In Southern Spain with a U.S. team, skydiver Fathom Harvill is approached by a Scottish colonel working for a top-secret Western agency. He's after a vital lost atomic device, and wants her...
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George P. Cosmatos
In Southern Spain with a U.S. team, skydiver Fathom Harvill is approached by a Scottish colonel working for a top-secret Western agency. He's after a vital lost atomic device, and wants her to parachute into a house occupied by some Red Chinese agents to help get the thing back. Apart from all this there is a predatory continental doctor on his yacht to take account of. Fathom soon realizes nothing is what it seems to be, but can she fathom the truth out? Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
In 1965 a then little-known young actress named Raquel Welch auditioned for the part in "Thunderball" that eventually went to Claudine Auger. Raquel never achieved her ambition to become a Bond Girl, but two years later, and by then a rising starlet, she went one better. She became a female Bond.
"Fathom" is a typical example of the sort of spy comedy-thrillers that were popular in the sixties. It shares its continental European setting with the likes of "The Prize" and "Charade". Raquel plays Fathom Harvill, a member of the American national sky-diving team, who finds herself at the centre of an espionage drama while on a visit to Spain. (We are offered a number of contradictory, and increasingly surreal, explanations for the heroine's unusual Christian name, without it ever being established which one is correct).
The plot is a complex and confusing one; even Raquel's co-star Richard Briers punned that he could not fathom it. At the centre of the action is a mysterious object named the "Fire Dragon", which may be either a triggering device for atomic bombs or a stolen artwork. In search of the Fire Dragon are Colonel Campbell and his sidekick Timothy Webb who may be either members of the British secret services or international art thieves and Peter Merriwether and his attractive female assistant Jo-May, who may be either private detectives or agents for Red China. (Ignore the cast list which names Jo-May as a Major in the KGB, which was of course a Russian agency rather than a Chinese one). Somewhere in the middle is Sergei Serapkin, a villainous Russian tycoon who has designs both on the Fire Dragon and on the lovely Fathom.
Even though a few people end up dead, the mood is light-hearted, and even one of the corpses manages to rise, Lazarus-like, from the dead. The film's main asset is the presence of Raquel Welch herself, the most beautiful Hollywood sex symbol of the late sixties and seventies. (As most of her early films, she spends much of the time in a bikini). I cannot, however, agree with the reviewer who said that she was at the peak of her sexiness- Raquel's sexiness took the form of a plateau rather than a peak, as she remained as attractive throughout her thirties and forties as she was in her twenties. Her acting skills are never seriously tested, but she succeeds in making Fathom a likable heroine as well as a sexy one. The film does not make a great deal of sense, but then it was never intended to. It succeeds in being what it was intended to be- slick, glossy, glamorous and entertaining nonsense. 6/10
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