Fathom review

Banana Rating: 3 out of 5

Let’s be upfront: Raquel Welch has a lot of front. And Fathom is a love let­ter to her con­sid­er­able assets, clad as they are in a vari­ety of eye-catching out­fits. Does it need to be any­thing more? No, not really. What’s great about Fathom, and Raquel Welch her­self, is an obvi­ous aware­ness of her curves and frothy, ditzy, onscreen persona.

In the open­ing sequence, the cam­era moves up and down the length of her body, fol­lows her bum as she walks away from us, and dances around her in a way that today we might con­sider pervy. But thanks to Raquel’s cha­risma, and the final moment when she stretches her arms in the air with a big smile on her face, it comes across more as bright, breezy, and charming.

Here, she plays an unusu­ally named sky­diver, Fathom Har­vill — there’s a run­ning joke where people she’s just met, ques­tion the strange fore­name, and her explan­a­tion is always dif­fer­ent. After a suc­cess­ful sky diving dis­play in Spain, Fathom is approached by a very young-looking Richard Bri­ers (before he became a house­hold name in the UK with nineteen-seventies sit­com, The Good Life), and intro­duces her to a Col­onel Camp­bell, an agent of a cov­ert gov­ern­ment oper­a­tion which is try­ing to retrieve the trig­ger for a nuc­lear device.

A light soufflé

There’s a very flimsy reason they need Fathom, and that’s because of her sky diving skills and good looks. Once that part of the story is out of the way, Fathom finds her­self sink­ing ever deeper into the film’s mys­ter­ies, not know­ing from one minute to the next the dif­fer­ence between the good guys and the bad guys.

Like a lot of spy spoof movies of the era, eager to cap­it­al­ize on the suc­cess of James Bond, Fathom is a light soufflé in terms of plot and char­ac­ter. Ironic per­haps, that a film called Fathom has very little depth. Then again, Fathom her­self is nearly always out of her depth with whatever the story throws at her, as she dashes from one calam­ity to another. So there’s an irony there too. I ima­gine Lorenzo Semple Jr., who wrote the screen­play (based on a novel by Larry For­res­ter), bashed the script out on his type­writer with one raised eye­brow, styled after Roger Moore.

The lack of depth is no bad thing really. Raquel Welch car­ries the movie with effort­less charm: she has a knack for not tak­ing her­self too ser­i­ously, des­pite her sex sym­bol status. She knows she’s sexy, but she finds it funny too. She’s the true star here, so much so, that it’s a mys­tery why she didn’t receive top billing. Anthony Fran­ciosa (Remember him? No, me neither!), baff­lingly, gets that hon­our instead.