Friday, March 2, 2012

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Tippi Hedren
Rod Taylor
Jessica Tandy
Suzanne Pleshette
Veronica Cartwright

As I wrote in this review of The Hills Have Eyes, radiation from nuclear weapons being tested out in the deserts over the ocean and from sea to shining sea has often been the blame for nature running amok in films ever since the development of the first atomic bombs. If it isn't cannibalistic mutants in the desert (The Hills Have Eyes I & II), then it's giant locusts (The Beginning of the End), Giant Ants (Them), Giant Dinosaurs (Godzilla), Giant Humans (The Amazing Colossal Man) or awakening Giant Dinosaurs in the Arctic with radioactive blood (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms). These so called B movies ran the gamut from being Mystery Science Theater fodder to sometimes being somewhat entertaining and even better than average.

However, there is one "critters that run amok movie" that makes the A list, and that would be Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. And there isn't one single rad of radiation to be found anywhere in the script. In fact, if you only like your creatures features to come with some goofy explanation of how things came to be the way they were, then you are really out of luck in this film. Just like it was in Daphne Du Maurier' s novelette on which the film is based, there is no real explanation or pat answers to the events that take place in Bodega Bay, so you're pretty much left to fend for yourself.

And as in most of his films, Hitch does it in grand fashion.  In some ways, the first half hour or so reminds me of Psycho whereas if one didn't know what the film was about, it could just as easily be a romantic drama or comedy unfolding where we have our two main characters meet, have total disdain for each other, seem totally incompatible, but later are going to fall in love. Except of course we know that's not what the movie is about and the meeting of Melanie and Mitch in the Pet Shop is part of an extensive exercise known as getting to know the players. Plus, it enables Hitch to start playing his little games with us right away by introducing the lovebirds into the mix which may have something to do with the events that follow, but then very well may be nothing more than a red herring.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), the daughter of a newspaper magnate is in a San Francisco Pet Shop purchasing Mynah Birds when she is recognized by attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) who sees her as nothing more than a spoiled rich heiress, used to getting her way and has a penchant for playing elaborate practical jokes on others. Think of her as the Paris Hilton of 1962.

Wanting to give Melanie a taste of her own medicine, Mitch pretends that he has mistaken her for a sales lady and confronts her to inquire about purchasing some
lovebirds. Melanie, not knowing that Mitch is on to her, plays the part of the sales lady just as Mitch expected she would. Mitch of course, asks her one bird question after another, each and every one of which Melanie gets wrong including not being able to recognize a canary when she sees one. After she has done enough to totally embarrass herself, Mitch reveals that he does in fact know who she is. When she confronts him about it, he tells her that he wanted to her to see how it felt to be on the other end of a practical joke. She in turn let's him know that he is nothing more than a louse.

But if Mitch was trying to cure Melanie, it doesn't work. Using his license plate number to track down his identity, Melanie purchases a couple of the lovebirds to take to Mitch's apartment. When she finds out from a neighbor (Richard Deacon) that Mitch has gone home to Bodega Bay for the weekend, she decides to drive up the coast and deliver them herself.

Upon arriving, Melanie discovers that Mitch is staying with his Mother and his younger sister, but unable to find out the name of Mitch's sister, Melanie is directed to the home of the schoolteacher Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette).

After revealing that the name of Mitch's sister is Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), Annie becomes very inquisitive in regards to Melanie's connection to Mitch and the Brenner Family. When she tells us that as far as Mitch is concerned, she is a closed book, it doesn’t take a genius to know that they were involved with each other at one time and that the chances of them becoming involved once again are slim to none.

Before heading across the bay to make her delivery, Melanie replaces her original note with one addressed to Cathy, which leads us to believe she may not entirely be a cold and aloof person prone to practical jokes.   After leaving the birds, Melanie takes her boat off of the shore a ways so that she can see Mitch's reaction when he discovers her gift.

Unable to start the boat's motor quickly enough, she is spotted by Mitch who races in his truck to the other side of the Bay to greet her. As Melanie approaches the dock, and when we least expect it, we get our first sign of trouble as she is unexpectedly attacked by a seagull. Hitchcock had almost managed to make us forget what we came here for in the first place, having lulled us into a false sense of security.

As Mitch is tending to Melanie's wound inside the diner, his mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) happens by. Mitch tries to explain to her whom Melanie is, what her purpose is  for being in Bodega Bay, and what had happened to her. Without hardly saying  anything, the look on Lydia's face tells us that not only that she is suspicious of Melanie, but that she is also none too pleased that Mitch has a new friend. The mark of a great actress is being able to tell the audience so much using only  her eyes and facial expressions, and Jessica Tandy does just that in this particular scene.

Much to the obvious chagrin of Lydia, Mitch invites Melanie to dinner. Melanie, having boxed herself in by telling Mitch that she was staying with Annie Hayworth, tells Mitch she will try and make it unless Annie has other plans. Shortly thereafter as Melanie asks Annie if she can stay at her home, we see a swarming flock of seagulls overhead, again warning us of what is to come. It is similar to a scene we had witnessed  at the beginning of the film where before entering the Pet Shop, Melanie had looked up to see a huge flock of birds gathering in the sky.

It is simply another example of Hitchcock's brilliance that he is able to take something that we take for granted, then use it to not only heighten  the tension, but to raise our expectations as well. Hitchcock knew that anticipation is often just as important as the actual event itself. And as the movie begins to move along more quickly, these foreshadowing events become more and more frequent until we get to the big enchilada.

When Melanie arrives at the Brenner farmhouse, we quickly find out that there is a chicken problem as Lydia's chickens won't eat their feed. Later, when Melanie leaves we see crows (blackbirds?) gathering on the telephone wires.

At Annie's, after a revealing conversation between her and Melanie, a bird inexplicably crashes into the house killing itself. When the first real attack comes, Hitchcock makes it even more horrific by having it occur during the innocence of a children's birthday party, and then later, surprises us again when an innocent conversation is immediately and unexpectedly interrupted as the birds come flying down the chimney in full attack mode. From that point on we know that it is no longer a matter of defeating the birds, but just trying to survive the onslaught.

In horror film after horror film we are seldom given anything but cookie cardboard cut out characters who are put into a horrific situation, probably similar to what we have here. Sometimes we may get to know them on some level and may even care about their predicament. Hitchcock takes it a step further. He breathes life into his characters, not just by letting us getting  to know them on some superficial level, but by filling us in on their flaws and all of the little idiosyncrasies that make them tick, thus bringing a level and texture to the film we probably wouldn't have otherwise.

For instance, in less capable hands we would be given the character of Melanie. Somewhere along the way, probably in the early going, we would in all likelihood be told that she is a poor totally misunderstood rich girl, probably in a three or four minute scene where she pours her heart out to one of the other characters. What Hitch does is to reveal Melanie's traits, flaws included, layer by layer throughout the film, thus making her a far more interesting and complex character that she would be otherwise.

With Mitch, Lydia, and Annie it is no different. They are revealed to us in much the same way. When Melanie first meets Annie, we suspect that there is or had been something between her and Mitch at one time, and Hitchcock gives us time to dwell on it for a while until Melanie returns and it is then that we learn of Annie's past in regards to Mitch. And even though she does her best to convince Melanie that the relationship is over and ancient History, we can see through
her charade.

But we also sense something that I'm not sure Melanie does. We sense that even though she says it doesn't, the very fact that Melanie is staying with her and talking to her about her own supposedly non-relationship with Mitch, is painful. Annie is the most sympathetic character in the movie. She hopes for something she can never have, and one suspects that Bodega Bay is what she has settled for not what she really desires.

We might understand Mitch’s  ditching of Annie at one time due to the death of his father although we can't really forgive him for it. But we also see something that Annie doesn't. We can tell that Mitch is at the end of his rope as far as his mother is concerned. It's not that he isn't understanding, but when we see Lydia doing her best to drag Melanie down much in the same way that she did Annie, we can tell from Mitch's reaction that his patience has worn thin,  even if he never states it aloud, thus making Melanie  a much bigger threat to Lydia.

In the film, Lydia has become way too dependent on Mitch much in the way that she was totally dependent on her husband when he was alive. The funny thing is, as the movie progresses there is no doubt that she knows it too, and we suspect that she is just too afraid to function on her own, and just as Annie says, not
afraid of being alone at all. And as Annie also says, "one is not the same as the other".

And no, all of this is not thrown into the story just to be there. As we witness each attack, it is how these characters cope with this enormous threat, what happens to them during before and after, that will finally resolve some of these issues one way or the other, mostly because they are pretty much forced to deal with them. It is not that these conflicts are solved and wrapped up in a neat tightly wrapped bow or that everything is cut and dry, because they are not . But we can surmise how it could all end, that is if there is an ending other than the total devastation of mankind.

We never really know for sure.  Just like in many of his other films, Hitchcock never lets us become too sure of the events unfolding in front of us. We are left to fend for ourselves, to put the
jigsaw puzzle together on our own so to speak.

Do the Lovebirds really have a part in all of this, and if so what? It is left totally to our imagination to decide although he brings up those two damn birds often enough, along with the fact that they aren't very lovable. And why are the birds that we have always lived in harmony with for the most part suddenly turning on us? Is there a reason?

At one point, a lady in a restaurant accuses Melanie of being the cause of it all as if she were the devil herself out to destroy mankind. What makes it even worse is that as Mitch and Melanie walk slowly into the restaurant, the looks on the others hiding in a corridor tell us that they too have been talked into believing in Melanie's culpability. The scene is reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode called The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street. It's as if they view Melanie as Linda Blair and she has just finished doing the spider walk that was excised from the original cut of The Exorcist.

To be perfectly honest, when viewing the film you do feel as if somehow something Melanie has done or is doing is responsible even if such a possibility makes no sense at all. It's because you almost feel the need for some kind of explanation, the kind we have been trained to expect but it never really manifests itself. The most logical explanation for all of this then, is that it means nothing more than the fact that Hitch is once again toying around with our psyche in the brilliant manner that he did time and time again.

Tippi Hedren, who was making her film debut in The Birds, is cast perfectly as Melanie, the sophisticated daughter of a big shot newspaper publisher. Sometime I'm not sure her performance here is given the credit that it deserves. You can see a bit of the character's  father in her, because she has this look like she is analyzing what Annie, Mitch and Lydia are telling her against what she can actually surmise from their behavior. Whereas Mitch often questions motives, Melanie finds out what she can and compares it to what she knows and what she can see on her own. In one remarkable scene, we see Lydia trying to clean up the house after one of the Bird attacks. Normally, the camera would focus solely on Lydia but in this case it cuts quickly between Lydia and Melanie, and we can see Melanie trying to size up the situation.

As for the bird attacks themselves, even in 1963 terms, they are impressive and frightening. Making matters worse is the fact that two of the most violent attacks come against children, at the aforementioned birthday party, and later at the Bodega Bay school.

It is at the school where once again Hitch weaves his magic wand. As Melanie sits out
by the playground, we see what she cannot as her back is turned. We watch in horror as one bird becomes two, two becomes four, four become eight and so forth and so on while the children sing a playful song inside. It is not until Melanie stands and turns that she sees what we have seen all along. The attack on the school children that follows is still one of the most horrific sequences ever to be put on film, emphasized by the fact that it once again is an attack on those that are least capable of defending themselves.  (The videos below from hulu have been somewhat problematic.  You may or may not have to refresh your browser in order for them to load.)

But there is more. In a scene played to perfection by Jessica Tandy, Lydia goes to a farm house and discovers the mutilated body of Mr. Fawcett, it would be at this point that most directors would have her simply scream and the guy outside would come running into the house. But Hitchcock plays the scene for every cent it is worth making Lydia so horrified that she when she opens her mouth there is no sound and she can only run in total terror.

In another scene we watch as a
puddle of gas flows to where a man is lighting a cigarette while standing next to his car. The patrons in the restaurant yell at him from the window, but of course since they are yelling different things simultaneously he's not sure what exactly it is they are hollering about. After he drops the match, we see the different looks of horror and helplessness on Melanie's face in cut stills as the flame works it’s way to the pump.

As the birds descend on the town, Melanie becomes
trapped in a phone booth, and it from here that just like Melanie, we have a front row seat to the devastation. By the time Tippi Hedren had spent a week filming a later sequence that takes place at the Brenner home, she had to be hospitalized for exhaustion.

I have to admit that the first time I saw the film, I was a little put out by the ending. But I was about fifteen at the time and watching it on NBC where it became (at that time) the most watched theatrical film on television ever until it was taken over some years later by Love Story. I was used to seeing films wrapped up with that pretty bow at the end of the story, and it wasn't until later that I began to appreciate the fact that sometimes its best to write your own ending and decide for yourself.

As I matured, I realized that any other ending would have ruined the film although Hitchcock at one time had the idea to have Mitch, Melanie, Lydia, and Cathy drive into San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge covered with birds.

The Birds was once voted the
Seventh Scariest Movie of all time in a poll conducted in Britain in 2006. I won't disagree with that assessment. In the over forty years of its existence, the film is just as superb in 2012 as it was in 1963 or even 1968 when I saw it for the first time. And when you combine all the ingredients put into this film, you can bet that I have no choice but to give it my grade which is an A.

The Birds is available to buy on DVD from Amazon, or to rent from Netflix.  The best news is that in celebration of Universal Studios 100th Anniversary, they will be releasing a remastered edition on Blu-ray some time this year (2012), although there is no specific release date.  But you can do as I did and preorder from Amazon with their lowest price guarantee, something I’ve already done.  I really look forward to that.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Fathom (1967)

Raquel Welch
Tony Franciosa
Ronald Frasier
Richard Briers
Clive Revill
Tom Adams
Greta Chi

Leslie H. Martinson
Lorenzo Semple Jr.
based on a novel
Larry Forrester

The first time that I saw Raquel Welch on the big screen, she was wearing a skin tight unrevealing white jump suit aboard the submarine Proteus in the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage. At that time I was much more interested in the special effect wonders of a miniature sub exploring the inner workings of the human body than the outer covering  that was lurking beneath Raquel's clothing and wet suits.

That all changed not very long afterwards when the first movie ads for One Million Years BC were released. There was Ms. Welch looking extremely bold, dynamic, and extraordinarily sexy decked out in the latest designer animal skin duds inviting every red blooded male in the world to be the ultimate caveman to her ultimate cave woman. It was the poster and the film that would launch Raquel into sex symbol superstardom. But for Raquel, it would at times prove to be more of a curse than a blessing.

Raquel Welch:

"The Sixties was not the best time to be a sex symbol, at a time of flower-children and the beginnings of the anti-war movement. It was weird - you couldn't cast me in anything. I would have been happy doing the kind of roles that Marilyn Monroe did in comedies like Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -- eds). My talents lay in singing and dancing. But that era has passed."

And although there were to be  as many misses than hits in her career, there were times when Raquel did some very good work and probably deserved a lot better material than what she was given to work with. In films such as The Three Musketeers (for which she won a Golden Globe), The Four Musketeers, Kansas City Bomber, Crossed Swords, 100 Rifles and Bandolero she showed herself to be more than just a gorgeous face with a perfect body. In the TV movie Right to Die, she played a woman stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

But a Welch film often overlooked over the years is this goofy but enjoyable little gem called Fathom which also is the name of the lead character. Her full name is Fathom Harvill. Undoubtedly you are sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, and wanting to know why this beautiful young skydiving dental hygienist is called Fathom.

Reporter: Señorita, how did you ever get a name like Fathom?
Fathom: A fathom is six feet. Papa was hoping for a tall son. Papa was disappointed.

Peter Merriwether: Fathom, eh? I never met a Fathom. Where did you ever get a kinky name like that?
Fathom: First initials for uncles- Freddy, Arthur, Tom, Harry, Oscar, Milton. They were all rich, and Papa wasn't taking any chances- unlike me.

Fathom: The name's Fathom Harvill.
Mike: Fathom? How'd you get a name like Fathom?
Fathom: It's short for Elizabeth.

Sergi: Please sit down, Miss...?
Fathom: Harvill. Fathom Harvill. Please don't ask me how I got the name Fathom.
Sergi: Let me guess. Your father wanted a very tall son. Or you were named after wealthy relatives. Or as a child, you were very deep.
Fathom: Two out of three, that's not bad.

Why do I think she is called Fathom? It's because it's such a cool name to play the name game with:

Fathom, Fathom, bo bathom, banana fana fo athom, fee fi fo mathom, Fathom!

That bit was for all you oldies fans out there. Now that we know all the possible origins of her name, who exactly is Fathom?

As I said before Fathom is  a dental hygienist and she's a skydiver and a damn good one at that. (Good Skydiver that is, as the movie gives us no indication as to her abilities in the world of orthodontics) We find this out in the opening title sequence as we watch Fathom expertly prepare her parachute for her next jump in a bright red skin tight T-shirt and bikini bottoms that practically bursts off of the screen.

Director Leslie Martinson, wardrobe designer Kiki Byrne, wardrobe supervisor Bridget Sellers and Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe make no bones early on about the fact that we are here to watch Miss Welch play in her movie world sandbox. She could be folding a napkin in this opening sequence and you wouldn't have noticed anything different.

Photographed against a soft green landscape from just about ground level, you won't be able to take your eyes off of her even if you were really interested in reading the credits or taking a lesson in the proper way to prepare your chute.  The red outfit contrasts against anything and everything in the scene, thus making sure we focus our attention solely on Ms. Welch.  Hey, I would have done that even  if the suit had been poopy brown.

We quickly find out exactly how good of a skydiver Fathom is when the five male members of her team float down to earth towards a ground target and each and every one of them miss it. Having observed male incompetency for all it's worth, it is Fathom's turn to jump. We watch from afar as stunt double Donna Garret spins twirls and whirls on her way downward until she finally opens her chute and morphs into Raquel Welch.

Of course, unlike her male counterparts, Fathom (dressed in a striking metallic silver jump suit) hits the target dead center to an appreciative and cheering crowd.

In the midst of all of this adulation, some young constantly grinning British fella shows up and informs Fathom that he was assigned to give her a ride into town upon which Fathom replies, "I'll be with you as soon as I change!"

Now, I don't have to tell you that if I had known that all I had to do was drive up to Raquel Welch in a broken down old hummer, and yell at her that her ride was here, and that she would hop aboard no questions asked I would have done that forty years ago. Even if I couldn't drive yet. So Fathom is quite the trusting person, probably a bit more than your average skydiver, but what the hell. Introductions are always a colossal bore anyway.

Down the road a bit, Fathom notices that they missed their turn at the Slauson Cut Off, at which time friendly British person who picked her up  is now referring to her as "Luv" (we're taking a slight detour, luv) but has not yet told Fathom or us or anybody his real name. He tells her that they are going to meet a Colonel Campbell to which Fathom replies that she knows of no Colonel Campbell (Ronald Fraser). Friendly Grinning British Guy with the name we do not know simply says that she will know him soon. Fathom doesn't say anything, but does have this inquisitive look on her face like she isn’t so sure that hopping in a 1968 Hummer with someone just because she likes being called "Luv" with a British accent was such a hotsy totsy idea after all.

When they arrive, it turns out that Campbell is homesteading in a trailer out in the middle of nowhere on ground that looks like it could be turned into the county landfill at any moment. It is only after she follows Campbell and British guy into the trailer  that she finally puts her foot down:

Fathom: I'm going to be very calm about this whole thing. You take me back to my hotel room in the next ten minutes and I'll forget all about it. If you don't I'm going to holler bloody murder to the American Embassy.

Yeah, that little speech will have the bad guys shaking in their boots. But as it turns out, Campbell and Nameless British Guy are not the bad guys we thought they might be or at least that's what they say.

Campbell: A very normal reaction Miss Harvill. I'll tell you what, if my credentials don't entirely satisfy you I'll holler with you.

Now, there's a trustworthy fellow if there ever was one. Campbell explains to Fathom that he belongs to a super duper top secret organization known as HADES, also known as Headquarters Allied Defenses Espionage and Security, an organization of which Campbell is the head honcho.


I've often wondered if movie studios keep someone on staff just to come up with the names of these super secret organizations so that their abbreviations will spell clever words such as Uncle, Thrush, Spectre, Zowie and now Hades. If so, can I have that job?

We finally find out that Smiling Young British Guy is not just a pervert out picking up female parachutists but is in fact Flight Lieutenant Timothy Webb (Richard Briers), Royal Air Force, on leave of absence. Aren't you glad we cleared that up?  So if these two budding secret agents aren't after a threesome, exactly what do they want with Fathom?

They need her to help them find the "Firedragon." What is the Firedragon?

Colonel Campbell:   Sometime ago there was a calamity in the air. One of our hydrogen bombs was lost in the Mediterranean Sea.....the bomb they found but not the fire dragon. The Firedragon is a fail safe device that triggers the hydrogen bomb by electronic signal.

He then tells her that one Peter Merriweather (Anthony Franciosa) and his friend Major Jo-May Soon, Mongolian KGB (Greta Chi) are Red Chinese agents who are after the Firedragon because with it they'd "have the power to turn the world into a black broiled mushroom cloud."

Fathom's mission, if she decides to accept it before this review self destructs in thirty seconds,  is to parachute into Meriwether's secluded villa with an electronic device and turn it on which in turn will remotely trigger a listening device they had planted earlier.

And of course, not wanting the world world to go kaboom, Fathom agrees to make the jump for the two Hades agents and for the sake of mankind every where.

Fathom makes the jump. landing perfectly onto the balcony, triggers the listening device and enables Colonel Campbell and Boy Wonder Timothy to retrieve the Firedragon thus saving the world from a nuclear holocaust. Well not exactly.

She does in fact land on the balcony and triggers the listening device but it's all downhill for her from there. She stumbles across one dead body, is quickly framed for murder by Merriweather and his cohorts, is accused of working for Campbell and Timothy, and is then promptly blackmailed into helping dispose of the deceased.

And this is where Fathom's story really begins and my synopsis comes to an end. To tell you anything more would entail having to give away every single plot twist there is. Suffice it to say, not everybody in this film may be who you think they are or who Fathom thinks they are. Later on, we even meet up with a Batman type villain that goes by the name of Sergi Serapkin, who may or may not possess the Firedragon. Just like the villains of comic book days of yore, Serapkin distinguishes himself with the odd fact that he can never seem to be able to get warmed up. He is the polar opposite of Mr. Freeze and is wonderfully played by Clive Revill.

The truth is that the Firedragon may or may not even exist, and if it does it may or may not be capable of doing what it is you think it may do, if it does anything at all. It is what Alfred Hitchcock called McGuffin. What is a McGuffin?

A McGuffin  is a plot device that motivates the characters or advances the story, but the details of which are of little or no importance otherwise. And that is what the Firedragon is. It is simply an object to wrap our plot and characters around as Fathom leads us from one encounter to the next in an effort to get to the end of the game. In Fathom, it is simply an excuse to show off the charms, beauty, and assets of Miss Welch, and the fact that we get a fairly decent and interesting spy spoof in the process is just a whole lot of icing on the cake.

Just as in the opening parachute scene, every outfit worn by Welch in every scene in Fathom is designed so that our attention is always drawn to her. And I don't mean that in a physical or lustful sense at all. There are plenty of actresses out there with first class sculptured bodies dressing as flimsily as possible to lust after, but it is Miss Welch's beauty that grabs our attention first and foremost much in the same way that it was Marilyn Monroe's screen presence that attracted us to her. It doesn't matter if she is outfitted in a green bikini, a red T-shirt, or a green jump suit. She has the same effect regardless.

Raquel not only occupies every scene, her presence is often overpowering. There have been better actresses in films, but none who can light up each and every scene just by being in it. At least not in the way that Raquel Welch does in this film.

And being honest here, her acting abilities were sometimes derided simply because once you are pegged as a sex symbol, you are permanently pasted with that unable to act stigma for all time. In this film she does exactly what one would expect the main character to do. She acts as if she is having a good time and because she does, we do too. When I saw the much more publicized One Million Years B.C. it was quickly forgotten by me,  unlike this film


When our celluloid type male spies, male secret agents, and male counter spies act in such a manner, their performance is accepted because hey, that's the way the spy game works in the movies and it's all just for fun. When a woman does it in the same kind of role and in the same manner, she is told she can't act.

Raquel's character Fathom does quite well stacked up against her male co-stars. What I really like about the film is that the writers did not fall prey to scripting the obligatory sex scene between the two main leads. They leave them as they are, which for the most part is adversaries, enabling the action to flow seamlessly from one scene to the next. And there is plenty of that.

Raquel's scenes with Tony Franciosa, (who mysteriously has top billing in this film. Must have had a helluva agent), are simply fun to watch. He does of course harbor the usual male sexist attitude but she will have none of it and views him more with disdain than anything else, even up to the final scene. As for the many chase scenes and action sequences, they are done quite well especially when you consider that this film was obviously done on a shoe string budget.

I'm not going to pretend that this film is great cinema. But it is a lot of fun once you allow yourself to get swept away and entertained by the sheer silly goofiness of it all and accepting it for what it is, which is a decent but highly watchable and worthwhile spy spoof.

As far as Miss Welch is concerned, she may never have been able to replace Marilyn Monroe, but like Marilyn she was able accomplish something that is sorely lacking these days in those who are pretenders to the sex symbol throne.

Just because you are saddled with the one dimensional label of being a sex goddess, you can still carry on with a lot of class, a whole lot of dignity, and not lose the ingredients that make you something special. And for that alone I would have no choice but to give Fathom my grade, which is a B+.

I rented Fathom from Netflix a few years ago,  but received two broken discs from out of town before the third one was the charm. That was a warning sign, and checking the web site now it is no longer available, just as I suspected.  Back when I originally wrote this, you could only buy it as part of a Raquel Welch Sex Goddess boxed set, but it appears the singled edition is available once again at Amazon so get it while you can because these things come and go, then you’re stuck paying outside seller prices which are exorbitant when a film is out of print.  Use the product links in the review to help me out a bit if you want.

More Raquel Welch Films:


Also by Raquel Welch: