Countdown (1967)

ROBERT ALTMAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

USA, 1967William Conrad Productions.  Screenplay by , based on the novel The Pilgrim Project by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Exploitation of the space race about a manned trip to the moon two years before it actually happened.  Unlike a more fun indulgence like Robinson Crusoe On Mars, however, this one aims to be accurate and, likely for its time, achieved as much as was possible.  The story upon which it rests, however, is wan and unengaging as hot-shot astronaut Robert Duvall is pushed aside for the mission of heading to Earth’s satellite after it is determined that a military man on the expedition is bad publicity for the government.  Sent in his place is good friend and civilian James Caan, whose decision to take on the task of going to the moon and living in a pre-launched shelter for a year causes issues with his wife () at home.  A group of lively performers and some beautiful set design is wasted by a lackluster script, one which could have used more of the fanciful silliness of Destination Moon if it was not going to do a better job of finding drama in a more fact-based approach (the way Apollo 13 would excel at many years later).  That said, it’s fun to see the leads in early roles, the effects are still reasonably sturdy and it’s an interesting stage in the transition that director Robert Altman made between television episodes and his film breakthrough MASH three years later.

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