Thursday, March 19, 2009

The 2nd coolest make-believe submarine ever

Fantastic Voyage (1966) was a just plain cool idea for a movie--a surgeon is miniaturized and and transported via a submarine through a man's blood vessels in order to excise an otherwise inoperable brain tumor.

To make matters a tad bit more suspenseful, the sick man has information vital to national security and there just might be a spy aboard the sub, determined to stop the mission.

It all makes for a fun movie with visual effects that still look great over four decades later. A few glaringly obvious plot holes (mostly fixed by Isaac Asimov in his entertaining novelization of the film) are present, but the fun stuff definitely outwieghs the mistakes. Subtle bits of sabotage force the sub off course, forcing it to take a side trip through the heart, lymph nodes and ear before it finally reaches the brain. By then, of course, there are only minutes to go before the miniaturization process wears off. The crew has to improvise their way out of one problem after another in their race to complete their mission.

But we're here to talk about the submarine. The Proteus is a small research vessel, holding a crew of five. Its futuristic look is highlighted by that little bubble on top--that's where the helmsman sits as he pilots the craft. For no particularly rational reason at all, I think that's cool.

There's also an airlock, allowing the crew to don scuba gear to carry out not just the operation (in which, by the way, the surgeon uses a hand-held laser rifle to cut the tumor loose), but also to do some of their improvised repairs. At one point, they need to access the lungs to refill their air supply. At another point, they have to clear the engine intakes of gunk picked up during a short cut through the lymph nodes.

Compact but cool-looking, the Proteus scores as the 2nd coolest make-believe submarine ever. In fact, there is only one fictional undersea vehicle that tops it.


  1. If I remember correctly, there was also a cartoon series.

  2. There was. I haven't seen it since I was a little tyke, but I remember it involved going on a variety of secret missions after being minaturized. I THINK (but I'm not sure) that their vehicle could fly.


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