Last day of the Edinburgh International Film Festival today — big party in a cave! A closing film, NOT ANOTHER HAPPY ENDING, written and produced by people I know! And from tomorrow, though I have stored up a few mini-reviews of films seen, Shadowplay will go back to being more random and eclectic.
Still thinking fondly of FANTASTIC VOYAGE, shown in the Richard Fleischer retrospective. The opening intertitle we saw was actually different from the one sampled above — it was more colourful, being set against a deep blue background, which suits the film’s pop-art / plastic / electron microscopy / psychedelic sixties sci-fi feel. It also made more vague, giddy and delightful promises that this kind of thing would be happening for real in the near future. Of course, Tory cutbacks mean you cannot yet have Raquel Welch injected into your bloodstream on the National Health, despite the obvious benefits. You’ll be lucky to get Arthur Kennedy. In fact, one could probably make a case for David Cameron being a kind of miniaturized Donald Pleasence in the bloodstream of the body politic, covertly loosening our lasers and fraying our tow lines.
Inside the brain — neurons sparkle with visible thoughts — a scene which contains more thoughts than Sylvester Stallone’s entire career.
Fleischer kept making these informal trilogies — true life psychopathy (COMPULSION, THE BOSTON STRANGLER, TEN RILLINGTON PLACE), classic SF (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, SOYLENT GREEN). This one is pretty silly, but it kind of knows it. Early dialogue sets the tone — “I don’t want to be miniaturized!” protests Stephen Boyd, weakly. “It’s just for an hour,” says Edmond O’Brien. You can’t argue with that.
The script seems determined to keep Pleasence in the shadows as the last man you’d suspect, only gradually revealing his perfidy (He believes in evolution, is therefore a commie) but by casting D.P., Fleischer throws him to the audience with neon horns blinking on his bald pate. This generates a clear line of suspense, but does leave the heroes looking stupid.
Still, I can’t help wondering why there was no sequel (asides from the wonderful INNERSPACE). The movie seems to be preparing one as you watch, as Edmond O’Brien puffs cigar after cigar and empties the sugar bowl into his infinite series of coffees. At the end of this one, he should have suffered a massive heart attack, necessitating another mini-submarine intervention. Sequels are always cheaper, so this time the team would probably consist of Don Murray, Roddy McDowell, Pamela Tiffin and Michael Dunn, who’s miniature already and will save on costuming.
In the third film, O’Brien is miniaturized and injected into himself, creating an eternal fractal loop, spinning from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME TO 99 AND 44/100% DEAD and regressing to the vanishing point like a human Matryoshka doll.
THE END… OR IS IT?