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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

5.0 2
Director: Irwin Allen,

Cast: Irwin Allen, Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, Barbara Eden


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Walter Pidgeon is the nominal star of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, portraying Admiral Harriman Nelson, the designer of the submarine Seaview, a glass-nosed research submarine. The sub embarks on her shakedown cruise under the polar ice cap as the movie begins. Upon surfacing, however, the crew discovers that the entire sky is on fire -- the Van Allen


Walter Pidgeon is the nominal star of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, portraying Admiral Harriman Nelson, the designer of the submarine Seaview, a glass-nosed research submarine. The sub embarks on her shakedown cruise under the polar ice cap as the movie begins. Upon surfacing, however, the crew discovers that the entire sky is on fire -- the Van Allen radiation belt has been ignited by a freak meteor shower, and the Earth is being slowly burnt to a cinder. Nelson and his colleague, Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre), devise a plan to extinguish the belt using one of the Seaview's nuclear missiles, but they are denounced at an emergency meeting of the United Nations. Disregarding the UN vote against him, Nelson decides to go forward with his plan before the Earth is destroyed, hoping to get the approval of the president of the United States while his ship races from New York to the Marianas in the Pacific to launch its missile on time and target, with the world's navies hunting her down and communication with Washington impossible because of the fire in the sky. Nelson must combat not only the threats from other ships but also the doubts of his own protégé, Commander Lee Crane (Robert Sterling), the captain of the Seaview, about his plan and his methods, and the growing suspicion -- being spread by Dr. Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), a psychiatrist who was visiting the vessel -- about his sanity, as well as the growing discontent of the crew, who would like to see their families before the end of the world, and the presence of one religious fanatic (Michael Ansara) who thinks the fire in the sky is God's will. Worse still, there appears to be a saboteur -- and possibly more than one -- aboard. The plot is episodic in pacing and features elements that were clearly derived in inspiration from Disney's 1954 production of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, such as Nelson's eccentricity and the "outlaw" status of his ship; but the undersea maneuvers to tap the trans-Atlantic telephone cable (in order to reach Washington), the battle with a giant squid, a duel with an attack submarine, and a harrowing tangle with a WWII mine field would become standard elements of the series of the same name that followed this movie two years later. Pidgeon brings dignity if not a huge amount of energy to the role of the admiral, and Lorre, Fontaine, Ansara, and Henry Daniell (playing Nelson's scientific nemesis) add some colorful performances, and Barbara Eden, as Nelson's secretary, is pretty to look at; and there are some excellent supporting performances by Delbert Monroe (aka Del Monroe, who appeared later in the series, as Kowalsky), Mark Slade, John Litel, Howard McNear, and Robert Easton. The real "star" of the movie, however, is the submarine Seaview and the special effects by L.B. Abbott, which, to be fully appreciated, should be seen in a letterboxed presentation of the movie.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Reviewing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea isn't easy -- it isn't Forbidden Planet, with lots of profound ideas scattered around its script, or even The Fly, with a story of human frailty at its core; nor is it even Journey to the Center of the Earth, with its outsized special effects, score, and casting; rather, it represents the fun side of science fiction cinema. Producer/director Irwin Allen was a popular culture maven -- if he saw the potential to recycle an idea into something new and profitable, and pitch it in a new or different way, he did it. Thus, his production of The Big Circus was a B-movie (or "nervous A"-movie) recycling of The Greatest Show on Earth, right down to having Peter Lorre (as opposed to James Stewart) in clown makeup; and Five Weeks in a Balloon was his more modest adaptation of a Jules Verne tale, done after Around the World in 80 Days. And Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was Allen's attempt to retell Disney's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in modern terms, even getting Peter Lorre into the new movie; nuclear submarines were still a source of wonder in 1961, and the Van Allen radiation belt surrounding Earth was still a new discovery, thus giving the movie a topical edge that the Disney film had lacked. Allen's direction is a little flaccid by today's standards, but the movie is great fun and paced perfectly, packing in about two hours' worth of excitement into just over 100 minutes of screen time, all of it looking sparklingly new and topical in its settings at that time. The finished film emphasized the things that Allen cared about most: adventure, excitement, lots of undersea shots (Allen had a special fascination with undersea adventures, having made the Oscar-winning documentary The Sea Around Us), and some colorful star performances. The special effects by L.B. Abbott are the real "star" of the movie, but Walter Pidgeon brings a certain eccentric dignity to the proceedings as the possibly "mad" Admiral Harriman Nelson (a pop-culture re-imagining of real-life nuclear navy gadfly Admiral Hyman Rickover), and the rest of the cast, down to the bit players, brings a lot of color to the film. The television series subsequently spawned by this movie used most of the models and special effects designs as a jumping-off point, and became what was the longest-running non-anthology network science fiction series in history, lasting four seasons.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Commentary by author Tim Colliver; Science Fiction: fantasy to reality documentary; Interview with Barbara Eden; Isolated score track; Original Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Walter Pidgeon Adm. Harriman Nelson
Joan Fontaine Dr. Susan Hiller
Barbara Eden Cathy Connors
Peter Lorre Cmdre. Lucius Emery
Robert Sterling Capt. Lee Crane
Michael Ansara Miguel Alvarez
Frankie Avalon Chip Romano
Regis Toomey Dr. Jamieson
John Litel Adm. Crawford
Howard McNear Congressman Parker
Henry Daniell Dr. Zucco
Skip Ward Member of Crew
Mark Slade Smith
Charles Tannen Gleason
Michael D. Ford Crew Member
Robert Easton Sparks
Jonathan Gilmore Young
David McLean Ned Thompson
Art Baker UN Commentator
Lawrence Gray [act] Dr. Newmar
Kendrick Huxham UN Chairman

Technical Credits
Irwin Allen Director,Original Story,Producer,Screenwriter
L.B. Abbott Special Effects
Charles Bennett Screenwriter
Herman A. Blumenthal Art Director
George Boemler Editor
Russell Faith Songwriter
Bernard Herrmann Score Composer
Winton Hoch Cinematographer
Ben Nye Makeup
Paul Sawtell Score Composer
Walter Scott Set Decoration/Design
Bert Shefter Score Composer
Jack Martin Smith Art Director
John Sturtevant Set Decoration/Design
Paul Zastupnevich Costumes/Costume Designer


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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I guess you could look at this film as a pilot to Irwin Allen's wild VTTBOTS TV series. The evil psychiatrist was cool and so was the conflicting orders and attitudes of the crew. Stop giving the captain why you can't do something or how an action won't work. Give the guy a break. Yes, should be seen in letterbox format.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must see film for anyone who likes sea.