United Kingdom, 1967
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Starring: Raquel Welch, Tony Franciosa
Raquel Welch was perhaps the most popular female sex symbol of the 60s and 70s, and its not hard to see why. But because this was before my time, I've been searching for her defining moment - one that utilizes her considerable charms within the context of a great movie.
This is proving to be a challenge, as the films I've seen so far seem somewhat dated now, and whether they were ever regarded as 'quality' films to begin with is up for debate. However, the search continues, and if any readers have suggestions to make, please speak up!
Fathom is a James Bond style action parody, that seems to serve little greater purpose than as a vehicle to get Raquel into her bikini. In this regard, the film achieves its aims with considerable success. According to other reviewers more acquainted with her body of work, this movie was the most effective at showcasing the Welch phenomenon.
The film's original marketing displayed no great subtlety, and to their credit was pretty accurate in encapsulating its selling point. Words carefully tailored to hint at the attractions you would experience included - "The World's most uncovered undercover agent!", "She's a sky diving darling built for action!", 'There's two types of women - all the others, and Raquel Welch."
Admirably enough, the film wastes little time delivering on the promises made in its marketing. The very first thing we see after the studio logo is a slow horizontal pan close-up of Raquel (in bikini of course) from her toes up to her head. Followed soon after by a glamor shot as she tosses her windswept hair to the accompaniment of her name in extra large type. This must have been quite the impressive entrance when viewed on the big screen!
As for the rest of the film, well I guess it's of interest as an example of late 60s fluff. There's some nice locations (it was filmed in Spain), and the requisite action sequences featuring boats, planes, trains, helicopters, cars and even a bullfighting sequence. All of which are a pale imitation of the James Bond formula, although as a parody this can perhaps be justified.
Despite my overall impression of vapidity, there is actually a convoluted storyline involved, and the ever-present dry British humor helps things along, although its fairly tame by today's standards. Like when one actor pushes Raquel up against a tree and pulls her close she exclaims "Is that really absolutely necessary Merriweather?", to which he replies "Shhh, I'm protecting you."
However, and to be fair, the film's creators were no doubt concentrating more on their film's major asset. To this end, Raquel sports numerous sexy outfits, swans about in her lime-green bikini, gets to brandish a gun, and jumps out of planes and stuff. It goes without saying that the hair department earned their keep ensuring no strand of Raquel's hairdo was harmed during filming.
As also witnessed in Hannie Caulder (review here), there is not much effort to hide the movie's leering intent. Actors can at times be seen concentrating more on ogling Raquel's curves than on their lines, and the director is not shy of choosing the exploitational camera angle.
There's even a pretty funny moment when Raquel first appears in her green bikini - one of the actors exclaims something that sounds like 'Wa-pow!' - which I assume by the accompanying expression of the actor concerned roughly translates to 'Hubba Hubba'.
Overall, I found this a bit of a chore to sit through ... obviously there is the Welch factor to redeem it, but the rest of the movie I found dated and of no great interest. Not particularly bad, but not good either - and definitely not my style.
I'd say this movie would chiefly be of interest to fans of the actress, rather than any inherent qualities of the film itself. Raquel also gets more than her usual share of dialogue, and gets to show her value as a comedic actress (not bad), and an action star (not so much).
United Kingdom, 1967