Palatable: Fantastic Voyage
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Otto Klement, Jerome Bixby, David Duncan, Harry Kleiner
Produced by Saul David
Starring Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Raquel Welch
An indispensable scientist is likely another victim of Cold War designs, injured during an assassination attempt mere minutes after deplaning on U.S. soil and transferred to a underground operating theater, where his comatose body is subjected to an unprecedented mode of surgery. Under the command of a jittery physician (Pleasence), an unsurpassed surgeon (Kennedy), his technical coadjutor (Welch) and a coolly jocular G-man (Boyd) are deployed in a nuclear research submarine helmed by a naval captain (Redfield) that's miniaturized to atomic proportions and infused into the patient's carotid artery, from where a sally to the brain where a clot's to be dissolved with a laser rifle seems a daunting yet brief task that won't exceed the hour before the sub and its occupants re-magnify...until a succession of whammies and a presumptive saboteur cumber their efforts, inspire resourcefulness and endanger both the crew and their patient. Varicolored sets and detailed miniatures of imaginative construction enhanced with rear-projected and animated SFX represent the internal environments of adventurous passage from sterile facilities to corpus via syringe, and through arteries, veins, a stopped heart, capillaries, pleural cavity, lymphatic system and the inner ear to the destinal brain -- corporeal sites rendered as outlandish as any otherworldly. Fleischer sustains a fixating suspense heightened by silences and Leonard Rosenman's atonal score to the last few minutes by exploiting the tensions within the submarine's tight confines and the hazards of a sprawling intramural world -- alacritous antibodies, a fistula's whirlpool, gusting respiration, liquidizing corpuscles -- without neglecting potentially treacherous human dangers. Pleasence outshines his co-stars as the claustrophobically misappointed honcho, but his very casting adumbrates a few painfully prognosticable plot points. As one of the last expensive Old Hollywood sci-fi hits, Voyage succeeds on the merits of its technical excellence and conceptual novelty, but its miniature drama is satisfactory withal...for whoever can overlook its numerous plot holes.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Innerspace.