Fantastic Voyage by Leonard Rosenman (CD review).

When I saw that LaLaLand Records had been able to release the score of the 1966 film ‘Fantastic Voyage’, you couldn’t get the smile off my face when they gave it to me to review and was the first this month to listen to. There are a lot of films that I would love to own the musical scores for and this one was on my bucket list.


Back in 1966, it was deemed the safest way to remove a blood clot from the human brain was to miniaturise a submarine and crew and send them into the human body to do the deed. We’ve become a little more primitive since then but what a premise for a Science Fiction film which indeed it was with ‘Fantastic Voyage’.

Listening to the music by Leonard Rosenman and reading the informed booklet made me realise several things. Have a quiz amongst yourselves and see how many films you can identify that had the sounds of machines for the title music. I can only think of a couple myself. The second is that the music proper for the film didn’t start until the 38th minute when the Proteus was injected into the blood stream and the voyage truly began. This was Rosenman’s decision first and then an agreement from the filmmakers that this was the right thing to do, giving the film oceanic qualities for adventure.

Listening to Rosenman’s soundtrack away from the film still makes it a spectacular piece of work. You would still think it was a voyage of some kind without even seeing the film. The tension is built in with a sense of danger from the use of a full orchestra that ensures that it still holds up so well over fifty years later.

Thirteen tracks that could hold up purely as a Proms Night performance even today still makes ‘Fantastic Voyage’ feel great. Although there have been other films where people have been miniaturised, no one has ever thought to compete with this film which must surely make it a class of its own now. Certainly no modern composer would want to come off looking second best to Leonard Rosenman’s musical score where its beats hit the action on screen. Even more remarkable that it works so effectively just listening to it alone. Truly, the work of a superb composer.

I should also point out that the 20 page booklet written by Julie Kirgo with lots of information and photos from and including the production makes for a superb accompaniment.

GF Willmetts

September 2014

(pub: LaLaLand Records LLLCD 1279. 47 minute CD 33 tracks with 20 page booklet. Price: $19.98 (US). Limited edition of 2000 units. Note: it’s cheaper to buy direct)

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