This post is my contribution to the "Fabulous Films of the 1940s Blogathon," sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association. For a full list of excellent entries from the other blog participants, please click here.
"The grand age of the adventure epic gave to the American people, as to people all over the world, an image of grandeur and glitter and flair which our own eccentrically stable country could barely approach. Most importantly, it gave a sense of grace. Grace - the ability to make the difficult look easy and the simple look profound - was the stylistic hallmark of the swashbuckler and the gentleman adventurer." (1)
I love a good swashbuckler.
The swashbuckler is a particular subgenre of the period adventure film, or costume epic. It's a particularly fun little corner of the movie universe, where good always triumphs over evil; disagreements are settled with swordplay and, if at all possible, accompanied by a witty verbal riposte; where heroes are dashing and villains hissable; and where historical accuracy adds plenty of background color but never gets in the way of a ripping good yarn.
Though swashbucklers have always been made by the major studios, the genre enjoyed three distinct heydays: the 1920s, when Douglas Fairbanks Sr. came bounding onto the scene; the mid-to-late 1930s, when Errol Flynn and his cheeky grin ruled the box office; and a late blossoming in the 1950s, when studios used the color and pageantry of the form to liven up their new widescreen processes and lure audiences back from the upstart medium of television.
A train pulls in to a Depression era southern town, and a grizzled, middle-aged man gets off. His name is Chaney, and he's played by old "Stone Face" himself, Charles Bronson. While having a cup of coffee in a local diner, Chaney notices a string of men heading into a warehouse building across the street. He walks over to the building and goes inside. There's a big circle of people getting ready to watch a bare-knuckle fight. Speed (James Coburn), all toothy grin and huckster's confidence, is pumping up one of his fighters, but that fighter loses.
Later, Speed is in a nearby oyster joint, nursing his loss, when Chaney sits down at his table. “We can make some money,” he tells Speed. At first, Speed's not interested.
"Medieval philosophers were right. Man is the center of the universe. We stand in the middle of infinity, between outer and inner spaces. And there's no limit to either."
High-concept science fiction and fantasy films are more or less the norm these days, but in 1966, the large-scale, “A” picture type of treatment afforded Fantastic Voyage was pretty unusual. 20th Century Fox spent a lot of dough on this thing, and it shows. The movie’s premise is absurd, well beyond the realms of scientific plausibility, but at the same time, ingenious and wildly imaginative. Despite being over 40 years old, I think the film still stands up well, and I find the visual effects – state of the art for their day – quite impressive, despite their dated nature.
And mainly, Fantastic Voyage is just fun, plain and simple.
Opinionated ramblings about new and old movies (mostly old, as that's the way I like 'em!)
Blogs of Note
Stuart Galbraith IV's World Cinema Paradise
Movie Morlocks (TCM's Classic Movie Blog)
50 Westerns from the 50s
Riding the High Country
Tipping My Fedora
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Classic TV and Film Cafe
Just a Cineast
She Blogged By Night
Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema
Out of the Past -
A Classic Film Blog
Pretty Sinister Books
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To
In So Many Words...
Greenbriar Picture Shows
My Love of Old Hollywood
Tales of the Easily Distracted
Another Old Movie Blog
Lasso the Movies
Kevin's Movie Corner
Films From Beyond the Time Barrier
Carole & Co.
Rupert Pupkin Speaks
Vienna's Classic Hollywood
The Lady Eve's Reel Life
ClassicBecky's Brain Food
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