Fathom (1967) – A Review
Raquel Welch was one hot lady. At her peak she would have to be ranked as one of the most gorgeous actresses around. If I was forced to make a Top Ten list of hottest actresses of all time I think Raquel would slide in there somehow.
Besides looking great in any outfit she put on, she had done her fair share of acting in a decent number of movies. I suppose she has two real notable films that she’s best known for – Fantastic Voyage, the sci-fi miniaturized adventure where she and a team of scientists explore the inside of a human body.
And One Million Years B.C. which nevermind if the movie was terrible, Raquel was the real draw. Seeing her running around in a loincloth would make any hetero male yearn to live in those stone age times. I’m not sure if many fans have actually seen that film, but they sure know the pictures of her posing in her cavegirl outfit.
As I said Raquel did her fair share of films and she really hit her stride in the 1960s reigning as one of the decades top sex symbols. One Raquel starring vehicle I recently watched was 1967’s spy/adventure/comedy Fathom. To put it bluntly – it’s a pretty silly forgettable movie, but somehow the promise of seeing Raquel showing up in lots of different outfits made it bearable to watch.
Raquel plays Fathom Harvill an American dental assistant who in between cleaning teeth is an expert skydiver and performs aerial shows. I have no idea how they thought up this character for Raquel. I thought it sounded very strange.
Although the opening title sequence by Maurice Binder, aka ‘the man behind the Bond title sequences’, showcases this odd combination of Raquel and skydiving. It’s basically Raquel in bikini bottoms packing up her parachute. The title sequence did do its job. It got me hooked ready to watch this movie.
So Fathom is touring Europe with a U.S. skydiving team and she’s not surprisingly the main draw for the crowds. Seeing her float down out of the sky, making elegant landings, removing her helmet and shaking her gorgeous locks would sell tickets anywhere.
Fathom gets recruited for a secret mission by a Scottish agent (Ronald Fraser) to skydive to a remote villa where Peter Merriweather (Tony Franciosa) is holed up and is in possession of an object known as the “Fire Dragon” – some kind of remote nuclear device that could trigger a hydrogen bomb….or something – let’s just call it ‘the MacGuffin’.
All Fathom has to do is “accidently” land there and a hidden radio in her helmet will turn on the ‘bug’ the agents already dropped on the villas roof. She will get to hold her head up high knowing she has helped keep the world safe and then be merrily on her way to make a few more skydiving appearance before heading back to the states to clean teeth.
Does this offer sound slightly suspicious to anyone else?
Naturally things get a little bit more complicated than what Fathom signs up for. Before she knows it she’s embroiled in confusing spy intrigue involving several shady individuals who want the Fire Dragon and she doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe.
Fathom was one of the countless spy films that rode the spy craze in the 1960s. It’s not the worst one, but it’s certainly not the best. There’s not a lot to rave about in regards to the plot. You’re not really watching for that anyway.
The characters are cardboard spy types that are nothing special. The only one who stands out is the oddball monacle-wearing Clive Revill. He is certainly the strangest of the characters Fathom encounters. I’m not sure what to make of him.
The stunts or action sequences are pretty lame as well. A boat chase gets pretty tedious and silly. Fathom trapped in a bullring running back and forth from the bull gets old pretty fast. It especially doesn’t help that it’s so blatantly obvious that it’s a stuntman wearing a wig and a dress running around.
That part of it did kind of keep me captivated. I just kept thinking it’s too bad they couldn’t have just used a stunt ‘woman’ to double for Raquel. It would have sold this scene much better. It felt weird seeing Raquel having five o’clock shadow.
The skydiving and plane sequences, which you might think would be halfway decent, mainly consist of flat rear screen projections with the actors safely on stage. Oh and the comedy will at best make you smirk if you’re in a good mood and get in the spirit of all this.
So what is the redeeming things about Fathom? There’s a nice exotic flavor to the film. The filmmakers took advantage of the Spanish coast and countryside and they certainly show off its beauty.
And speaking of beauty – yep Raquel. She may not be the best actress and doesn’t convince me for a second she’s an expert skydiver, but she sure looks gorgeous parading around in her bikinis. Her hair, the lashes, her groovy clothes, that’s the most worthwhile reason to watch Fathom. But you probably could have guessed I was going to say that from the beginning of this review.
In fact in the movie trailer they seemed to know Raquel in her bikinis and outfits was the real selling point too. So it’s not really that big of a surprise.
This could have kickstarted a whole Fathom series of films starring Raquel. Every movie takes place in a different location with some insipid plot that ropes Fathom into the spy game again and forces her to make several costume changes before the bad guys are defeated and Fathom saves the world.
Just as long as they kept sending her to warmer locations where clothing is kept to a minimum the flicks would have had an appetizing reason to watch them. Avoid colder climates. I wouldn’t sit through a Fathom movie that took place in the Arctic with Raquel bundled up in parka.