#273 Fantastic Voyage

Watched: July 27 2020

Director: Richard Fleischer

Starring: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasence, Edmond O’Brien, Arthur O’Connelly, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 40min

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During the cold war, an important scientist is nearly assassinated, and ends up in a coma.

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Then, to add insult to injury, someone glued a bunch of numbers and letters on his head. For shits and giggles. At least they’re all responsibly wearing masks.

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Surgery to repair the trauma to his brain proves to be too dangerous, and his knowledge is invaluable (if he still retains it), so naturally they come up with the only possible solution: shrink a crew of surgeons, captains, security people etc., and send them into the scientist’s blood stream in a submarine. With a possible traitor. And a laser.

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Why on earth didn’t they just send the surgeon in with the crew who went in to install all the lighting? Would have saved them hours.

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Inside the comatose man (sounds slightly illegal..?), Grant, Cora, the doctors and the rest of the crew encounter many obstacles. Chief among them being antibodies, arteriovenous fistula (learned a new word!), sabotage and sound. Not to mention cobwebs…

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Behold: the consequence of all the spiders you have accidentally consumed throughout your life!

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Fantastic Voyage is a fun and thrilling adventure film which has spawned many a spoof, parody and tribute. We loved the ’60s aesthetics, the disclaimer and title sequence, the lava lamp blood stream, generally everything to do with the design.

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Journey to the Centre of the Lava Lamp

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The plot was also intriguing and exciting, though we did unfortunately peg the traitor from the beginning. We were hoping for a double bluff, but alas!

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Spoiler alert: the saboteur is somewhere in this picture…

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Is it scientifically accurate? Probably not. We’re not physicians or physicists, but our basic understanding of human biology informs us that some artistic liberties may have been taken. However, it is very entertaining and just a tiny bit silly. Definitely worth a watch.

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Then, imagine these guys swimming inside of you. Among the cobwebs…

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What we learned: Humanity has NOT focused enough energy on the development of shrinking technology. Get your priorities straight, science people!

Next time: Gambit (1966)

#176 Ben-Hur

Watched: April 13 2018

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, Sam Jaffe, Finlay Currie

Year: 1959

Runtime: 3h 32min (at least)

More numbering problems you say? See info here.

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In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

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“Uh, yeah, I’m here to register..? Yeah, with my wife. She’s about to give birth. No, no, I’m totally the father. Joseph. J-O-S-E-P-H. Know any good hotels hereabouts..?”

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We all know that story. However, this is not that story, but set in the same time. In 26 A.D. (probably not called that at the time, to be fair) Judah Ben-Hur (Heston) was a Judean prince and childhood friend of newly returned Roman tribune Messala (Boyd). Despite the intense homoeroticism of their interactions, the two have a falling out over political issues (one wants the other to sell out his people. That sort of thing).

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“God, I wish we were Greek instead of Roman…”

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After an accident involving a Roman procession and rooftop tiles, Messala finally has an excuse to arrest the Ben-Hur family and send Judah away to the galleys. His mother Miriam (Scott) and sister Tirzah (O’Donnell) are thrown in a dungeon, the family home is raided, and Judah is sent off.

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“I just thought I’d take a gap year. You know, to travel, sunbathe, grow my beard and learn about new cultures.”

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Strange destiny eventually brings the eponymous hero back to his hometown, now as an adopted Roman with a new fortune, new status in the Roman Empire, and excellent horse racing skills. His hatred for Messala has not diminished though, despite an encounter with Jesus, and he is also out for revenge and for the salvation of his family…

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We all know the best way to really humiliate someone is to beat them at their own game. And also kill them.

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Sometimes it’s hard to get in the right mood to watch an almost 4 hour epic from the ’50s, and we must admit we didn’t rush to pick this one up despite all we’ve heard of it. However, we’re glad we did as it lives up to its reputation (despite Heston’s occasional overacting). We loved the Roman perspective on Jesus, the (possibly unintended) homoeroticism between Judah and Messala, the sheikh, the general epicness of the feature, and the fact that we never actually see or hear Jesus.

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All we learn is that he has fabulous hair and can hypnotise Roman soldiers.

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We also loved the Roman uniforms, but mainly because they reminded us so much of Asterix that we spent the entire film quoting Asterix chez les Bretons (1986) and had to pull some strings to get our hands on the Norwegian dubbed version (AKA the only version worth watching) of our childhood favourite. So thank you, Kristian!

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“Er’re XVI her óg? Da har vi gått feil igjen, da.” – Classic!

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It’s easy to think Ben-Hur is a movie about horse racing (it’s by far the most famous scene), but it is really an epic saga of revenge and redemption with Jesus hanging out in the background. And a badass chariot racing scene.

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“Det skjærer meg i hjertet. Hører du, dekurion? Det skjærer meg i hjertet!” One for all Norwegian Asterix-fans. You’re welcome, people who don’t speak Norwegian and/or have no point of reference for this.

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What we learned: Romans, like most empires/powerful nations, were Biggus Dickuses.

Next time: Imitation of Life (1959)