Saturday, January 23, 2010
I am a huge fan of the Space Age. There is nothing more exiting than the early days of man's quest for space. Each moment is exiting and interesting enough to fill a hundred hours of movie time and it's no wonder that filmmakers come back to this subject over and over again. This movie came out a few months after the initial landing on Moon to capitalize on the public's fascination for the subject.
'Marooned' is the 1969 feature about 3 astronauts living and working in an orbital space station for what was initial planned to be seven months. After 5 months the decision is made to bring them back to Earth when the ground control crew begins to notice problems with the astronauts related to fatigue and prolonged time in space.
The film is remarkably realistic for the time and much care has been taken to get all of the technical details right. Of course the movie benefits by having access to the actual film photography taken during actual launches.
Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman and James Fransiscus play the three astronauts on a seven month mission in Earth orbit aboard a space lab. As I already mentioned, after a few months, those down on the ground begin to notice a decline in their performance and decide to bring the men back a few months early. Before the men can return home, a problem with their return booster rocket effectively maroons them in space and they require an emergency rescue.
David Janssen plays the pilot/astronaut tasked with the job using an experimental space vehicle, the only machine capable of reaching the three before their oxygen gives out. This mission and it's effects on all involved in space and on Earth forms the basis for the rest of the story. I found it to be an interesting character driven story that relied heavily on the technical but didn't forget the personal aspects that would accompany such an event. I remember reading a few months ago the speech that Richard Nixon, then President of the US, planned in case the moon landing ended with the death of the astronauts involved. Fortunately he never had to give that speech.
The movie won the 1969 Academy Award for Special Visual Effects and those effects are spectacular for the time. The scenes of weightlessness especially would have amazed audiences in the late 60s. Only those in '2001, A Space Odyssey' are comparable.
It's notable that Jim Lovell, the pilot of the ill-fated Apollo 13, took his wife to see this film months before his flight to ease her fears about what would happen if his flight suffered a catastrophic failure like the one in the movie. This piece of history made it into the final cut of Ron Howard's 'Apollo 13', a film about that very crisis Lovell and his crew went through.
Posted by Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness at 11:41 PM