In 1966, a nuclear bomb was dropped out of a crashing military plane to prevent it going off, and landed off the coast of Spain where it did not explode, but did create consternation amongst the Spanish authorities until it was rediscovered and taken way. This was an international incident, and the U.S. Air Force were determined never to let something like that happen again, but six years later there was one of their planes flying over the Mediterranean when it got into difficulties and had to ditch in the sea. It too was carrying nuclear weaponry which it had to drop, including a new brand of mass destruction delivery system...
Writer and director Michael Cacoyannis had enjoyed a huge international hit a few years before The Day the Fish Came Out with the Anthony Quinn Oscar-winner Zorba the Greek, so his next work was much anticipated. Then audiences actually saw it, and word got around that whatever Cacoyannis had with his previous effort, it had all but evaporated with this, a heavyfooted black farce with science fiction themes, which was kind of like Dr Strangelove takes a holiday. Only not as funny, or perceptive, honestly not even the cast had much good to say about the director by the time this was released.
Leading lady Candice Bergen was especially scathing, though it was possible she was wise after the fact, because everyone looked to be enjoying themselves in the movie, it just did not translate to the viewer. Actually whoever the lead was supposed to be was swapped around between an ensemble of actors playing various visitors to the island where the bombs have been left, including the pilot and navigator (who are never given names) played by Brits Tom Courtenay and Colin Blakely. Oddly - and there was plenty odd here - they divested themselves of their uniforms during their bailing out, which left them almost completely naked for ninety percent of their screen time.
All these two had to wear were pairs of white underpants, with Courtenay's noticeably skimpy, which they were even seen sporting on their heads in one scene. Quite why Cacoyannis wanted to see these two reliable sixties talents running around in a state of severe undress for so long was not expounded upon, but there were several curiously homosexual undertones to the movie. For example, when military officer Sam Wanamaker shows up with his troops, they are all dressed as tourist in lurid, supposedly futuristic outfits, which leads them to be mistaken for gay holidaymakers, and when Candice appears as an artist, she admires the Ancient Greek statue of a god unearthed recently by criticising the female form in comparison.
Speaking Cacoyannis' words, lest we forget - and wearing his "futuristic" costumes - but for the most part he had the gung ho governments of the world in his sights, or those with nuclear weapons at any rate. There's a goatherder (Nikos Alexiou) who finds the box with the superweapon in it and spends most of the film trying to open it; when he does one thing leads to another and the ending, after all that terribly forced messing around, turns unexpectedly bleak and nightmarish quite out of keeping with the foolishness we had been given before. It was saying you can party all you like, but be prepared to pay the piper - the Americans inadvertently encourage a mass of genuine tourists to the island, many of whom perform what can best be described as formation grooving to Mikis Theodorakis' rather good soundtrack. But even with such a broad target to aim at, Cacoyannis managed to stumble and miss, so you could sympathise that the powers that be had gotten out of hand in their capabilities, but be left unsure what the point was further to that. The fish came out at night, anyway.