- The Bubble (1966) movie review: 3D B thriller with sci-fi elements can be an enjoyable – maybe even profound? – experience as long as you don’t obsess over pesky details like the quality of the acting and dialogue, or the characters’ motivations.
The Bubble movie review: Instead of feeling frustrated by the lead characters’ idiotic behavior in this 1966 B in 3D, focus on uncovering its Deeper Meaning
THE BUBBLE in 3-D! FILMED IN SPACE-VISION! In 4th Dimensional Living Color.
So proclaims the DVD cover of this seldom seen 1966 sci-fi morsel (a.k.a. Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth), which, notably, was written, directed, and produced by Arch Oboler, whose Bwana Devil (1952) was the first 3D color movie ever released.
Now, what is the 4th-dimensional The Bubble all about?
After flying in a small aircraft through a storm, Mark (Michael Cole), his pregnant wife, Catherine (Deborah Walley), and their pilot-friend Tony (Johnny Desmond) land in a nightmare world that, besides resembling a movie studio backlot, is peopled by many humanoids and one gigantic hand.
After an emergency landing, Catherine ends up at a hospital to have her baby while Tony visits the local tavern to get drunk. All this may seem normal for the first few seconds into the movie, but then we see that the townspeople act as if they all have a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, repeating the same gestures and words over and over.
The fact that there is something terribly wrong occurs immediately to the audience, but for The Bubble’s obtuse leads it takes days. The trio notice that something is amiss, but they just go about their business without giving it a second thought.
God plucks in mysterious ways
As the movie progresses, they try to engage the townsfolk and the hospital nursing staff in conversation, but since there’s never any reply they simply help themselves to food and lodging without any kind of monetary or verbal exchange.
After about a week of this weirdness, they get a sense that they might be in another world. Their investigation leads them to discover that they are surrounded by a thick glass wall … a bubble!
At first they discuss staying in these strange surroundings, raise the baby, and live their lives with the plentiful resources in the town. But then they discover the darker side of this bizarre world.
That’s when a gigantic hand reaches in from above and plucks one unfortunate soul by the neck and then disappears back into the sky. It’s as if that world is contained in one big glass jar with a lid, and a Supreme Being is watching them at all times. This is the Keeper.
Scary near-death experience
Later on, while hiding in a cave, Tony accidentally sets off some magnetic-radioactive whatever and is briefly transported into what seems like … death.
We get a glimpse of what that is like in gloriously effective 3D. Tony knows he is dying and keeps repeating “I gotta wake up, I gotta wake up,” just like someone coming out of a near-death experience. I found that sequence rather scary, even though I’m usually cynical about such “manipulations.” In other words, this one really works.
On the downside, most of The Bubble consists of absurd situations, inane dialogue, poor acting, and sloppy continuity. For instance, after his experience with death, we can’t tell whether or not Tony has become one of the humanoids, especially considering that he keeps dropping in and out of the story.
What’s wrong with people?
Not helping matters, our main characters idiotically decide to include one of the zombie creatures, a nurse (Barbara Eiler), in their group. She is supposed to be Tony’s new girlfriend, even though she never speaks or reacts to anything. It’s a bad case of, “Don’t they notice she is not human? What’s wrong with them?”
Stubbornly, I kept trying to make sense of the characters’ motives, but with no success. In fact, I slowly began to identify with the humanoids, and looked at the real people as the alien creatures.
Credulity is stretched even further when Mark and Catherine return to the cave and attempt to tunnel their way out, accomplishing an engineering feat that only a drilling team could have managed.
Now for a “deeper meaning”:
I don’t want to read into this mostly silly story and analyze it to death, but I do see some kind of existential significance to it. The Bubble comes across as an indictment against God for keeping us trapped in this prison we call Earth.
Having the Keeper lift the lid of the jar and extract someone every seven days has direct Biblical significance when you figure the commandment about the seventh day of rest.
Besides, the humanoids – who eat some strange substance found in the cave – look up to the sky and call out to the Keeper in prayer, beseeching him for more food.
Of course, in case you’re inclined not to ponder over any “deeper meaning,” just put on the 3D glasses that come with the VD, sit back, make sure to ask no questions, and enjoy!
The Bubble / Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth (1966)
Direction & Screenplay: Arch Oboler.
Cast: Michael Cole. Deborah Walley. Johnny Desmond. Kassie McMahon. Barbara Eiler. Virginia Gregg. Vic Perrin.
“The Bubble (1966) Movie Review” endnotes
Michael Cole and Deborah Walley The Bubble movie images: Arch Oboler Productions.
“The Bubble (1966) Movie Review: Deborah Walley & Michael Cole Look for the Theological Meaning” last updated in August 2022.