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Fantastic Voyage (1966)

A defecting Czech scientist narrowly escapes an attack by Russian spies. Injured in the escape, the scientist suffers a potentially fatal blood clot in his brain.

Needing to salvage whatever secrets are locked away in the scientist’s consciousness, the US military assembles a specialist team led by Agent Grant (Stephen Boyd) to save the man’s life in a most unusual manner.

The team of specialists (Boyd, Raquel Welch, Arthur Kennedy and Donald Pleasence) and their submarine are miniaturised to the size of a microbe (via vague, unspecified scientific means requiring a willing suspension of any knowledge of physics and an elastic imagination) and implanted into the bloodstream of the sick man – whose survival is vital to the West – so they can voyage to his brain and safely destroy the blood clot with a laser . . .

An easy enough job, were it not for numerous and occasionally life-threatening complications.

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The team has only a limited amount of time to perform the mission before the miniaturisation effect wears off and they revert to normal size.

They also encounter the body’s natural defence system and are attacked by white blood cells responding to the ship as though it were an infection. One of the team members is attacked by mindless and relentless amoeba-like antibodies and nearly killed.

Even with all the dangers that they already face, the team soon uncovers that their biggest threat is man-made: one member of the team is actually a Russian double agent out to sabotage their mission at any cost.

With only minutes remaining, the crew is forced to abandon ship and swim for it. When all seems lost, the team scrambles along the optic nerve and is squirted out of a tear duct and rescued from a teardrop.

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Fantastic Voyage was a big hit for 20th Century Fox and was praised for its inventive style and excellent special effects, earning two Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Special Visual Effects. Indeed, the film’s look – the result of a $6.5 million budget – is one of its best assets and a major reason that it remains popular today.

Widely regarded as a classic of the genre, Voyage even inspired a homage in the 1987 comedy Innerspace (1987) starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan.

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Grant
Stephen Boyd
Cora Peterson

Raquel Welch
General Carter

Edmond O’Brien
Dr Michaels

Donald Pleasence
Col. Donald Reid

Arthur O’Connell
Capt. Bill Owens

William Redfield
Dr Duval

Arthur Kennedy
Jan Benes

Jean Del Val

Director
Richard Fleischer