Fire in the Sky and Below
Before Roland Emmerich turned up with his CGI box of tricks and gave us disaster on a global scale there were others who ventured down this path including Irwin Allen who back in 1961 gave us "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". Sounding like a Jules Verne story but including elements of "The Caine Mutiny" it also give us a global disaster with the Van Allen radiation belts igniting and causing the planet to heat up as the skies fill with fire. Being a product of the 60s "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" has that underwater adventure look and a cast of many recognizable names and faces to provide entertainment and sincerity to a script which now shall we say sounds a bit too hokey. But most importantly if you are a fan of these 60s adventure movies which take us deep beneath the waves this one is still a lot of fun.
Scientist and Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon - The Bad and the Beautiful) is testing out his revolutionary atomic powered sub beneath the ice at the North Pole whilst paying host to a small group of guests. When the sub surfaces they see the sky red with flames and the temperature soaring leading them to be called back to New York as it becomes apparent that the Van Allen radiation belts have ignited and are super heating the planet which is just weeks from destruction. Having returned to New York where Nelson explains to a room of officials that their best hope is to fire an atomic missile into the belts he finds his proposals being voted down. It leads him to take matters into his own hands much to the anger of his right hand man Capt. Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) who believes Nelson is behaving irrationally. But with danger from the pursuing military subs and from monsters from the deep they have to think fast to survive.
So as I hinted at the start "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" is like a pick n mix of movie ideas. Visually with a submarine with a glass nose it has echoes of Jules Verne and with the story leading to battles with sea monsters it certainly doesn't disappoint. But then you have an element of "The Caine Mutiny" as Capt. Lee begins to question Nelson's plans and orders something which has been done a few times on other submarine movies. Plus we have the disaster with the fire in the skies and we hear of the pandemonium spreading across the planet via the radio broadcasts they pick up. All of this works to deliver an entertaining bit of sci-fi fun which whilst at times now seems hokey is still entertaining.
Part of what makes "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" entertaining is that whilst visually it is definitely 60s it is strangely quite impressive. Yes it is obvious when they use models but scenes with fire in the skies and a graphic of a ring of fire encasing the planet still impresses.
And the other reason why it entertains is down to the many well known names and faces who Irwin Allen got to appear. I wouldn't say that any of the characters are that great but when you have Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, Peter Lorre, Michael Ansara as well as Barbara Eden there are enough capable actors to make movie fans sit up and watch.
What this all boils down to is that "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" is a bit of 60s sci-fi fun which has stood the test of time reasonably well as it still manages to entertain today over half a century after it was made.