter Pidgeon is certainly commanding as the Admiral, Barbara Eden and Robert Sterling make a cute romantic couple (and he gets to do most of the “gathering fury” acting in the film, and Joan Fontaine brings class to the role of the psychiatrist. Michael Ansara plays his religious fanatic more low key than is usual for this kind of role, much to his credit, and familiar faces like Regis Toomey as the ship’s medic, Peter Lorre as the Commodore, Howard McNear as the perpetually frowning congressman, and Frankie Avalon (who sings the ludicrously lush title song) as a chippy youngster make positive individual impressions. Mark Slade and Del Monroe, two of the Seabees, went on to appear in the subsequent ABC television series based on the movie.


Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

The film’s Cinemascope 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. There really are no problems at all with the quality of this high definition presentation. Sharpness is striking and consistent throughout the running time of the movie. Color is nicely saturated and maintained wonderfully throughout with appealing and believable flesh tones. Even the deeply saturated reds of the inflamed Van Allen Belt are beautifully under control. Black levels are excellent, and contrast is consistently rendered. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix replicates what moviegoers of the time were likely hearing in the theater were they lucky enough to have a theater which offered a stereo aural experience. The well recorded dialogue is pretty much spread across the entire front soundstage but not with the same kind of vivid vocal separations into alternate channels that one can hear in other 4.0 Cinemascope soundtrack mixes on other Blu-ray discs from Fox. Music and ambient effects get a nice spread across the front soundstage with occasional spills into the rear channel. While there are a sizable number of booming sound effects in the film, the bass is not especially heavy in this mix.


Special Features Rating: 3/5

Audio Commentary: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea expert/author Tim Colliver offers an entertainingly enthusiastic analysis of the film identifying the actors and providing information on how effects shots were handled.Isolated Score Track: The music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is offered in a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix.Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality (16:50, SD): film historians and filmmakers like Nicholas Meyer, Ray Harryhausen, Bob Burns, and Glenn Erickson discuss the history of science fiction films and relate how some of them uncannily presage events in today’s world.Barbara Eden Interview (5:57, SD): the actress shares memories of making the film and working with people like Irwin Allen, Walter Pidgeon, and Peter Lorre.Theatrical Trailer (3:12, SD)


Overall Rating: 4/5

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is still an entertaining if supremely innocent science fiction adventure yarn. This beautiful Blu-ray edition brings viewers a sterling picture and good sound mix with a nice sprinkling of bonus material. Recommended!


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted October 06 2013 - 03:00 PM

The reason for the lack of smooth and wide vocal separations on the audio track is due to the fact that Voyage was not recorded discretely with 3-mics for on-set dialogue as was standard operating procedure for CinemaScope pictures at Fox from 1953-60. From the Terrace (1960) was the last production to use the 3-mic system. All productions following that had on-set dialogue recorded with a single mic and then pan-and-potted into the corresponding channel.



#3 of 11 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 06 2013 - 05:53 PM

Thanks for the information.

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 06 2013 - 09:34 PM

Never saw this film.  Sitting here wondering if it is worth ordering or not.

 

Sounds like it would make a nice companion to Fantastic Voyage.


 

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#5 of 11 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 07 2013 - 04:00 AM

Never saw this film.  Sitting here wondering if it is worth ordering or not.

 

Sounds like it would make a nice companion to Fantastic Voyage.

 

It would.

 

The first DVD release of both these films was on a Fox flipper DVD which I had never upgraded. A friend is now its possessor.



#6 of 11 ONLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted October 07 2013 - 04:39 AM

Yes, gotta have both.  I remember seeing this one at drive-ins with the family at least a couple of times in the early '60s.  I do have the "good" DVD but I don't think I ever got around to watching it.



#7 of 11 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted October 07 2013 - 01:58 PM

Thanks for the information.

It's a pleasure to help!

 

I just ordered my copy of this release and am looking forward to watching it, given your praise of the image transfer. The only aspect of this disc that I'm not excited about is the fact that Fox failed to provide a lossless isolated score. Even though I think that the score for the picture is mediocre (and would probably never listen to the track), it would demonstrate that Fox wants to go all the way on their releases. Their failure to port over the still gallery in any form also suggests a slight laziness in the extras department. The same issue is present on the Fantastic Voyage release, but in that case the failure to provide a lossless IST is next to unforgivable.


Edited by Lromero1396, October 07 2013 - 02:07 PM.


#8 of 11 OFFLINE   ROclockCK

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Posted October 07 2013 - 05:04 PM

Never saw this film.  Sitting here wondering if it is worth ordering or not.

 

Sounds like it would make a nice companion to Fantastic Voyage.

 

Apparently Fox has always thought so too Ron. Throughout the history of home video - including the Laserdisc era - the studio has always tag-teamed the release of these 2 pictures, typically day and date, even as a double feature like the first DVD. It's just one of those things a movie fan can count on...like anniversary reissues of The Wizard Of Oz. ;)

 

In tribute to the almost comical Fox practice of always pairing the release of Fantastic Voyage with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea something from Ol' Blue Eyes:

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Z8o7Zqv9AD4

 

In the right frame of mind and/or adequately medicated, Voyage is still a blast. Not only is it one of the handsomest 'Scope-era productions, but it moves like gangbusters. And Walter Pigeon's feisty take on the Admiral, especially playing off the always dour Lorre, never fails to entertain. Ditto for Barbara Eden ludicrously 'clicking' her way through those atomic sub galleys in spike heels...with the best gyrating fanny ever shot in 'Scope. Irwin Allen knew which side of his bread to butter.  :rolleyes:

 

Overall, a proudly old-fashioned, rather cornball sci-fantasy-adventure romp which doesn't seem to age much for the kid in all of us. Within its period and genre limitations, it still works marvellously. But if you do take a chance on this, just be sure to leave your grey matter under your other cap...



#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 07 2013 - 09:16 PM

Thanks, guys, as always.  Will order.


 

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#10 of 11 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted October 12 2013 - 08:08 AM

I finally had a chance to pick-up a copy of VTtBOTS and Fantastic Voyage last night, got a great price too.I thought the film sounded and looked great! I sampled the audio commentary during the last 1/3 of the film and it's a fun one. Image does indeed look great. I grew up on the series, and the other Allen TV shows but was never a huge fan. Always will be the Trek fan. But this is a fun movie never the less and an enjoyable romp for the kid in all of us.It's hard to separate Walter Pigeon with Dr. Morbius in Forbidden Planet for me, how he does the tour of the Seaview is very reminiscent of his tour of the Krell Lab. Even the Seaview reactor has a certain familiarity with the Krell furnace.I have the above mentioned flipper disc that contained both films and that disc had been watched many times! Both films are fun. I had a chance to compare the Voyage DVD to the new blu ray, i only viewed the opening titles, the Seaview intro and the Admiral Nelson tour of the Seaview sequence. I didn't really expect a massive improvement, but there is a very good improvement indeed! The main thing that I was impressed by is that it did indeed feel like that old cliche, like a dirty windshield has been cleaned off and you can see more detail and color saturation. The metal panels with the diamond texture in the bridge stood out! The details on the Seaview model stood out more. I could see the hammer finish on the metal bulkhead doors to sickbay. The faux wood grain walls on the Admiral's cabin is very much noticable. Things I'm noticing I never noticed before stand out. But we're there on the DVD. Though this is the first time I've seen the movie on my new 65" screen, so that has a lot to do with seeing stuff I never noticed before! I look forward to the extras. Though I was a little disappointed with the Barbara Eden interview, looked like raw footage that could have used a better editing job and some intros and outros. And perhaps Michael Ansara was unavailable or ill at the time prior to his death to film an interview. A pity.I'll be keeping the DVD flipper for sure, but no doubt this is very worth the upgrade! Fantastic Voyage is next up!

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted October 12 2013 - 08:14 AM

By the way, forgot to add that the Seaview has always been one of the nicest designs for a science fiction film craft and a favorite. If you happen to like to build model kits, Moebius released a very accurate and detailed 38.5" long kit last year. It's in my collection to be built. It comes with a fully detailed observation deck viewable through the glass nose windows. Suitable to be lit internally too!

Edited by Nelson Au, October 12 2013 - 08:27 AM.






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