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For All Mankind - DVD

Monday, 23 November 2009 10:33

“For All Mankind” has been released in the fortieth anniversary year of the original moon landings. During the Apollo lunar missions from 1968 to 1972, those onboard were given 16mm cameras and asked to film anything and everything they could - in space, in orbit, and on the surface of the moon itself. In 1989, filmmaker Al Reinert went into the NASA vaults to create this compendium of their journeys and experiences.

At times intimate then awe-inspiring, “For All Mankind” is a first-hand document of one of the historical cusps of the 20th century. The Masters of Cinema Series presents Criterion's high-definition restoration of the film for its UK home viewing première in a comprehensive, director-approved special edition on DVD and Blu-ray.

For All Mankind DVDAssembled from hundreds of hours of footage, with a soundtrack made up of their memories and an especially composed score by Brian Eno, the film takes the form of one journey to the moon and back again, building a vision of human endeavour and experience.  The footage is, in fact, selected from whatever Apollo missions had the best footage to call upon, so we jump around from one crew to another. If you are into your chronology, this could be very distracting, but for true Apollo-philes there’s no doubt a ‘drinking game’ in all this, in terms of identifying which mission is which at any one particular time.

The audio commentary by Al Reinart and Eugene Cernan (the Mission Commander who was one of the last to walk on the Moon) is quite revealing – Reinart admits to faking an image of the Moon as shot through the Apollo Command Module window on the launch pad. 

In addition, some of the spacewalk footage was not from Apollo times at all, but from earlier manned missions in Earth orbit. Why was it included? Because it looked so good. There are plenty of other astronauts helping out with the actual narration within the film itself, however although Michael Collins is one of those on this duty roster, his fellow Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, who actually walked on the Moon, are conspicuous by their absence

Also revealing is how the astronauts who took part in the missions now don’t like to talk together about their experiences, and subsequent reactions to having gone to the Moon. The philosophical and spiritual feelings many of them have had are off limits, and on rare occasions when two or three of them assemble for some press junket or another, the meet-ups tend to be both testosterone-fuelled and very light-hearted.

The lunar footage here present is almost too good. Cernan admits they had the technology to operate the cameras remotely, in particular in terms of the lunar module taking off from the Moon for the last time. This would suggest that they could radio-control the cameras from distance, as it certainly wasn’t hard-wired. Just goes to show what was possible 40 years ago!

The framing of the lunar imagery is cinematic in its composition. We accept it, though, as we have seen what can be done in terms of digital enhancement via some of the archive fictional television restoration work done on the likes of early Doctor Who and the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson productions such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Indeed, shots of the lunar module and command module docking could well have been something used for showcasing the talents of Derek Meddings!

I am still trying to work out how the Lunar Rover ‘piggy-backed’ on the Lunar Module to get down to the surface.  It puzzled me as a child, and it still puzzles me today.  I must get around to getting a set of Lunar Module schematics so I can finally blow away the cobwebs on that mystery!

While watching “For All Mankind”, it becomes both easy and difficult to accept everything is as stated with the Moon landings. Currently gaining momentum is conjecture that Stanley Kubrick was responsible for the moon landing footage and, in fact codified his involvement in pulling this off all the way through his production of “The Shining”. It doesn’t really help clarity when the end credits are immediately preceded by the caption: “Filmed on location by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration” – we are to assume they mean the Moon, don’t we?

Anyhow, for NASA nuts, this Director-approved special edition includes the following:

  • A new, restored high-definition transfer, supervised and approved by director Al Reinert
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, remastered from the original sound stems
  • Audio commentary featuring Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A Cernan, the last man to set foot on the moon
  • “An Accidental Gift: The Making of "For All Mankind" - a new documentary featuring interviews with Reinert, Apollo 12 and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean, and NASA archive specialists
  • A gallery of Bean's artwork, inspired by his life as an astronaut, with commentary and a filmed introduction
  • NASA audio highlights and liftoff footage
  • Optional on-screen identification of astronauts and mission control specialists
  • New optional English subtitles (SDH) for the hearing impaired
  • A booklet, featuring essays, credits, stills, a new interview with Brian Eno, and more.

The DVD has an ‘E’ for Exempt certification, a running time of 79 minutes approx, and an RRP of £19.99 for the DVD, or the Blu-Ray at an RRP of £24.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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