Monday, 27 July 2020

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1966: Donald Pleasence in Fantastic Voyage

Donald Pleasence did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Michaels in Fantastic Voyage.

Fantastic Voyage follows an attempt to save a man from an assassination attempt by shrinking down and entering his body.

Fantastic Voyage is really what you can qualify as a bad effects driven picture, not that the effects are bad for the time, it probably was deserving of its Oscar there, but in its approach to an effects driven film. This is as the effects are basically all there is to the film. This with the ever frustrating inconsistent career of Richard Fleischer, who made a wonderful effects driven film in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but here makes a rather tepid one. This was because in that earlier film it was only part of it, he spent time on the stories, spent time with the characters both in terms of having fun and in terms of creating a dramatic arc within the film, while also making use of his actors. Here we actually do have a cast filled with characters actors who gave good to great performances elsewhere, but here mostly saddled with bland cardboard cutouts who just need to recite exposition after exposition. I guess though a film like this is almost a challenge to the performers to try to make something out of almost nothing, while then leave it to the best actor in the cast to make a go of it. That of course being Donald Pleasence who appears as one of the scientist in charge of the operation, Dr. Michaels. Pleasence tries to make an impression even in his boring exposition through his overly detached way of speaking that riffs on it a bit to grant the sense of Michaels as seeming to examine the situation in a curious situation.

Pleasence even in the very boring scenes of preparing for the trip and the slow shrinking scene, tries to add to something through that penetrating glare here. This that he slowly tips it towards insanity before Michaels has brief outburst claiming he has claustrophobia. Although not really treated with much of anything within the film, you get that classic Pleasence gravitas as he describes having been covered by debris in England during the war. Pleasence is fantastic in the way he can bring emotion to the line while still speaking in the detached way he takes to Michaels. It is almost a trick he pulls as he doesn't even break his voice yet his eyes create a sense of some idea of an anxiety within the man in the moment. A brief moment that has no real followup other than to indicate early on that Michaels is the saboteur as things begin to go wrong with the mission. Pleasence then becomes at first a man constantly doubting the mission with a nefarious intensity in his voice. This doesn't go really far at all other than allowing Pleasence getting to act evil a bit. He does it well of course, but sadly even as a villainous turn it doesn't give him much to sink his teeth into. He though does his best to make the most out of it. This even in his final scene in facing the body's internal defense system closing in on him, where Pleasence portrays some genuine fear in attempting to create a real reality to the ludicrous situation. Sadly though all this does not add up to nearly enough. None of the ideas really are given any further detail beyond just a vague idea.  Having said all that though Pleasence gives a good performance by running as far as he can with those vague ideas, this is as he is definitely the best of the cast and is actually by far the best thing about the film.



My final bets:
5º Pleasence
4º Meurisse
3º Geer
2º Hamilton
1º Randolph

PS: I believe Hudson will be in 2nd or 3rd place in the ranking

Aidan Pittman said...

Louis: Not sure if it's actually happening anymore, but would you say you'd be interested in Guillermo del Toro's Fantastic Voyage remake? And if so, what changes do you think should be made?

Louis Morgan said...


Not really, I mean the visuals would probably be strong, but I find he too frequently has problems developing his characters.

Greg Prosmushkin said...
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