'Voyage To the Bottom of the Sea' was a movie that was ahead of its time. Released in 1961, it's one of the first films to deal with an impending doom on our planet and environment by way of global warming, in so many words. Director and writer Irwin Allen is no stranger to disaster movies and I'm sure he was the sole inspiration for modern filmmaker Roland Emmerich, as he too enjoys destroying the planet by any means necessary. But with this particular film, even though there is some campiness to it, still holds up today and is fairly suspenseful. Not to mention all of the practical effects that are done very well for this time period.
The film centers on a new, powerful and state-of-the-art submarine called the Seaview, which has nuclear capabilities. This new sea vessel is the brain child of Admiral Nelson (Walter Pidgeon), who is has been in the Navy for many years and has seen his creation come to life. He seems to have a good crew and the Seaview is now ready to get out in the deep oceans of the Arctic and see what she's got.
Surrounded by scientists, crew, and watched by the US government, the Seaview descends down into the ocean deep, but not too much time passes as giant ice caps and icebergs begin to sink down into the water, narrowly missing the impressive Seaview. The ship's captain, Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) decides to take the Seaview up to the surface to see what's going on. Well, things are now terrible on planet Earth as there is an eerie red glow to the planet now.
It seems that some asteroids have punctured the Van Allen Radiation Belt above Earth, which has caught fire and is literally cooking the planet. With their calculations, it seems that Earth has about three weeks until it is literally fried and all life will cease to exist. Everyone on board and in the governemt scrambles to find a solution to stop this catastrophe, but Nelson believes he has the answer. He's certain that the Seaview can launch a nuclear warhead into the Belt and destroy it. If only it were that easy, right?
As the Seaview picks up a stranded person named Alvarez (Michael Ansara), who becomes obsessed with religious fanfare, rather than science, Nelson and his friend and scientist Emery (Peter Lorre) seem to have a rogue crew member out to stop the Seaview from performing their mission. Even the government is convinced that this fiery Belt will dissipate itself before entering Earth, and thus are set on stopping the Seaview. From going through a minefield to battling a giant squid, it seems like the Seaview does not have a chance to save the planet.
'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' is good filmmaking, yet it's by-the-numbers filmmaking. At times, the large crew amongst a ship under the ocean can be tedious with tons of characters to meet with strong male leads and a female who proves to be easy on the eyes more than anything else. Times have certainly changed now, but there is something nostalgic about this sci-fi adventure thriller that still works today. The acting isn't terrible and the story is actually very good. There is plenty of suspense and great effects for the early 60s. If you don't take this all too seriously, you'll have a lot of fun with this film, and will appreciate how this flick paved the way for modern disaster films that are shown in our theaters every month now.
'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This film is over fifty years old and this is the best it has ever looked. The detail is very sharp with well defined closeups that show wrinkles and makeup in the actor's faces. The costumes show every stitch very well and all of the set pieces look very nice providing a good bit of depth. However, when the underwater scenes happen, things tend to go a bit soft and lose its sharpness.
There is a fine layer of grain throughout as well, giving the film a good filmic quality. The colors look decent enough, but don't seem to pop as much as they should. The red glow above the surface even seems a bit undersaturated. Black levels seem to run deep and inky for the most part with the skin tones coming across natural and smooth. There is no banding, aliasing, or edge enhancement done here, which makes this a solid video presentation for a 53-year old movie.
This release comes with a rare lossless DTS-HD 4.0 audio mix, which is remastered from its original 4 track mix. The high point of this audio presentation are the many brilliant sound effects. From the water sounds, to the sonar sounds, to the heavier action sequences, the directionality and sound are all very solid. The song and score provide a good addition to the suspense of the whole film and is well balanced.
The dynamic range is wide as well. However, the dialogue has seen better days. Not to say that the dialogue isn't good, it just sounds a bit too scratchy and delicate for my taste, as if the vocal track might break at any moment. This doesn't happen at all times, but when it does, it's evident. This is a decent audio presentation, but I've heard better.
'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' is a fun and highly entertaining film still to this day. I just hope the younger audience will appreciate how this paved the way for their modern disaster movies they love so much, because this was one of the first. The video and audio both have their moments, despite some minor flaws. The extras are decent as well. This film is worth seeing and is a good disc to buy. Recommended.