Palatable: Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Otto Klement, Jerome Bixby, David Duncan, Harry Kleiner
Produced by Saul David
Starring Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Raquel Welch
An indispensable scientist is likely another victim of Cold War designs, injured during an assassination attempt mere minutes after deplaning on U.S. soil and transferred to a underground operating theater, where his comatose body is subjected to an unprecedented mode of surgery. Under the command of a jittery physician (Pleasence), an unsurpassed surgeon (Kennedy), his technical coadjutor (Welch) and a coolly jocular G-man (Boyd) are deployed in a nuclear research submarine helmed by a naval captain (Redfield) that’s miniaturized to atomic proportions and infused into the patient’s carotid artery, from where a sally to the brain where a clot’s to be dissolved with a laser rifle seems a daunting yet brief task that won’t exceed the hour before the sub and its occupants re-magnify…until a succession of whammies and a presumptive saboteur cumber their efforts, inspire resourcefulness and endanger both the crew and their patient. Varicolored sets and detailed miniatures of imaginative construction enhanced with rear-projected and animated SFX represent the internal environments of adventurous passage from sterile facilities to corpus via syringe, and through arteries, veins, a stopped heart, capillaries, pleural cavity, lymphatic system and the inner ear to the destinal brain — corporeal sites rendered as outlandish as any otherworldly. Fleischer sustains a fixating suspense heightened by silences and Leonard Rosenman’s atonal score to the last few minutes by exploiting the tensions within the submarine’s tight confines and the hazards of a sprawling intramural world — alacritous antibodies, a fistula’s whirlpool, gusting respiration, liquidizing corpuscles — without neglecting potentially treacherous human dangers. Pleasence outshines his co-stars as the claustrophobically misappointed honcho, but his very casting adumbrates a few painfully prognosticable plot points. As one of the last expensive Old Hollywood sci-fi hits, Voyage succeeds on the merits of its technical excellence and conceptual novelty, but its miniature drama is satisfactory withal…for whoever can overlook its numerous plot holes.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Innerspace.

Sublime: Cul-de-Sac

Cul-de-Sac (1966)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roman Polanski, Gérard Brach
Produced by Sam Waynberg, Gene Gutowski, Michael Klinger, Tony Tenser
Starring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Geoffrey Sumner, Renee Houston, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier
A marital mismatch’s lifestyle of reputed repose is disrupted by twain waves of welter when a jittery, retired industrialist (Pleasence) and his beddable, whimsically wanton trophy wife (Dorléac) residing in an ancient manse of the Northumberland seaboard suffer imposition first by an injured couple of crooks (Stander, MacGowran), then an unheralded party of the retiree’s intolerable friends. Polanski’s jet-black comedy first pits natural nebbish Pleasence against raspy Stander’s buirdly barbarism, but both the characters’ and audience’s sympathies are twisted by actions wholly dictated by fancy and umbrage, relating a common superficiality between perpetrator and bourgeois. Keenly scripted and shot by one of but a few filmmakers to exploit both Dorléac sisters effectively, this hysterical specimen of Polanski’s perfect pacing and inconspicuously painstaking images merely demonstrates that necessaries are more relative and less overt than most might imagine.

Mediocre: Halloween II

Halloween II (1981)
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Written by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Produced by John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Barry Bernardi, Joseph Wolf, Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad, Dino De Laurentiis
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Dick Warlock, Charles Cyphers, Pamela Susan Shoop, Jeffrey Kramer, Hunter von Leer, Lance Guest
Carpenter and Hill were no slouches as power couples come, producing a few original, indelible contributions to cinematic genre corpora until their divorce and subsequent career divergence propelled them to greater individual successes. Howbeit, this competently crafted yet sluggish sequel to their classic slasher hit won’t be recalled as one of their best efforts: their pedestrian script, the score by Carpenter and frequent collaborator Alan Howarth and Rosenthal’s perfunctory direction all resound but feeble echoes of the antecedent movie’s potent and idiosyncratic horror. Commencing contiguous from the prior pic, lumbering, implacable, inexplicable mass murderer Michael Myers slowly stalks Curtis’s effete schoolgirl while amassing a fresh body count, himself pursued by Pleasence’s increasingly crazed and prehensile psychiatrist. It should be riveting, but despite a few chillingly grotesque murders, this plot plods pari passu with Myers himself, and the fine cast merely replicates their activity (and in Pleasence’s instance, his exposition) of the previous outing. Moreover, a laughably stale consanguine revelation cheaply undermines the antagonist’s mystique. It’s a tolerable slasher, but by ’81, a battalion of flicks glutting the genre created by Clark and popularized by Carpenter were yielding much more intriguing and bloody offerings than this rather limp iteration.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Halloween.