Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon) has designed a submarine called The Seaview which he has built with his own funds and instructions; it's as advanced an undersea vehicle as it's possible to get and he is pleased as punch with the way it has turned out. Today he gladly shows a number of officials and interested parties around inside, giving them the guided tour of such locations as the engine room, the control room, the specially made glass viewing room at the front of the sub and even the doctor's sickbay where he encounters a psychiatrist, Dr Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), who is taking notes. Nelson's second-in-command is Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling), and they are set to clash when disaster strikes...
If you have ever heard of the Van Allen Belt which surrounds our planet with radiation, chances are you're either some kind of physicist or caught a showing of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, possibly at an impressionable age. It is that phenomenon which places the world in jeopardy, as while The Seaview is investigating the Arctic there is a loud bang and a shockwave hits the sub, so they surface as quickly as possible and discover the sky has turned bright red. The reason is that belt which thanks to, er, meteors or something has caught fire and is amping up the heat for the surface, generating nothing less than catastrophe for the human race. Naturally, the Admiral thinks he can help.
Though not everyone shares that opinion, and his idea to fire a nuclear missile at a specific trajectory to force the Van Allen Belt to burn itself out is not met with unanimous approval probably because there's very little proof that would in any way work out. But then, this was one of those science fiction films the nitpickers would have a field day with as not ten minutes go by without some scientific howler erupting on the screen; being one of those science fiction properties following on from the huge success of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where a group of diversely chosen but capable folks were assembled to pilot a futuristic vehicle of some description - you know, like the similarly unscientific Fantastic Voyage, Star Trek on television or any number of Japanese efforts, it was more adventure that concerned us.
It certainly wasn't stringent factual accuracy, but producer-director-writer Irwin Allen evidently wished to add a grown up air of philosophical debate to the proceedings, which meant yes, there were rival submarines trying to destroy the Seaview before it achieved its goal, and there were not only a giant squid but a giant octopus as well to contend with among other obstacles, yet scenes where the characters stood around and discussed their justification for their actions before God and society were more representative, Michael Ansara playing the requisite religious fanatic. All of which was not something screen science fiction of the populist variety chose to keep as the genre drew on down the decades, but then again it rarely got much more factually accurate either, so Allen might have been more ahead of his time than his detractors would prefer to admit.
There were formula to these productions, from his sci-fi to his later specialisation in disaster movies (where you could see origins here), and one he always stuck with was mixing a cast of old pros with a few up-and-comers, so in this case we had Pidgeon as the possibly deranged but not really head honcho, former ghostly foil to television's Topper Sterling as his mutinous right hand man, future Jeannie of the bottle Barbara Eden as the Captain's wife and Admiral's secretary, a very grumpy Peter Lorre as a marine researcher who spends his days "walking" sharks, and so forth - that shark tank provided amusement when you wondered what was happening to it when the submarine was violently jostled about or even surfacing nose first. It also provided a convenient method of getting rid of the saboteur, though the nature of their interference was sloppily explained, fitting for a movie that inspired the long-running, absurd television series which took a "monster of the week" approach to The Seaview's journeys. Straightfaced but silly and with crewman Frankie Avalon crooning the theme tune.
American producer and occasional director who became known for his starry, trashy epics. Coming to the movies from a career in publishing and radio, he won an Oscar for the documentary The Sea Around Us, and The Big Circus, the campy Story of Mankind and The Lost World followed.