Fantastic Voyage

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EFL Movie Study Guides (for English learners)

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EFL Movie Study Guide for: Fantastic Voyage



Story Journey into the living body of a man! What if doctors could ride a submarine (ship) through the blood stream, and then use lasers to fight disease? That is idea behind this classic adventure movie. A top scientist is injured, so a specialized team of doctors “shrinks” and enters his body to save his life; but along the way they battle time, the body’s defenses, and a saboteur. This 1966 film is a little out-of-date, but it still gives medical students a great chance to experience an awe-inspiring trip inside a patient! (1966; 2 Oscars; starring Stephen Boyd, Rachel Welch; 20th Century Fox; adventure/thriller; PG; 100 min)

Setting: in a secret, underground US laboratory complex, in the 1960s

Note 1: Yes, you can see “wires” that are holding the actors in place, but remember how primitive “special effects” were in the 1960s. This film should give you more respect for the work film-makers did before computers made it easy to create sets/backgrounds and make people fly. You will also find some “medical mistakes” if you are a doctor, but we’ve learned a lot about the body since 1966. Also notice how much the actors (including doctors) smoke—most American actors stopped smoking on screen in the 1980s.

Note 2: The beginning might be confusing to foreign viewers. It begins without dialog, as an unknown man (Scientist Jan Benes) leaves an airplane; filmmakers show you how important this man is, because soldiers greet and guard his airplane, and officials escort his motorcade as he leaves the airport. Then the motorcade is attacked, and the scientist is injured.


People and proper nouns:

Jan Benes: the key scientist who is dying with a brain tumor, which makes this “fantastic voyage” necessary

Mr. Grant: A government official/agent who helped bring Jan Benes to America, and who now must help save his life

Dr. Peter Duval: the main surgeon on this team, and the “top brain man in the country”

Miss Cora Peterson: Dr. Duval’s technical assistant

Dr. Mike Michaels: The doctor in charge of this team

General Carter: the head of the military unit that can “shrink” things

Captain Bill Owens: the captain of the submarine, sometimes called “Skipper”

Col. Don Reid: the “operational commander” of this operation (an officer in the CMDF)

CMDF: (fictitious name of this secret military branch) Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces

the Proteus: the name of the submarine (Proteus was an ancient Greek sea-god who could change his shape)


Nouns/verbs (most of these sample sentences came from or relate to the movie)

berserk: to act crazy or extremely excited, like at the end of a close, surprising sports match or in a dangerous situation. (“He went berserk.” “Berserk nothing; he’s a saboteur.”)

blood clot: a solid mass of dry blood (particularly dangerous if it goes to the heart or brain)

claustrophobia: a strong fear of being in a small place or closely-watched situation

coma/comatose: a long unconscious sleep, normally because of a serious illness or injury. These are grammatically correct: He is in a coma. He is comatose.

current: in water, a current is a path where water moves together at a different speed than the water around it. (“We are caught in a current; it is too strong to break out of.”)

gullible: easily fooled or tricked into believing things that are not true. (“You are gullible; he’s a fanatic whose only purpose is to kill Mr. Benes.”)

hatch: a door on a ship or airplane. (“Be sure to secure [i.e., to close] the bottom hatch once you are out of the sub.”)

hypothermia: a medical name for the condition when someone's body is dangerously cold. (“We’re putting Benes in deep hypothermia—28 degrees centigrade—to slow his heartbeat and circulation.”)

infinity: describes space/distance without limits (such as “heaven”) or a number too big to be calculated

laser: a powerful, narrow beam of light or a machine that creates this light; lasers have been used for surgery for many years. (“We will dissolve the clot with a laser beam.”)

lull: a short time of quiet or inactivity (in a game, war, operation, etc.). (“Wait for the lull between the time he inhales and exhales.”)

medieval: related to Europe’s “middle ages”—AD 1100 to 1500. (See dialog 5)

menace: a threat or danger. (“The people who shot him are a menace to society.”)

to miniaturize: to make something very small; to shrink something

motorcade: a group of official cars/motorcycles that is taking an important person somewhere

myriad: very many and/or very complicated; made of a complex mixture of elements

to navigate/navigator/navigation: to determine which way to go by looking at maps or a compass. (“A navigator is someone in the navigation department who’s job is to navigate.”)

phase: a step or stage in a process. (“Phase one is complete. Start phase two.”)

porous: describes something that is easy for air or water to go through. (“The wall of this artery is transparent and porous.”)

sabotage: to damage or destroy something so that it cannot be used any more (esp. things belonging to an enemy during a war; in this movie, they call the sabotage “surgical assassination”: intentionally killing someone during surgery)

saboteur: someone who intentionally sabotages (damages) something to keep others from using it (see sabotage)

snorkel: an air tube between the atmosphere/surface-air and an underwater person or submarine

to spawn: when a fish spawns, it produces eggs; thus, spawn is also used to mean “to make sth begin” or “to create sth like this.” (“This craft is nuclear-powered, designed for piscatorial research—to study the spawning habits of deep-sea fish.” “This technology could spawn many scientific discoveries.”)

sterilization: the process of making something completely clean by killing bacteria (such as by boiling sth or soaking it in alcohol before an operation)

sub/submarine: a ship that travels under water (usually for the military or for research)

transparent: describes something you can see through, but perhaps not clearly. (“The window was dirty, but still transparent.”)

to volunteer/volunteering [adj, n, v]: sb who chooses to do something to help others, or the act of providing this help (often without pay, or doing a task that others don’t want to do). (“Thank you for volunteering for this job.”)

voyage: a long trip by ship or spacecraft

wireless: telegraph; a communication device that sends messages by dot-and-dash code, not voice


Phrases or idioms

“against my better judgment”: said when you agree to follow a plan or action, even though you think it is a bad idea/action

“to jury-rig” or “a jury-rig”: normally a verb, indicating that something was fixed in an incomplete or undesirable way (often because you lacked time or resources); in this film, it is used as a noun (see dialog 11)

“to be rusty”: used to show that you have forgotten something, or to say you are not as good at doing sth as you used to be (“Sorry, I don’t speak English much anymore, so I’m rusty.” “I have studied about many leading doctors, but I’m rather rusty on brain surgeons.”—i.e., I don’t remember many names of brain surgeons)

“to take orders from”: to be required to follow sb’s instructions, like the commands of an army officer. (“No matter what, only take orders from Dr. Michaels.” i.e., follow his instructions, even if others disagree)


Some medical terms you should use a dictionary to look up: (click here to go to an on-line English medical dictionary)

alveoli: the air sacs in our lungs (肺泡)

antibodies: something your body makes in order to fight disease (抗体)

arterial venous fistula: a forced joining of a vein and artery (动静脉瘘)

artery: a tube that carries blood from the heart (“We are going to inject this miniaturized submarine into an artery, so you can get to the blood clot in his brain.”) (动脉)

atrium: part of the heart (心房)

bacteria: tiny living things, some of which cause disease (细菌)

carotid artery: a large artery in your neck (颈动脉)

corpuscles: blood cells (血细胞)

jugular vein: a large vein in your neck (颈静脉)

lymphatic system (淋巴系统), lymphatic nodes (淋巴结), lymphatic glands (淋巴腺): related to lymph, body fluid that contains white cells (see dialog 8)

lungs: the organs you use to breathe (肺脏)

optic [adj] (): related to the eyes, as in “optic nerve” (视神经)

plasma: the yellowish liquid part of blood. (“The plasma is like sea water: an ocean of life, end to end 100,000 miles long.”) (血浆)

scalpel: a small, very sharp, doctor’s knife (手术刀,解剖刀)

vein: a tube that carries blood to the heart (静脉)


Sentences/dialogs from the movie: (see below the “discussion” section)



1. If you were Grant, and someone told you that you were going to shrink and be injected into someone’s body, what would be your reaction?

2. Tell your partner something about this film, such as the part that you liked the best, or which person you would like to have been on this “fantastic journey.”

3. The problems on the Proteus looked like accidents? Were they? Do you think that Dr. Michaels was a saboteur, or was he just a claustrophobic man trying to get out of this tiny space before time ran out? Explain your answer.

3. Read dialog 5 and/or the beginning of dialog 12. Tell your partner what you think it means. Then discuss whether you agree with it or not and why.

4. Look at dialog 7. Neither theory can be proved with modern scientific methods, so which position requires greater faith: that the complexities of the human body “just happened by chance through 500 million years of evolution” or that some kind of “creative intelligence was at work” to create the miracle we call “life”? Explain your answer.

5. If you could take a “fantastic voyage” to someplace inside the human body, where would you like to go, and what would you hope to see?


Sentences/dialogs from the movie:

1.   Grant: How bad off is he?

      General Carter: Brain injury. He’s in a coma.

      Grant: Before or after [saying] what he wanted to tell you?

      Carter: Before he could breathe a word. He’s the only scientist who knows the answer to what we’re after.

2.** Carter: We can reduce anything down to any size we want: people, ships, tanks, planes… an army with all its equipment.

      Grant: If the other side ever gets hold of a thing like that—

      Carter: They have. But we both have the same problem: lack of control. They can only keep things miniaturized for exactly 60 minutes.

      Grant: I assume Benes knew how to control it.

      Grant: That’s right. He wanted us to have the secret, not them. That’s why they tried to kill him. So you are going to take a little trip. We’ve decided to put a surgical team and crew into a submarine… and inject it into the carotid artery. You will be part of the crew.

      Grant: Wait a minute! They can't shrink me.

      General Carter: Our miniaturizer can shrink anything.

      Grant: But I don't want to be miniaturized!

      General Carter: It's just for an hour.

      Grant: Not even for a minute!

3.** Carter: In any event, you must be out within 60 minutes. After that, you’re in danger of attack…

      Reid: …from the body’s natural defenses…white corpuscles, antibodies… You see, once you begin to grow, you become a menace to the body.

      Michaels: And there may be other unknown factors. We can’t be certain of anything.

      Carter: Any further questions?

      Grant: Just one general. Where do I get a [taxi] cab back to town?

4.   Cora Peterson: We're going to see things no one has ever seen before. Not just something under a microscope. Think about it.

      Grant: That's the trouble. I am. Being shrunk… (Cora fires the laser gun to test it.) For a nice young lady, you play with the damnedest toys, Miss Peterson.

      Cora: That will teach you where to keep your hand.

5.   Dr. Duval: The medieval philosophers were right. Man is the center of the universe. We stand in the middle of infinity between outer and inner space, and there's no limit to either.

6.** Reid: They’re off course. They’ve crossed over into the jugular vein.

      Carter: That can’t be. There’s no direct connection between the two.

      Reid: Normally not, unless there’s an arterial venous fistula—a forced joining of a vein and artery. It must have happened when Benes was hurt.

      Carter: Doctor, without killing Benes, how long could we stop his heart?

      Reid: In his comatose state, and everything slowed down… no more than 60 seconds.

      Carter: That sub should be able to get through the heart in exactly 57 seconds.

      Reid: That gives us only three seconds to revive him.

      Grant [reading a message from Carter]: The Proteus will proceed to the entrance of the right atrium, at which point the heart will be stopped by electric shock.

7.   Dr. Duval: Oxygenation. To actually see one of the miracles of the universe: the engineering of the cycle of a breath.

      Dr. Michaels: Well, I wouldn’t call it a miracle. Just an interchange of gases (carbon dioxide for oxygen); the end product of 500 million years of evolution.

      Dr. Duval: You can’t believe all that is accidental… that there isn’t a creative intelligence at work.

8.   Michaels: We’re entering the lymphatic system. Those are nuclei of cells lining a duct.

      Grant: I always had an idea there was only one system: the circulatory system.

      Michaels: The lymphatic system drains off excess fluid from the tissues. Without it, we would all blow up like balloons.

      Captain: It looks like quite a navigation problem.

      Michaels: Only until we get through the nodes—eh, the lymphatic glands. Keep your present compass heading.

      Captain: Right.

9.   Grant: It looks like somebody declared war.

      Michaels: That’s exactly what it is. Antibodies [are] destroying bacteria and any other foreign invader that threatens the system.

      Cora: Look. It’s taking on its exact shape.

      Grant: It’s like hand in glove.

      Michaels: Much closer. Like two atoms.

10.  Reid (to medical staff in the operating theater): Your attention please. The Proteus is about to enter the inner ear. You are not to walk, talk, or make a sound of any kind. Absolute silence must be maintained until they are out of the danger area.

11.  Duval: It’s against my better judgment.

      Michaels: Better judgment? To wait until the actual operation when it may be too late?

      Duval: I’ve done all I could with the laser.

      Michaels: I’m only asking him that he test it beforehand.

      Duval: If it doesn’t work, it’s beyond my power to fix it. But if it does work, there’s no telling how long it will stand up. It’s a jury-rig at best, and we’ll need every second of use we can get out of it. That’s why I don’t want to put any extra strain on the connections by running unnecessary tests.

12.  [as the submarine enters the brain]

      Dr. Duval: Yet all the suns that light the corridors of the universe shine dim before the blazing of a single thought...

      Grant: ...proclaiming in incandescent glory in the myriad mind of Man.

      Dr. Michaels: Very poetic, gentlemen. Let me know when we pass the soul.

      Dr. Duval: The soul? The finite mind cannot comprehend infinity - and the soul, which comes from God, is infinite.

      Dr. Michaels: Yes, but our time isn't.

13.  Grant: You said there was a quick way out.

      Doctor: We could follow the optic nerve to the corner of the eye.


**changed/edited for educational purposes

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