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Film / Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

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A 1961 Science Fiction film produced, directed, and co-written by Irwin Allen. Its All-Star Cast includes Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lorre, Frankie Avalon, Barbara Eden and Michael Ansara.

Earth's Van Allen radiation belts have caught on fire, causing the global temperature to rise day by day, which threatens to end all life in three weeks. Admiral Harriman Nelson (Pidgeon), who has constructed an experimental nuclear submarine called Seaview, sets out on a mission to restore the planet to its normal state.

The film became the basis for a television series later in the decade.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Peter Lorre once again travels around the world on a submarine that gets attacked by a giant cephalopod near the end of the movie.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • The Van Allen radiation belt literally catching fire (in the vacuum of space). Admiral Nelson then wants to detonate a nuclear weapon which will somehow overload the belt with radiation, casting this burning radiation out into space. Even by Hollywood Science standards this is all ridiculous.
    • According to the trailer: "You are there, when the entire sky catches on fire, the burning Van Allen Belt threatening to destroy the universe!"
  • Bait the Dog: Crane decides that Alvarez is OK after all when he kills the squid that's about to kill Crane. At the climax of the movie, Alvarez produces a bomb and uses it to immobilize the control room, by threatening to blow it up if anyone launches a missile.
  • Berserk Button: Captain Crane explodes when he finds Alvarez giving a sermon to the crew in the Seaview's mess room about how all their efforts will ultimately prove worthless and all that is left for them to do is to make their peace with God. As he puts it, what the crew needs least of all right now is to have some doomsayer on board bringing their spirits down.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Nelson is at least two heads taller than his closest friend and confidant, Lucius.
  • Billions of Buttons: The diving station in the control room is even dubbed The Christmas Tree because of all the flashing lights, which include a large panel of unlabeled lights that flash on-and-off for no apparent reason.
    Admiral Nelson: And if we do shoot, over there are the buttons. Trick is to know which one.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The magnetic primer (used to launch a missile if there's a power loss in the control room), the escape chamber and an experimental bomb are shown during the tour of the ship, all of them used during the climax.
    • In a slightly grimmer example, the Seaview's doctor hands out dosimeters to the people touring the ship in the prologue and mentions the colors it shows to represent dosages, and said dosimeters are pinned to the uniforms of all of the onboard characters throughout the film. So when Dr. Susan Hiller walks out of the reactor room after sabotaging it and looks down at her dosimeter being all red, we know she is a dead woman walking even if she did not fall into the shark pool.
  • Communications Officer: Sparks. He is the first to get very distressed when increments in atmospheric radiation makes it impossible to contact anybody.
    • Dissonant Serenity: However he sounds quite laconic when talking over the intercom, no matter how bad things get.
  • Cool Ship: The Seaview. A fully-armed state-of-the-art atomic submarine that can outrun and outdive regular submarines, has an internal pool for sharks (or other sea creatures worth investigating)... and, oh, yeah, has a glass nose. The fact that it has the In-Universe nickname of "Nelson's Folly" showcases how little people think of its technological advancements.
  • Cold Equation: Captain Crane realises from Alvarez's ramblings that there was someone with him, but the admiral countermands the order to search for more survivors because they have to get to New York. Later when the admiral leaves UN headquarters pursued by the military police, he orders a crash drive even through there are MPs on the deck with the risk of them drowning.
  • Conflict Killer: Crane is formally relieving Admiral Nelson of command when they are attacked by UN submarines that have been ordered to sink them. Crane also announces that he's not firing the missile, but the discovery of the real saboteur convinces him the admiral isn't crazy after all.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: The plan to nuke the Van Allen belt. Most of the drama between Nelson and almost everybody else comes from the fact that Nelson is the only one that doesn't think this.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Sparks can't get through to Washington D.C on the radio to get the US President's approval to fire the missile. So they try tapping into an underwater telephone cable, but the operator they contact in London has lost contact everyone on the other side of the Atlantic. Admiral Nelson therefore decides to proceed on his own authority.
  • Deus ex Nukina: To stop the world from turning into a dried husk, a nuclear missile must be fired to the Van Allen radiation belts from the Marianas.
  • Dive! Dive! Dive!: Or two "Dive!"'s at least.
  • Driven to Suicide: A sailor in sickbay breaks into the medicine cabinet and takes an overdose.
  • Exact Time to Failure: In order to have a Race Against the Clock the missile has to be fired at exactly the right time and date.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Sparks fly and jets of water leak into the submarine.
  • The Fundamentalist: While facing death on the iceberg Alvarez turned to religion, believing Mankind should Face Death with Dignity because what's happening is God's will. This brings him into conflict with Captain Crane who thinks he's preaching defeatism.
  • Giant Squid: A gigantic octopus attacks the Seaview as it is nearing its goal, and is driven away by electricity. Earlier in the film, an actual giant squid attacks the divers repairing the transatlantic phone line on the ocean bottom.
  • Ghost Ship: The Seaview finds a yacht where everyone on board has been killed by the heat after running out of water. Admiral Nelson allows the disaffected members of the crew to pack supplies on board and use the yacht to return home.
  • A Glass in the Hand: One of the many signs that the crew is growing increasingly uncomfortable with the whole situation is when one of them crushes a still-full glass as he hears Admiral Nelson saying that the attempt to communicate with land via the underwater landline in the Atlantic didn't work and, thus, will continue the expedition to the launch point and nobody will be able to talk to their families.
  • Global Warming: When the skies start to burn, the ice caps melt while Seaview is in the Arctic Ocean, leaving chunks of ice to rain down on it (which ignores the fact that ice floats).
  • Hollywood Density: The Seaview is first alerted to the disaster when icebergs start breaking off the melting icepack above them and crash down on the submarine's hull. Ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: One of the many rapid-fire catastrophes that get in the heroes' way in the climax is the encounter of a couple of nuclear subs that have been sent to hunt down Seaview.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Captain Crane roasts an officer for "undignified behaviour", only to be caught smooching Lt. Connor by the same officer.
  • Hysterical Woman: A woman getting to her feet and shouting during the UN scientific conference is dismissed by the newsreader as hysterical, even through she's no louder (and a good deal less hammy) than some of the men present.
  • Ignored Expert: Nelson, who proposes pulling the Deus ex Nukina (and insists that there is no time to argue), but is undermined by UN Emergency Scientific Meeting head delegate (and scientist) Emilio Zucco, who believes the "sky fire" will burn itself out. Nelson, thus, has to perform the expedition with everybody else thinking he's insane.
  • Insane Admiral: As tension builds on the Seaview, the generator is sabotaged and the admiral gets a typewritten death threat which is apparently later carried out when a fire starts in his quarters. Dr. Hiller and Captain Crane start to think that it's not just the crew who are going crazy but the admiral also, with it being suggested that he typed up the death threat and started the fire himself. The revelation that other subs have been ordered to sink the Seaview doesn't help either, because it means that everyone else thinks Nelson's plan is crazy too.
  • Instant Cool Down: Earth will become uninhabitable if the temperature reaches 175°F, but scientists speculate the burning Van Allen Belt will snuff itself out at 173.
  • Insufferable Genius:
    • Admiral Nelson. It is this, and various decisions that (in Crane's eyes) make him look like The Neidermeyer, that make the Captain a Commander Contrarian. The Seaview is even mentioned early in the film to have been nick-named "Nelson's Folly" by the news.
    • Emilio Zucco as well. The United Nations Emergency Scientific Meeting devolves into an intellectual measuring contest with his insistence that his theory is right and Admiral Nelson is bonkers vs. Admiral Nelson's insisting that there's no time to sit down and wait to see if it's true.
  • Layman's Terms: Nelson explains to a conference of the world's foremost scientists that his plan to explode a nuclear missile in the burning Van Allen radiation belt to disperse it harmlessly into space is like blowing too much air into a balloon. You'd think the last thing the scriptwriter would want is for the audience to understand how ridiculous the Hollywood Science in this movie is.
  • Line in the Sand: Rather than the usual version of trying to shame everyone into staying, Admiral Nelsen is getting rid of any dissenters to avert the threat of mutiny. Captain Crane isn't happy because this means his submarine is undermanned, his crew has been given an incentive to desert and he thinks the admiral's belief that there's a saboteur and attempted murderer on board is a figment of his imagination.
  • Men of Sherwood: The submarine crew is portrayed as a highly efficient group of men on a dangerous, world-saving mission despite many harrowing human and environmental obstacles. Interestingly, many of them distrust their boss and his vision, although the one outright saboteur isn't a crew member. Hardly any of them die, although several do decide to Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • Mildly Military:
    • Cathy Connors is a junior grade lieutenant but you wouldn't know it from the way she acts. Not only is she fraternizing with a superior officer, she does so right in front of the crew; snogging and Security Clinging her captain and addressing him as "Lee" on multiple occasions.
    • One of the Screen Shake scenes has crewmen still in the messhall when the submarine is supposed to be at battle stations.
  • Mister Muffykins: A rare male version with Alvarez always carrying around the dog that survived with him.
  • Natural Disaster Cascade: First on television, then on radio until the admiral orders the transmissions cut off for the sake of morale. Crane objects, feeling morale will get worse without any information on what's happening.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Admiral Harriman Nelson for Admiral Hyman Rickover, through the gentlemanly Walter Pidgeon bares little resemblance to Rickover who was notorious for being a hardnosed S.O.B. Also the scene where Nelson slaps a sailor in sickbay, accusing him of malingering, is clearly based on the General Patton slapping incidents during WW2.
  • No OSHA Compliance
    • The doctor only hands out the dosimeter badges when their distinguished visitors reach his office on their tour; this is after they've been to the reactor room!
    • The cook has a shoulder-perched parrot, which is cute but wouldn't do much for hygiene.
    • Despite being on a submarine Everybody Smokes (in fairness the US Navy allowed smoking in submarines until 2011). It's even a plot point when an unextinguished cigar (or was it?) starts a fire in the admiral's cabin, forcing them to surface to ventilate the sub.
    • After the generator is sabotaged knocking out both radar and sonar, the admiral orders them to proceed regardless, but no-one is posted on watch behind that nice wide undersea window. Fortunately Alvarez just happens to be there and calls Connor's attention to the oncoming minefield.
  • Number Two: Captain Crane, with some degree of Commander Contrarian to Admiral Nelson. For most of the film he thinks that Zucco's theory is the correct one and Nelson is wrong. This causes Conflicting Loyalties with his fiancé who loves Connor but believes that the admiral is right.
  • Perilous Power Source: The nuclear reactor has an alarm pressure pad outside the door, and those issued dosimeters are warned that if the badges turn from blue to red, they've absorbed a fatal dose of radiation. When Dr. Hiller comes out of the reactor after sabotaging it, she looks at her badge only to find it's gone red.
  • Plot-Demanded Manual Mode: When Alvarez threatens to blow up the control room if anyone launches a missile, Crane gets a magnetic primer, swims outside the hull in scuba gear and attaches it to the missile to launch it manually. Fortunately the launch serves as a distraction enabling a crewmember to snatch the bomb off Alvarez.
  • Put on a Bus:
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: After icebergs start falling on the hull, the Seaview surfaces to find the sky is on fire, melting the icecap.
  • The Reveal: Dr. Susan Hiller and Miguel Alvarez are the actual saboteurs, not Admiral Nelson. Hiller thinks the admiral has gone crazy and it's All Up to You to stop him, while Alvarez thinks it's God's will that they all be destroyed.
  • Sea Mine: The submarine almost plows headfirst into a mass of underwater mines, and a tense sequence starts when they have to send a minisub to cut a mine cable they've gotten entangled with. When the cable is cut, the mine drifts up and sets off another mine, and the underwater blast pushes the minisub into a third mine which destroys it.
  • Set the World on Fire: Earth's Van Allen belts are on fire and if nothing is done about them, they will slowly roast the planet.
  • Sexy Secretary: Played absolutely straight with the admiral's secretary Lt. Cathy Connors, a young blonde woman who is introduced via a Male Gaze of her Shaking the Rump as she dances in the messhall. She's the only woman serving on board, she wears a skirt and heels on a submarine with lots of ladders, and she's in a relationship with her boss (though her captain rather than the admiral) whom she intends to marry.
  • Screen Shake: Four years before Star Trek, everyone does the side-to-side shuffle whenever something blows up.
  • Scenery Porn: Right in the middle of the movie when the divers go out to tap into the undersea telephone cable, there's a lengthy scene of them exploring the beauty of the undersea world. Then again, you could hardly justify the title without it.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Admiral Nelson versus Congressman Parker, who opposed the building of the Seaview as a government boondoggle. Unfortunately he gets off in New York.
  • The Spock: Nelson has little time for humor and makes his decisions based on data and which option seems safer to him, regardless of whether they put people in danger or make him him seem unfeeling. He rarely, if ever, takes the time to apologize or reflect on his actions. However, he's usually right, and occasionally he'll compromise with people who oppose him if he thinks it won't ruin his plans.
  • Stern Chase: The moment Nelson storms out of the U.N. Emergency Scientific Meeting to get the Seaview to the Marianas, the world's governments try to stop him from doing something that they think will destroy the world. The mine field is one of such attempts, and the climax involves the (foreshadowed) attack of various subs ordered to sink Seaview.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: A view of the Earth surrounded by a ring of fire was ostensibly taken by a television satellite camera. Which must have been orbiting too far away for effective use, given the point-of-view shown.
  • That's an Order!: Gets said a lot as tensions rise between Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane.
  • Threatening Shark:
    • Played straight when a frogman kills a shark just for swimming near them, on the presumption that it's going to attack. It's a carpenter shark, which tend not to harm humans unless threatened.
    • Seaview has a Shark Pool inside it, where Lucius keeps a shark for his studies. He's shown 'walking' the shark around the pool so it won't drown after being drugged for research purposes. Later the trope is played straight when Dr. Hiller falls into the pool after a brief struggle with Crane and gets eaten.
  • Title Theme Tune: Sung by Frankie Avalon, who also plays Lt. Romano, who is introduced playing the trombone while Connor dances for him.
  • Two Girls to a Team: In the bold future of atomic submarines conquering the ocean depths the only women taking part will, of course, be the Sexy Secretary and the Hospital Hottie.
  • Wham Shot: When the sky turns red about fifteen minutes in, it becomes clear that the movie is about more than just an innocent exploration of the ocean depths.
  • Zee Rust: Admiral Nelson does his critical calculations for the launch window using a slide rule.