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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Fathom
Fathom
Fox // Unrated // July 16, 2002
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted September 7, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Fathom is a movie about Raquel Welch in a tiny lime-green bikini. Sure, there's a plot of sorts to the film, but it's all subordinate to the main point of the film, which is very obviously Welch's physical charms. So caveat emptor: viewers looking for a genuine spy thriller or comedy will find Fathom to be rather shallow.

So, what's the premise that gets Welch into the aforementioned lime-green bikini? It seems that her character Fathom Harvill is a top-notch skydiver; while she's on a competitive tour in Spain, a pair of British government agents recruit her for a highly sensitive mission: to parachute into the house of a suspected defector (Tony Franciosa) in order to help them recover a missing H-bomb detonator codenamed "Fire Dragon." But things aren't exactly as they seem, and of course Fathom gets drawn further and further into the complicated goings on surrounding the "Fire Dragon."

Director Leslie H. Martinson leaves nothing to chance when it comes to presenting Welch as the main attraction of the film. If the opening scene with Fathom suggestively packing up a parachute in a skimpy dress didn't get the message across, the rest of the camera work would convey the message, with shots lingering on various parts of her anatomy from feet to bust. Well, we see her face, too (my, what big hair you have, my dear!).

It's fairly clear that more attention went into designing Welch's wardrobe than to writing the script, as the plot simply doesn't hang together. The premise is weak and poorly explained, and subsequent twists and turns are obviously there just because... well, because spy movies are supposed to have twists and turns, I suppose. The burning question in my mind as I watched the film was not "who is the real culprit?" but "where the heck is Fathom's luggage?" Considering that she appears in a different outfit in nearly every scene, logically she should be hauling around at least five overstuffed suitcases. However, it appears that suspension of disbelief is required, so that we can assume that it all fits in one petite traveling case.

If you don't actually care about the sex-goddess stature of Welch in the film, what's left? Fathom ends up being a light, fluffy production with very little focus. The movie isn't serious enough to be a genuine spy adventure, as the plot doesn't offer much by way of excitement or adventure. On the other hand, Fathom doesn't seem to be trying to be a comedy, either, as the first two-thirds of the movie are played almost entirely straight. The movie actually gets a bit better in the last third of the film, as some of the odder elements appear more thickly, such as a fur-cap-wearing monocled Russian with an Igor-like butler, Fathom's exploding jewelry, and at least one faked death. All in all, it ended up being a passable viewing experience, if not exactly a great one.

Video

Fathom appears in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. Fox has evidently done an excellent job of cleaning up the print for Fathom, resulting in an image that is clean and noise-free. The picture is nicely sharp and clear, without any edge enhancement as far as I could see. Colors are a high point of the film, both in production design and the actual transfer. Barely a scene goes by without Raquel Welch in a different brightly-colored outfit, but in addition to the bright red and neon orange and green colors of her clothes, the picture includes vivid blues of sea and sky, lush green vegetation, and so on. The color balance isn't perfect, though: in a few scenes the skin tones take on a brownish tinge, and one short scene at the end has a reddish overtone that looks as if an unrestored portion of film made it through by accident. These are very minor quibbles, however: on the whole Fathom's video quality is very high, especially considering that the film dates from 1967.

Audio

Fathom's Dolby 2.0 track unfortunately doesn't live up to the high standards set by the video portion of the film. In general, the film's soundtrack is dull-sounding, with dialogue often not being as clear as it should be.

Extras

Fathom is light on the extras, including only a set of theatrical trailers for Fathom itself, Modesty Blaise, In Like Flint, and Our Man Flint. The psychedelic menu design is easy to navigate.

Final thoughts

The cover of the Fathom DVD is quite up-front about the main appeal of the film: we get Raquel Welch in that lime-green bikini, front and center. If you're a fan of Welch, this is certainly the film for you; otherwise, it's a better choice to rent it if you think you might like a very lightweight adventure.
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