Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Volume 1

Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) and Captain Crane (David Hedison) travel the deep-sea world in their well-manned submarine, the Seaview. The crew of the Seaview battles mankind's enemies, both marine and human (and on occasion, prehistoric). Its ongoing mission is to keep America safe from the marauding dangers of the deep. The abyssal intrigue that ensues includes encounters with sinister communists, Antarctic dinosaurs, an Atlantis-like city, tidal waves, poor ventilation, giant whales, supplanted monarchs and the President of the United States. In their latest effort to satisfy demands for TV on DVD, Fox has finally launched 818 minutes of underwater excitement into the hungry claws of Irwin Allen fans (and enthusiasts of kitsch Cold War culture relics). A Neptunian Richard Basehart (less than a decade after his incomparable stint as Il Matto in Fellini's La Strada) gives a fine camp performance as the gracelessly honest Admiral, replacing the movie's Walter Pidgeon, and David Hedison's Captain Crane is a well-tempered characterisation. David (formerly Al) Hedison is best remembered by sci-fi fans as Andre Delambre, the ill-fated scientist from 1958's The Fly, and his work here, by the standards of Allen's posturing, moralistic sci-fi pageants, is respectable. The series doesn't give much of a glimpse into more littoral settings, as much of the action is on the Seaview at sea, but the occasional forays into landed ambience (as geographically diverse as the North Pole and Florida) are successful. It is all too easy to poke fun at the cheap designs of '60s thrill-porn television but some attention must be lent to the intentions behind the series. Its role in the Cold War propaganda machine was to club the American public into fearful submission with the assiduity of their entertaining message that nuclear war and foreign threats are realties that must be safeguarded against with tremendous vigilance. There are the occasional points to be made about environmental concerns and the power-mad, and as with any television made in the era of the Wall, a self-critical gaze at American society has not even been subversively implanted. This set features the first 16 of the series' 110 episodes. Extra features include the previously unseen pilot, a promotional reel, and Irwin Allen's home movies (sadly absent are cosmic swirling time tunnels, dictator-oppressed giants, Doctor Smith, or any other traces of Allen lore). (Fox)