I recorded the 1967 film, The Day The Fish Came Out, off of FXM on May 11th, 2017! It took me a while to get around to watching this one.
Ugh, what a mess.
The Day The Fish Came Out is kind of a comedy and kinda of a drama and it really doesn’t succeed as either. It takes place on a Greek island that is populated by four goat herders and one village full of disgruntled people. The biggest news of their lives comes when it’s announced that Greeks will now be allowed to immigrate to Greenland. All of the people of the village stand up and run through the streets but — and this is typical of the film — we never actually see anyone go to Greenland. A potentially funny joke is set up and then promptly abandoned.
Because the island is so remote, it seems like the perfect place for a damaged NATO plane to dump its nuclear payload. Two nuclear missiles end up in the ocean. Meanwhile, a radioactive crate known as Container Q ends up landing near a goatherd (Nicolas Alexios), who promptly takes it home and starts trying to pry it open. Meanwhile, the plane’s pilot (Colin Wakely) and its navigator (Tom Courtenay) end up wandering around the island in their underwear, trying to retrieve the crate without letting anyone know that they’re there. And while it may not sound like a bad thing that, for once, it’s the guys who spend the entire movie in their underwear, let’s just say that Wakely and Courtenay spend a lot of time rolling around in the dirt and it doesn’t take long for those tighty whities to get disgustingly grimy. Bleh!
Meanwhile, a group of American secret agents have been sent to the island to look for the crate and the missiles and hopefully retrieve them without causing an international crisis. The problem is that the Americans are pretending to be real estate developers and they think the pilot and the navigator are dead. And the pilot and the navigator don’t know that the brash Americans are actually secret agents so they keep hiding from them. In other news, everyone in this movie is really stupid.
The townspeople — or at least the ones who didn’t go to Greenland — assume that their island is now a hot tourist location because of all the interest from the “developers.” Through an annoyingly complicated series of events, this leads to the discovery of an ancient statue. Electra Brown (Candice Bergen) comes to the island to investigate the statue and pose in the latest 60s fashions. She then gets on a boat and leaves the movie.
Meanwhile, the ocean starts to glow and fish start to show up dead on the beach, proof that the radiation is spreading. However, the townspeople and the tourists who have recently arrived assume that it’s just a part of the island’s newfound charm…
The poster for The Day The Fish Came Out announces, “Dr. Strangelove, move over!” and that pretty much defines the approach this movie takes to its material. It wants to be even more outrageous and satirical than Stanley Kubrick’s anti-bomb classic. However, The Day The Fish Came Out lacks both Dr. Strangelove‘s focus and it’s chillingly detached world view. (One reason why Dr. Strangelove works is because Kubrick isn’t scared to suggest that maybe the world would be better off if humanity did just blow itself up.) The Day The Fish Came Out also lacks the right type of cast for this material. There’s no equivalent to be found to the performances that Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden, and even Peter Bull gave in Kubrick’s film. Among the members of The Day The Fish Came Out‘s ensemble, Sam Wanamaker, as the delusionally positive leader of the American agents, comes the closest to capturing the satirical feel that the film was obviously going for but the rest of the cast flails about in apparent confusion.
When the townspeople and the tourists blithely dance in the radioactive water and ignore the NATO man frantically yelling, “Attention!,” the film briefly achieves the satirical grandeur that it was going for. But otherwise, The Day The Fish Came Out is almost as messy as the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.