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Friday, January 04, 2013

Ah, 1966!

(This blog usually saves non-political posts for the weekend. Screw consistency.)

When I was a wee tyke, Mom took the family to Fantastic Voyage, which I pronounced the greatest film ever made. I just saw it again. Not only is the thing still great, it's now the funniest film of all time. I defy anyone to watch it without going into Rifftrax mode.

The "micronaut" crew is led by Stephen Boyd. If you're a younger person who has never experienced Boyd-ness, picture William Shatner -- then imagine what Shatner might be like if he were incapable of showing any emotion other than an inchoate simmering resentment.

The crew also includes Donald Pleasance (as the scientist whom everyone trusts even though he practically has the word "SPY" stamped on his forehead), Arthur Kennedy (as The Old Philosopher) and Raquel Welch. Raquel does absolutely nothing in this movie except fill out a tight wet suit. And she asks a lot of really basic questions about science and stuff because, gee, she's just a girl.

This has got to be the best cast ever. Could the producers have improved upon it? Maybe if they had found room for Paul Lynde. Or Frank Gorshin. Or Charles Nelson Reilly. Or DeForest Kelly. Or...

Alan Hale. I just read that the producers originally wanted Alan Hale to play the sub driver. Yes! Alan Hale was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Says so, right there in the Mahabharata.) With Alan Hale on board, this film would have transcended Transcendence Itself.

The most hilarious moments occur when Arthur Kennedy waxes philosophical, which he does at every opportunity. Sweartagod, at one point he starts quoting from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. Somewhere around the inner ear sequence, he becomes converted to what we now call Intelligent Design, while Donald Pleasance proves his Marxist villainy by sticking up for Darwin. 

How could anyone on board not immediately spot Pleasance (who had recently played the best Satan in cinema history) as the traitor? I mean, he had that voice, that accent, those creepy cadences... Pleasance always seemed like the kind of guy who could perform an icepick lobotomy on his own child. For fun.

Many of the effects still look trippy, especially the Giant Undulating Lung Set (complete with smoke particles), which must have been a bitch to build and operate. I don't want to see a CGI remake of this movie. It looks fine the way it is.

But even as a tiny lad, I wondered: What's lighting up those sets? Why is the human body so bright inside?

Popular culture was unfathomably great in the 1965-1970 period, especially for kids. I'd give anything to go back, just for a day.
A republican remake could cast Dick Cheney, John Boehner, George Bush, and Ann Coulter in no particular order. The sub would exit the body through the butt.
No actor is as good as Shatner. Also, no singer.
You've been watching Hollywood Squares repeats, haven't you?


Shatner as "White Comanche"-- with great music. Great fun indeed. Raquel Welch getting attacked by antibodies-- irony of the highest order.
Joe, I know that you and I are the same age, and codgers always think that they're youth was a golden age, but 1966 is unassailable. The Beatles, Byrds and Beach Boys were in heavy rotation on on AM radio. Our parents bought color TVs, which we watched while eating Quisp. Comic books cost 12 cents--at Googie-style gas stations and mom-and-pop grocers whose neon signs are now in museums.

For the record, the first movie ever saw was "A Hard Day's Night. At a drive-in. In Aurora, Colo. Paradise lost indeed.
Odd you should choose 1966, which had a unique importance to all Englishmen. And not because of the Half Man Half Biscuit classic, 1966 and all that.
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