Ok, this film has a few faults. To be honest more than a few faults. But this film gets a bum rap, and based on sci-fi films of the sixties I can’t figure out why. Sure, the book was ho-hum so the source material was far from fantastic. But the author of the book did not write the screenplay. If anything this is your atypical sci-fi film from the sixties. It’s an Academy award winner. It won for having the best visual effects of any other film in 1970. The novel the movie is based on originally depicted a single astronaut marooned in a one man Mercury capsule. That book was released in 1964. The movie, after many significant alterations, was released on November 10 1969, with its Los Angeles opening one month later.
The acting in this film is pretty bad most of the time. Gregory Peck, who plays Charles Keith, is either having the early onset of rigor mortis or he’s trying to emulate a tree. He’s so wooden and ridgid at times his performance is laughable. His primary job is to save three astronauts stranded in orbit. Three astronauts have just spent several in the Apollo Applications Lab and it’s time to come home (this same lab would later become known as SkyLab). They are 280 miles up going 17,500 miles per hour. They have to fire the engine attached to the service module to slow the orbit just enough for re-entry to begin. There’s just one problem. It refuses to work. The flight is designated as Ironman 1. For the movie the author, Martin Caidin, re-wrote sections of his original novel and expanded the crew from one man to three men, and he added biographies of the crew which thankfully did not make it into the film. He kept the original premise – engine failure. A lot of Caiden’s dialog made it into the screenplay which was written by Mayo Simon. Some of the dialog is dry and cryptic. Unless you know what they’re talking about you’re going to be lost. But that’s was the language of the manned space programme in the sixties. The men that orbited the earth were test pilots and scientists.
Richard Crenna Gene Hackman James Franciscus
are the men stuck inside one of the most complex machines ever constructed, and they only have 43 hours of breathable oxygen and they’re dying. The chief astronaut,Ted Dougherty, played by David Janssen sticks his neck out and becomes a thorn in the side of Charles Keith. He helps organize a rescue of his three friends. Unknown to the Americans the Russians are organizing a rescue too. This movie was prophetic in that it correcting forecast the peaceful cooperation of space by the two countries. What a great many didn’t know was if anything went wrong with any American spaceflight in the sixties there was little, if any, hope of rescue.
Of all the space vehicles used in the film only one is fictitious. The American X-RV was created for the movie. The Russian vehicle is a Vostok/Voskhod. The movie tie-in book states its a Soyuz. The Russian government had yet to disclose to the west what it really looked like.
American print British print
You either like the film or you hate it. Columbia pictures spent 8-10 million dollars and barely broke even get only 4.1 million at the box office. It became more successful when it went to video.
The following is from the American Film Institute catalog. The links work I hope.
G | 133 mins | Science Fiction | 1969
Give it a try. I’ve read the American and British movie tie in books, had two VHS copies of the film, and I’ve ordered the remastered version of the film on DVD. I can’t get enough of this film.