Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Kitsch From 20,000 Fathoms

One of the things I did yesterday to pass the time on my day off was watch an episode of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea on Hulu. As American as anything else, I thought. The show bears a second look through the prism of adulthood, because it's f***in' nuts.

I chose The Phantom Strikes, an episode from the 2nd season because it featured Alfred Ryder, a favorite 60's character actor, and sported this synopsis: The crew of the Seaview is haunted by a phantom U-Boat and her ghostly captain. More specifically, the ghostly Captain Krueger (died 1917) wants to commandeer the body of Captain Crane (David Hedison) and keeps appearing to Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) demanding that he kill his second in command, with a pistol, so the body will be available. The ghost arbitrarily tells Nelson that he must complete the task before the Seaview crosses the 49th parallel, or he will destroy Crane, Nelson and the entire crew. Nelson keeps this conversations a secret, and almost shoots Crane, but changes his mind at the last minute. The ghost comes back to destroy the ship but realizes that his plan is pointless because he'd never get the hang of all the new technology that the Seaview uses, and he walks off into the sunset. Through the hull on the observation deck.

Not from the episode we're talking about, but close enough.
Basehart overacts the hell out of this scenario, to the point that it's uncomfortably easy to think the whole "ghost told me to kill you" thing takes place in his head. Usually Basehart's Admiral Nelson is a portrait of a man who is this close to cracking under the pressure of command. He is all barely suppressed feelings, versus Hedison's no feelings whatsoever portrayal. In fact, that lack of emotion makes the central implausibility of this episode work; a guy pulls a gun on you without explaining why at first, but you remain good friends. Sure! Makes no less sense than the rest of the scenario. I'm a little freaked out about the near murder, but I've seen worse from the Admiral!

Also I gotta say if I were forcing you to get me a body to inhabit, I'd specify that it not have a gaping chest wound. I mean, especially if I were going to try to keep the whole thing on the DL.

This was actually one of the less outlandish episodes of the series. Like a lot of Irwin Allen productions it started out fairly reasonable and got crazy stupid with each successive season. And according to Wikipedia, it somehow managed to snag 4 Emmys. I bet they all went to the flying sub, but whatever. My favorite episode to date is from season 1 and it features a young Robert Duvall as an alien (tall, robed, pale, bald, no ears) that they find in a canister on the sea floor, who wants the ship so he can revive his alien brethren to take over the Earth. Sheer magic. A rule of thumb is whenever they bring someone aboard the Seaview without an appointment, it's going to be trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment