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USA 1969
Directed by
John Sturges
134 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Released the year after 2001: A Space Odyssey Sturges’ film about three American astronauts astranded in space is B-grade stuff given A grade treatment (well mostly, the Soviet capsule is almost Ed Wood). Made at the height of the Cold War-inspired space rivalry between the U.S and the U.S.S.R., it came out only three months after the (alleged) Moon Landing. It tells the story of a trio of spacemen (Gene Hackman, Richard Crenna and James Franciscus) orbiting in space while mission control, headed by Gregory Peck, tries to get them down.

Although often impressive in the long view, particularly the launch sequences, at a more detailed level, although winning an Oscar for Special Effects, it is not in the league of Kubrick’s film and probably has huge holes for anyone who knows their science (would it really only take an hour for David Janssen to get from Earth to the stranded capsule?).

Sturges, whose biggest successes had been in the Western genre with Bad Day at Black Rock (1956), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) is reasonably successful at giving his ham-in-a-can story some dramatic tension but at the end of the day this film will probably only appeal to sci-fi aficionados.

FYI: Sturges's film was based on a 1964 novel by Martin Caidin, a pilot who wrote a number of fiction and non-fiction books including Cyborg (1972), which became the basis of the iconic TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. (1973-8).




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