Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

“The wild dreams of today are the practical realities of tomorrow.”

When the admiral (Walter Pidgeon) of a U.S. naval submarine known as the Seaview learns that the Van Allen radiation belts have caused an Earth-destroying fire, he heads with his crew — including his captain (Robert Sterling), his trusty commodore (Peter Lorre), and a scientist (Joan Fontaine) studying stress — to seek permission from the U.N. science chief (Henry Daniell) to blast a nuclear missile at the belts; but when Daniell says no, Admiral Nelson (Pidgeon) proceeds with his plans anyway, leading Sterling and Fontaine to wonder if he may be suffering from a psychological breakdown.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Disaster Flicks
  • Henry Daniell Films
  • Joan Fontaine Films
  • Nuclear Threat
  • Peter Lorre Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Submarines
  • Walter Pidgeon Films

Irwin Allen (the “Master of Disaster”) is perhaps best known by film fanatics for producing The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974) — though he did actually direct a few titles as well, including the Oscar-winning documentary The Sea Around Us (1953) (not listed in GFTFF), the notoriously awful “historical drama” The Story of Mankind (1957), The Lost World (1960), The Swarm (1978), and this Fox CinemaScope production featuring a never-ending series of (what else?) calamities.

Even for a relatively uninformed viewer like myself, it’s obvious that the “science” behind just about every plot element in this film is nonsensical, leading one to focus instead on the visuals (Winton Hoch’s cinematography is beautiful):

… the reasonable special effects:

… the corny dialogue (“This ‘toy’ of mine is a demanding lady”), and the overly earnest performances by a cast of Big Names:

Poor Lorre is relegated to an initial scene showing him “walking” a (plastic) shark:

… and then otherwise simply lurks around the set looking supremely glum.

Meanwhile, Fontaine has primarily one (concerned) expression on her face throughout the entire film:

… while Daniell is given exactly one scene:

… and Barbara Eden’s sexy lieutenant is stuck trying to keep things hot with her fiance (Sterling):

… while mediating his increasing distrust of Pidgeon. Watch for Frankie Avalon (who sings the title song) in a bit role as a music-loving lieutenant:

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine widescreen cinematography

Must See?
Nope; you can skip this one.


One thought on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

  1. First viewing (5/2/22). Not must-see, though it will have certain ‘nostalgic’ appeal for those with an interest in old-fashioned adventure tales.

    Variety (magazine) called it “a crescendo of mounting jeopardy” ~ which, in the main, is accurate. Though today (and maybe, to a degree, even then) the film is somewhat laughable from a visual / logistical standpoint (i.e., the ‘menacing’ octopus is straight out of Ed Wood).

    It’s also talky as hell (esp. in the early sequences but also fairly verbose throughout) and, ultimately, not as compelling as, say, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’.

    In sidebar fashion, however, viewers with climate change on the brain may find particular interest in the film’s content – even if it isn’t ‘early warning’ material. The accompanying connection to spiritual concerns is intact:

    “Why does God want to destroy us?”
    “Haven’t we tried to destroy ourselves?”

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