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Category:    Home > Reviews > Adventure > Science > The Neptune Factor – An Undersea Odyssey

The Neptune Factor – An Undersea Odyssey

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: C

 

 

One of these days, someone is going to have to do a book of all the films and TV shows that imitated Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) because there are far more than you would think, especially when the rest of Hollywood was trying to catch up.  One of the most obvious and least successful is the still-interesting Daniel Petrie exercise The Neptune Factor – An Undersea Odyssey (1973) which wants to mirror the Kubrick classic underwater and be an H.G. Wells/Jules Verne adventure with cutting edge underwater footage.

 

Unfortunately, despite a solid cast that includes Ernest Borgnine, Yvette Mimieux, Ben Gazzara and Walter Pidgeon, Jack DeWitt’s screenplay never adds up and the exciting underwater footage is more like a science show or travelogue than a film about something.  Even by then, the James Bond films (Thunderball and You Only Live Twice in particular) proved you could combine beauty and excitement, but the tale of Ocean Lab II and their new pressure-resistant submersible that will take man to new depths of the ocean bottom met by earthquakes and giant sea creatures is far from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

 

However, this is more of an artsy action film than anything science fiction and what is cutting edge here has been used more effectively in later films (the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only) and outdone by more ambitious films underwater (James Cameron’s The Abyss, though the Cold War subplot was cut before final theatrical release) and the possibilities of an underwater adventure (including consideration of Abyss-inspired Deep Star Six and Leviathan, which all owed more to Ridley Scott’s Alien to begin with) has yet to be really captured.  No wonder the BBC mini-series science mini-series Planet Earth is such a big hit.

 

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was developed in DeLuxe color which is not always consistent here and was shot by Director of Photography Harry Makin, all of which looks soft often on this disc.  However, the underwater footage can impress and that is the one thing the film has going for it to this day.  We could not confirm this as of this posting, but the film may have been blown-up to 70mm, allowing for the possibility of 6-track magnetic stereo sound, but that is not the soundtrack here.  Instead, we get Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Mono, with the Stereo a bit better.  Originally, the music score recorded was composed by William McCauley, but Fox was unsure of what is not a bad score and hired the great Lalo Schifrin to rescore the film for its final release.

 

Both scores are here in isolated music tracks to compare and soundtrack fans will love that.  You also get three stills galleries, a featurette made for TV, original teaser trailer, two TV spots and final trailer.  Borgnine and Mimieux would reunite in another genre film that eventually became more of a cult classic and had some of the trappings of this film: Disney’s The Black Hole.  No matter its shortcomings, The Neptune Factor is worth seeing once just for the photography and what they tried to do.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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