It’s funny that the special effects spectacle had been around forever but it was also considered more of a B-movie. It didn’t matter how spectacular it was, it was never the big box office draw like they are now.
Producer, director and writer Irwin Allen made a ton of films like today’s Sunday Matinee the 1961 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Other films included the 1960 remake of The Lost World, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea did decent business when it was released but it wasn’t even one of the top 15 grossing films for 1961. That was reserved for West Side Story, The Guns of Navarone and El Cid.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea starred Walter Pidgeon as Adm. Harriman Nelson, the inventor of the state of the art nuclear submarine the Seaview. Robert Sterling co-starred as Captain Lee Crane and Joan Fontaine, Barbara Eden, Michael Ansara, Peter Lorre and Frankie Avalon rounded out the cast. The story starts with the Seaview out testing it’s diving capabilities and the crew is shocked to discover that the Arctic ice cap is melting. No it’s not global warming or at least not our global warming, it’s a meteor shower that struck the Van Allen radiation belt causing it to catch fire. The sky is on fire and the world is heating up. Soon all life on Earth will be extinguished.
The Seaview races to the U.N. for a meeting of the scientific community. Nelson has come up with a plan to dive to the Marianas Trench and launch a nuclear missile from there at a precise time and date to destroy the meteor thus saving the Earth. Other scientists disagree, one figures if they wait the fire will burn itself out and everything will be fine. Nelson and his crew take off anyway and head for the Marianas Trench where they are chased by another sub, navigate a mine field, fight a mutiny, deal with a religious zealot and fight a giant squid (a staple of all underwater submarine adventure films).
The movie was successful enough to have a spin-off TV show and a ton of merchandise based on both the movie and the TV series was sold to kids everywhere. The success of the TV series lead Irwin Allen to make other TV shows such as Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. The movie isn’t groundbreaking. in fact it owes more than a little to Jules Verne and it’s science is flawed but it’s still fun.