Fathom (film)

Fathom is a 1967 British spy comedy film directed by Leslie H. Martinson, starring Raquel Welch and Anthony Franciosa.

Theatrical release poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed byLeslie H. Martinson
Produced byJohn Kohn
Screenplay byLorenzo Semple Jr.
Based onFathom Heavensent (unpublished novel) by Larry Forrester
StarringRaquel Welch
Anthony Franciosa
Ronald Fraser
Richard Briers
Music byJohn Dankworth
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byMax Benedict
Twentieth Century-Fox Productions Ltd (uncredited)[1]
Distributed byTwentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date
  • 1 October 1967 (1967-10-01) (United Kingdom)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,000,000 (US/ Canada)[3][4]

Fathom Harvill (Welch) is a skydiver touring Europe with a U.S. parachute team, who becomes caught up in a deadly competition between competing forces. The film was based on Larry Forrester's second Fathom novel Fathom Heavensent, then in the draft stage but never published.[5] His first was 1967's A Girl Called Fathom.[6]

This was one of three 1967 20th Century Fox films about female spies, the others being Doris Day's Caprice and Andrea Dromm's Come Spy with Me.

Writer Lorenzo Semple said "It could have been very good. It's so confused. I watched it a couple of times, and I really didn’t know what was gonna happen! I didn't know who done it or what they'd done!"[7]


Fathom Harvill, a female skydiver, is in Spain with a U.S. parachute team. She accepts a lift from a man called Timothy and is taken to see Douglas Campbell, who convinces her that he is a British agent working for NATO and wants Fathom to help him find a triggering mechanism for a nuclear weapon that has gone missing in the Mediterranean. He tells her that the device is hidden inside an ancient Chinese figurine known as the Fire Dragon. Following Campbell's plan, Fathom skydives into the villa of a man, Peter Merriwether, who has a Chinese assistant, Jo-May Soon, and is also searching for the figurine, but she finds a dead body and is caught by Merriwether who accuses her of the murder.

Fathom eventually convinces Merriwether that she is innocent and he tells her that the nuclear weapon story was a ruse and the Fire Dragon was stolen from a Far East museum by a Korean War deserter who is now being tracked by Merriwether, who is a private investigator, and he says Campbell is the deserter. Also in hot pursuit of the figurine is an Armenian man named Serapkin who is a rich private collector who wants it for himself.

After fending off a knife attack and another from a harpoon, Fathom chances upon the figurine in a makeup case. Campbell now convinces her that he is the trustworthy one and Merriwether the deserter, and Fathom boards a plane with him and Timothy, but they promptly attempt to toss her from it with a defective parachute. Merriwether catches up with them in another plane and the two pilots have a duel in the air, trying to force the other down into the sea. Merriwether manages to shoot Campbell dead and when Timothy produces a gun, Fathom fights him for it, leading to Timothy falling out of the plane. Now revealed as the good guy, Merriwether persuades Fathom to meet him later in a bar.


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):[8]

Actor Role
Raquel Welch Fathom Harvill
Anthony Franciosa Peter Merriwether
Ronald Fraser Col. Douglas Campbell, Chief of HADES
Richard Briers Flight Lt. Timothy Webb
Greta Chi Maj. Jo-May Soon (Chinese Secret Service)
Tom Adams Mike, Owner of Casa Miguel
Elizabeth Ercy Ulla
Ann Lancaster Mrs. Trivers
Tutte Lemkow Mehmed, Serapkin's servant
Reg Lye Mr. Trivers
Clive Revill Sergi Serapkin



The film was made by 20th Century Fox to cash in on the success of the Modesty Blaise comic strip and film. It was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr and directed by Leslie Martinson who had just made the film of the TV show Batman. Semple says the studio were attracted by the fact that he and Martinson had made Batman so quickly and cheaply.[9]

Semple said "Fox bought a novel called FATHOM, about a big, tall girl. She was called Fathom because she was six feet tall. They thought that would be their Modesty Blaise."[7]

He wrote the script in Boris Karloff's old house. Semple wrote the first twenty pages "making it up as I went along... I made every page exciting".[9]

Semple says he sent the first twenty pages to Fox and David Brown and Richard Zanuck liked it. They gave it to John Koch, who they wanted to produce. Koch insisted on writing the script with Semple line by line.[9]

The lead was given to Raquel Welch. She was a 20th Century Fox contractee who had leapt to fame with Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C..[10] This inspired Fox to give her her first starring vehicle.[11]

Semple recalled "The movie MODESTY BLAISE came out and it was a spectacular flop. So that cooled off the whole project, they were stuck with it."[7]


Filming started September 1966.[12] It was shot in Cártama, Mijas, Málaga, Torremolinos, Nerja, in Andalucía, Spain and Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England. Semple says that Welch and Martinson had a fight on the first day of filming and never spoke throughout the rest of the shoot.[9]

Semple also said "Franco was still in command then, there were a lot of things in the script they didn't like, so a lot of the script was thrown away on the first days shooting."[7]

Second unit director Peter Medak later said of working with Welch:

She was at that time quite inexperienced, exactly like one of those American drum majorettes. But she tried very hard and went to see the rushes each day, gradually improving. 'Who's this dumb broad?' people used to say. But I said: 'You wait. I'll bet she made it.' I liked her very much because she was such a genuine person. And she had a beautiful body which always helps.[13]

"I played a blown up Barbie doll", said Welch later. "I have never appeared completely nude but I don't condemn people who do."[14]

Shortly after filming ended Welch announced she would marry her manager, Patrick Curtis.[15]


All the film's musical score was composed by John Dankworth. An official soundtrack was released in 1967 in the United States by 20th Century Fox Records and Stateside Records in the U.K. on an 11-track vinyl.[16][17] It was reissued on CD by Harkit Records as a twelve track in 2009.[18]


The film was released in the United States on 9 August and in the United Kingdom on 1 October 1967.[19] The U.K. theatrical release was cut with the British Board of Film Classification giving a U (Universal) Suitable for all rating.[20]


Box OfficeEdit

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $3,875,000 in rentals to break even and made $3,295,000, meaning it made a loss.[21] Semple says it was "meant to be a series, but it was killed."[7]

Critical responseEdit

The Los Angeles Times film critic said that "each new Raquel Welch picture brings further proof that when Maria Montez died they didn't break the mold. Like Maria, Raquel can't act from here to there, but both ladies seem to have been born to be photographed... this sappiest of spy pictures."[22] On the other hand, the New York Times called it "crackling good fun" and said, "Somewhere between her unfortunate arrival in the revival of 'One Million Years B.C.' and the new film...Miss Welch has learned to act."[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fathom (1967). British Film Institute. Retrieved 5 October
  2. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p255
  3. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968, p. 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  4. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989; ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p. 230
  5. ^ "Reid, John Howard CinemaScope Two: 20th Century-Fox Lulu.com, 2005 p.76".
  6. ^ Richardson, Maurice (13 August 1967). "CRIME RATION". The Observer. London (UK). p. 16.
  7. ^ a b c d e Konow, David (2001). "HOLY SCREENWRITER, BATMAN!: An Interview With Lorenzo Semple Jr". Shock Magazine. No. 19. p. 37.
  8. ^ Fathom credits
  9. ^ a b c d "Interview with Lorenzo Semple Jr Part 3". Archive of American Television. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  10. ^ A.H. WEILER (31 July 1966). "Revolts Brewing in Britain". New York Times. p. 83.
  11. ^ Weller, George (11 September 1966). "Raquel Welch: Living Up to Her Legend". Los Angeles Times. p. N10.
  12. ^ "Comedy to Star Newman". Los Angeles Times. 6 August 1966. p. b11.
  13. ^ Malcolm, Derek (15 May 1972). "Class will tell: DEREK MALCOLM interviews PETER MEDAK, a director who is at last making his impact on the British cinema". The Guardian. p. 10.
  14. ^ "Sex Goddess Is Human, After All". Los Angeles Times. 9 June 1968. p. c12.
  15. ^ "Raquel Welch Plans To Marry Manager". The Washington Post, Times Herald. 11 February 1967. p. A19.
  16. ^ Record albums, 1948–1978 – Page 194. Retrieved 5 October 2019
  17. ^ The Encyclopedia of Popular Music – Page 503. Retrieved 5 October 2019
  18. ^ John Dankworth Fathom – Original Soundtrack. Retrieved 5 October 2019
  19. ^ Cinemascope Two: 20th Century-fox John Reid. 2005.
  20. ^ Fathom British Board of Film Classification. 9 June 1967
  21. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 326.
  22. ^ Thomas, Kevin (10 August 1967). "'Fathom' Playing on Citywide Screens". Los Angeles Times. p. d16.
  23. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C07E6DA1630E63ABC4C52DFB467838C679EDE

External linksEdit