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Film: Fantastic Voyage
1966 Science Fiction Film (starring Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence) about a shrinking machine used to send a minisubmarine and its crew inside the body of a defecting scientist. During the Cold War, both the United States and "The Other Side" have discovered the shrinking technology, with a time limit that turned it into a curiosity. But the scientist Jan Benes had discovered how to overcome the limit, and enemy agents will stop at nothing to prevent the secret from escaping from behind the Iron Curtain. Benes, wounded in an attack, is comatose and dying from a externally inoperable bloodclot, so the U.S. miniaturization taskforce organizes an expedition to be shrunken to remove the clot from the inside, operating on it at the cellular level.

But for the same reason they need to save the scientist, they have a time limit to get out of the body (or they'll grow back to normal size while inside of it). Even further, an enemy agent is trying to stop them; the protagonist Charles Grant, who smuggled the scientist from behind the Iron Curtain, has to make sure the mission succeeds while not knowing who he can trust on the crew.

The film also received a novelization by Isaac Asimov, as well as an Animated Adaptation. Very often homaged or parodied — see "Fantastic Voyage" Plot.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The novel, big time. Besides correcting countless scientific errors, Asimov added several elements to the book that were absent in the movie. Here, Grant is a bit of a detective, essentially figuring out who The Mole is before he reveals himself. Michaels is less of a traitor, and more of an obsessed pacifist — he believes (not entirely unreasonably) that both sides are currently in balance with regard to miniaturization (*cough* mutually assured destruction *cough*), and either side having the advantage of unlimited shrinking could pressure the other side into shooting first before the new development can be used against them. Asimov also added some scenes between Grant and Benes, as well as a minor subplot about infighting between the military and scientific factions within the CMDF.
    • And several years later he wrote a from-scratch "remake"-slash-"sequel", Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain, that attempted to clean up even more of the science and plot problems.
  • Art Major Biology: The blood cells don't look anything like they should (they should look like tires with a membrane through the center), being essentially a closeup of a lava lamp. The heart has too many crossed fibers to efficiently pump blood (to make it look hard to find their way through the heart), etc. All of these changes were made very deliberately; the realistic versions made the film look like a voyage through a corpse.
  • Bald of Evil: Michaels
  • Bigger on the Inside: Played With — The Proteus was built as a single set, with removable exterior panels to allow filming. However, some have argued that the remaining volume is insufficient for the air tanks, engines, etc.
  • The Big Board: A vertical diagram of the scientist's body, where the location of the Proteus is marked.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The original, scripted ending, which wasn't filmed. The good guys succeed in their mission and the saboteur dies. However, due to the brain damage, the revived scientist has forgotten his miniaturisation method, meaning the mission was all for naught.
    • If you call saving someone's life and uncovering an enemy spy "naught".
  • Blob Monster: The White Cells
  • Communications Officer: Grant's cover
  • Cool Ship: The Proteus
  • Defector from Commie Land: Benes, who holds the secret to unlimited miniaturization.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: CMDF HQ
  • Enforced Method Acting: Donald Pleasance really was screaming as he was devoured by the white cell, the goo that they poured over his face stung his eyes painfully.
  • Fanservice: Raquel Welch is in the movie, and was 26 at the time. 'Nuff said.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: The Trope Namer
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The surgical laser, it has a constant beam and slices cleanly through what it's aimed at — but would a doctor really be using a -rifle- for brain surgery?
    • When the clot to be removed is larger than himself? Very possibly.
  • Future Spandex : Under the neat white jumpsuits. Justified, both for the Fanservice, and because they're diving suits.
    • Fridge Brilliance: The spandex helps prevent dust and fibers from coming off their bodies when they swim in the bloodstream, which could be a problem when they re-enlarge.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces (CMDF).
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: The Soviet Union and its allies are only referred to as "The Other Side".
  • High-Tech Hexagons: The shrink ray room had hexagons all over the floor. The ship rose up on one of them once it got small enough, so that it could be shrunk one more time, and then readied for insertion into the guy's body.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: In the novelization, Grant eventually figures out the identity of the mole by realizing that the acts of sabotage that seem to implicate various crew members would have been far more effective if those crew members had in fact committed them using their specialized skills. The one exception is Michaels, the only one who could have mis-navigated them into a circulatory whirlpool that nearly destroyed the ship.
  • Insufferable Genius: Duval, the surgeon.
  • Mega-Microbes: Inverted — Tiny Humans, normally sized Microbes...
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: The movie is a 1 or 2. The novel is at least a 4, more like a 4.5 (with miniaturization instead of FTL).
    • There is actually an anecdote that he told the film's producers just how scientifically inaccurate it was, to which he was told that it was just a movie and to just get on and write the book (though in some accounts, he was told rather less politely than recorded here).
  • Novelization First: Isaac Asimov was hired to write the novelization of the film; notoriously, the book came out early enough that the movie was frequently mistaken as an adaptation. Asimov also corrected several plot holes that remained in the film, and expanded some story elements, making it look even more like the book came first.
  • The Radio Dies First: Technically, the laser dies first — the wireless is cannibalized to fix it.
  • Scenery Porn: The body interior sets, built full scale.
  • Science Marches On: While accurate on a basic level, our knowledge of the immune system has improved beyond strangler antibodies and all devouring white cells.
  • Seeker White Blood Cells: White blood cells are mentioned but not seen until the near end, antibodies make a earlier appearance.
  • Shrink Ray: The non-portable variety, used chiefly as a research tool due to the time limit making military uses non-viable (it's also the variety that can expand as well as shrink).
  • Square/Cube Law: Why Isaac Asimov was initially reluctant to write the novelisation - he thought that being miniaturised was impossible because of this. Nevertheless, he decided it would make for some good writing and came up with a novelisation that is almost as hard as science fiction can be, ignoring the physical impossibility of miniaturisation.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: Who's the enemy agent on the crew that's responsible for the series of disasters threatening the mission? Why, it's Dr. Michaels, the sweaty scientist played by Donald Pleasence!
    • In the novelization, the mole is played with more subtlety. Michaels avoids the blatant panic attacks of his movie incarnation, and serves as Grant's mentor about miniaturization; the two even discuss possible suspects throughout the story.
  • To the Batpole!: The Elevator to CMDF HQ.
  • War Room: The CMDF Operating Theater
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A number of elements that should be problematic are ignored The wreckage of the Proteus, and Dr. Michaels' body, after being eaten by the white blood cell — somehow that keeps them from re-enlarging once time runs out. This is one of the most memorable plot holes of the film, and Asimov made sure to close it in his novelization. Massively averted by the novelization, which accurately depicts, as well as we know, what it would be like if humans could in fact be miniaturized to this degree. Even Brownian Motion (random molecular motion of a fluid or gas) is noticed and commented on. Most of the flaws of the movie are explained or elaborated on so as to be acceptable to reality, making the book as much a corrective Retcon as a novelization.
  • Zeerust : Varies — Being set Twenty Minutes into the Future in 1960s, some elements, like the laser rifle don't hold up well, while the Proteus itself varies from a sleek futuristic but practical exterior, to an interior that could be considered Used Future. What dates the film most of all are the '60s contemporary elements, such as computers, cars and uniforms.
Dr. StrangeloveHugo Award2001: A Space Odyssey
Fantastic Mr. FoxCreator/ 20 th Century FoxA Farewell to Arms
The FamilyFilms of the 2010sA Field In England
Hello, Dolly!Creator/Magnetic VideoVon Ryan's Express

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