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Subj: Sci-Fi Cinema #30 - The Neptune Factor (1973)
Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2020 at 01:22:04 pm EST (Viewed 84 times)
The Neptune Factor: An Undersea Odyssey (1973)
A scuba team inhabits Oceanlab, an undersea research facility of some kind. As they are preparing to finish their mission and return to the surface, an earthquake knocks the Oceanlab with three men still inside into a chasm. A boat on the surface becomes the center of a rescue effort. When no one can locate the lab on their scanners, they call for The Neptune, a mini sub commanded by Adrian Blake (Ben Gazzara) to dive in and start looking. He's joined by Dr. Leah Jansen (Yvette Mimieux) whose husband is one of the missing men, Chief "Mack" MacKay (Ernest Borgnine) and diver Bob Cousins (Donnelly Rhodes) who are part of the Oceanlab crew who had already surfaced. When they finally descend into the chasm they are faced with an unknown world of giant sea creatures.
Maybe this one suffers from being dated in a way that doesn't usually affect me, but I was underwhelmed. Underwater photography may have been less common in 1973 so maybe this movie impressed with its visuals, but I never got past the sense that someone stuck a camera in a fish bowl and shot film of some fish swimming around. The crew keeps saying the fish they're seeing are giant but there isn't much for size comparison. Occasionally we get a shot of the miniature Neptune with a fish swimming past it, and it looks like what it is, a toy boat in a fish tank. The crew has a viewing window where they see fish swim up and lick the glass and it just looks like they are watching the Discovery Channel. I don't really see the threat. I would say the poster for this film over-promises and the film under-delivers.
That's not the only problem, really. The drama is deflated. Commander Blake keeps saying things like "if we go any deeper this boat will be crushed like an egg" and then they go deeper and nothing happens. He says "if we don't turn back now we won't have enough power to get home" and they don't turn back, they keep looking, and yet they never run out of power. I was expecting more complications getting home once they found the survivors but there aren't any. That might be because the actual descent into the chasm doesn't start until about an hour into this 90 minute flick so the ending is rushed.
When one of the survivors takes off his helmet at the end, I remembered that he was the character that Mack had to fire from the crew at the beginning of the movie, so this might have been a chance for them to bury the hatchet, but it's not mentioned.
Most of this movie is just shots of undersea life, and while that's nice, the home audience probably could have seen similar on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on TV. But this was the big screen, I guess. If you want some background noise with a few good shots of fish, check it out. But it's no Fantastic Voyage.
Ernest Borgnine and Yvette Mimieux reunite six years later in The Black Hole.
You can watch The Neptune Factor here.
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