Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Irwin Allen (1961)

Really, really weird. Partly a sci-fi movie, with a very large and good-looking atomic submarine, complete with tailfins that look a lot like a ’57 Chevy and tons and tons of switches and flashing lights. But it’s like it was directed by Douglas Sirk or something. It’s really hard to know where to start on this one. A bigshot admiral with a Caesar complex has built the Seaview. His secretary is Barbara Eden. Barbara Eden’s fiancée is the captain of the ship. Peter Lorre is the chainsmoking homunculus right hand man of the admiral. Some ill-defined meteorological disaster has raised the temperature of the world to insane levels. The admiral has a plan, requiring him to fire a missile to create a sort of radiological vacuum to put the fire in the sky out. But everyone’s against him. The scientists at the UN—especially the French one, in nifty anticipation of the Iraq war debate at the UN—don’t buy the admiral’s science, but the admiral says the only authority he cares about is that of the president of the United States. The religious fanatic the crew rescues from a research station on a melting polar icecap is against the plan, because it seeks to contravene God’s will. The captain is against it because there’s no consensus in the decision. The psychiatrist on board—a feisty Joan Fontaine—is against it because she believes the admiral is suffering from paranoia and delusions of grandeur. But of course, in the end, the admiral is right. This is really a Cold War parable, warning audiences to submit to the judgment of old hawks, and not to pluralists, psychoanalysts, Christians, or, worst of all, Frenchmen. A deeply pessimistic movie, but full of optimism when it comes to technology. This is probably the most magnificent sub I’ve ever seen in a movie. It has windows in front, with red leather easy chairs to watch the sea go by. And about 12 foot ceilings in the admiral’s quarters. Extremely swanky.

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