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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea [Blu-ray]


(Irwin Allen, 1961)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Video: 20th Century Fox



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:44:48.824

Disc Size: 38,931,046,324 bytes

Feature Size: 33,925,300,224 bytes

Video Bitrate: 37.48 Mbps

Chapters: 32

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 8th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2315 kbps 4.0 / 48 kHz / 2315 kbps / 24-bit (DTS
Core: 4.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Isolated Score: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps



English (SDH), Danish, Finnish, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, none



• Commentary by author Tim Colliver (Seaview: The Making of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea)

• Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality (16:50)

8-part Barbara Eden Interview (5:57)

• Isolated Score

Theatrical Trailer (3:12)





Description: Join the crew of the U.S.O.S. Seaview for the greatest submarine adventure ever filmed! Walter Pidgeon, Barbara Eden, Peter Lorre and Joan Fontaine head up an "excellent" (Motion Picture Herald) cast in this sci-fi spectacular "crammed with climax after exciting climax" (Los Angeles Times) and "thrills enough for everybody" (Limelight )!



The Film:

Walter Pidgeon is the nominal star of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, portraying Admiral Harriman Nelson, the designer of the submarine Seaview, a glass-nosed research submarine. The sub embarks on her shakedown cruise under the polar ice cap as the movie begins. Upon surfacing, however, the crew discovers that the entire sky is on fire -- the Van Allen radiation belt has been ignited by a freak meteor shower, and the Earth is being slowly burnt to a cinder. Nelson and his colleague, Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre), devise a plan to extinguish the belt using one of the Seaview's nuclear missiles, but they are denounced at an emergency meeting of the United Nations. Disregarding the UN vote against him, Nelson decides to go forward with his plan before the Earth is destroyed, hoping to get the approval of the president of the United States while his ship races from New York to the Marianas in the Pacific to launch its missile on time and target, with the world's navies hunting her down and communication with Washington impossible because of the fire in the sky. Nelson must combat not only the threats from other ships but also the doubts of his own protégé, Commander Lee Crane (Robert Sterling), the captain of the Seaview, about his plan and his methods, and the growing suspicion -- being spread by Dr. Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), a psychiatrist who was visiting the vessel -- about his sanity, as well as the growing discontent of the crew, who would like to see their families before the end of the world, and the presence of one religious fanatic (Michael Ansara) who thinks the fire in the sky is God's will. Worse still, there appears to be a saboteur -- and possibly more than one -- aboard. The plot is episodic in pacing and features elements that were clearly derived in inspiration from Disney's 1954 production of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, such as Nelson's eccentricity and the "outlaw" status of his ship; but the undersea maneuvers to tap the trans-Atlantic telephone cable (in order to reach Washington), the battle with a giant squid, a duel with an attack submarine, and a harrowing tangle with a WWII mine field would become standard elements of the series of the same name that followed this movie two years later. Pidgeon brings dignity if not a huge amount of energy to the role of the admiral, and Lorre, Fontaine, Ansara, and Henry Daniell (playing Nelson's scientific nemesis) add some colorful performances, and Barbara Eden, as Nelson's secretary, is pretty to look at; and there are some excellent supporting performances by Delbert Monroe (aka Del Monroe, who appeared later in the series, as Kowalsky), Mark Slade, John Litel, Howard McNear, and Robert Easton. The real "star" of the movie, however, is the submarine Seaview and the special effects by L.B. Abbott, which, to be fully appreciated, should be seen in a letterboxed presentation of the movie.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

As the movie opens, Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon), one of the world's foremost scientific minds, has designed an ultra-advanced nuclear submarine, the Seaview. Following a test voyage under the Arctic ice caps, Nelson and his crew see that the sky is on fire; a freak meteor shower has ignited the Van Allen radiation belt which circles the globe. The world's scientists and politicians cannot agree on a course of action. At a meeting of the United Nations, Nelson proposes firing one of the Seaview's atomic missiles from a strategic location, which he calculates will extinguish the blaze. Voted down, Nelson brazenly proceeds on the submarine to the Marianas Trench to carry out his plan. Along on the voyage are noted physicist Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre), psychiatrist Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), Nelson's secretary Cathy Connors (Barbara Eden), the ship's skipper Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling), boisterous young officer Chip Romano (Frankie Avalon), and the rest of the crew. Tensions are high; Emery helped Nelson formulate his plan and supports it, while others like Dr. Hiller feel it is too dangerous. Cathy is torn between loyalty to Nelson and devotion to her fiancée, Capt. Crane. To make matters worse, the sub picks up a survivor, scientist Miguel Alvarez (Michael Ansara), a religious fanatic who argues against the missile plan on theological grounds. Nelson and the Seaview encounter all manner of other dangers during the voyage, such as giant sea creatures, WWII mines, pursuing submarines, and sabotage.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The 1961 movie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea receives a Blu-ray transfer from Fox.  The film spawned the popular 1964 TV series and still has a nostalgic fan-base. The 1080P has a teal-leaning - notable in the rectangular badges worn for radiation warnings and some of the water sequences. Aside from that colors (skin tones) seem true and bright. The image never seemed to get crispy sharp but this thicker appearance is probably how it was theatrically over 50-years ago. There is a shade of depth peeking into certain scenes. Contrast appears adept. This is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. Effects become even more transparent in the higher resolution but it wasn't a deterrent.  This Blu-ray seems to do its job and there is no damage or speckles. For some reason I was expecting more visually, but that may be the rememberance of a wide-eyed child.


















Audio :

Fox remain authentic with a DTS-HD Master 4.0 (Westrex Recording System) at 2315 kbps. It sounds quite strong exporting the effects about as well, sonically, as they were originally. There is the sonar bass, showing depth, playing constantly - reminding us we are underwater. The Paul Sawtell (Silver City, The Fly, Denver and Rio Grande) and Bert Shefter (teaming with Sawtell on She-Devil) score is a orchestral throughout - hence why Frankie Avalon's romantic sounding theme is a tad out of place. The Seaview gets its own rift each time it moves across the screen. Audio was quite adept and nice to include the original 4.0 channel. Thee are optional subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide (although the box says region 'A' only).


Extras :

I don't think any of the supplements are new - they duplicate the 2007 SE DVD - we get a commentary by author Tim Colliver - who wrote Seaview: The Making of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a 15-minute piece on Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality with names like Ray Harryhausen and Forrest Ackerman giving input. We get an 8-part Barbara Eden Interview that last shy of 6-minutes. You may access the isolated score in simple Dolby and there is a trailer.



I'm afraid I look at Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with rose-colored glasses. I wasn't even born when it came out theatrically but I did see it later, as a child, and again, as a pre-adult. It captured juvenile sci-fi adventure fantasy - and helped define it. Kudos to Irwin Allen and Barbara Eden's swivelling hips. The film is not that great - plenty of science flaws, a rushed ending, out-of-place Frankie Avalon theme and the effects have aged poorly through the passage of time. Although, I wasn't surprised that my two boys, 8 and 10, stayed and watched wide-eyed. It has sea monsters, global destruction and mutiny-style conflict. Is it as good I as remember? No, but the nostalgia factor adds points and if you aren't looking at it through a magnifying glass you, too, can still enjoy a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The Blu-ray is no demo but does its job and is likely as good as we will ever get for digital presentation in our home theaters. This is recommended to the 'kid' in you. 

Gary Tooze

September 29th, 2013



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