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Capricorn One: Special Edition (DVD Review)

5 Oct, 2008 By: John Latchem

Capricorn One

Street 10/14/08
$19.98 DVD
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O.J. Simpson, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, Telly Savalas.

This 1978 film revolves around the launch of a manned mission to Mars. As the countdown approaches zero, the astronauts are pulled out of the rocket at the last moment and whisked to a secret facility. The head of NASA (Holbrook) gives them a big speech about offering the nation something to believe in, and convinces them to participate in a hoax to fake the Mars landing.

After several months of the astronauts hiding out, the hoax is complicated when the empty capsule burns up on re-entry. Realizing that they must die for the hoax to work, the trio of astronauts escape into the desert, chased by a pair of black helicopters. In the meantime a reporter (Gould) uncovers clues that could unravel the conspiracy.

The story was inspired by various unfounded conspiracy theories involving the government faking the moon landings. This new DVD includes a brief featurette about how people have grown to distrust the government.

The main marketing hook behind releasing a 30th anniversary edition of this film seems to be that one of the astronauts is played by O.J. Simpson, currently on trial for robbery.

Capricorn One is a decent thriller that holds up as an allegory for government cover-ups, even if the execution is a bit hokey and the set-up is somewhat dated. In his commentary director Peter Hyams continually makes a big deal about re-creating the spacecraft used in the Apollo moon missions, which is fine, but it just isn’t realistic in the context of Mars.

Hyams does at least explain it away as a creative choice to build familiarity of the technology with the audience, letting him focus on the story.   

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