THE SPACE MOVIE, a doco by TONY PALMER (Ovation/Southbound DVD)

 |   |  2 min read

THE SPACE MOVIE, a doco by TONY PALMER (Ovation/Southbound DVD)

Courageous explorers and pioneers walk in our midst and we take them for granted. This thought occurred in the light of the January 2011 shooting of US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Her husband Mark E. Kelly was described as "an astronaut".

There was a time in the living memory of many when that job simply didn't exist. Then it became a glamour profession and we knew the names of those who went into space . . . and, soon enough, simply took them for granted.

Men and women floated around in space -- they are right now -- and never even made the nightly news. 

Sometimes they would appear in films as heroic but human figures (Apollo 11) and in others as the grumpy neighbourhood guy (Jack Nicholson's character in Terms of Endearment). The explorers of space, the pioneers who stepped into a world beyond our own, became normalised.

Of course they were always human, but in the Sixties -- especially with the Apollo 11 mission which put a man on the moon -- they were heroes.

220px_Ap11_s69_31740Just before the 10th anniversary of the moon landing in '79, Nasa approached British doco maker Tony Palmer to make a film about that historic mission. One of the Nasa guys had seen Palmer's music series All You Need is Love and thought they could make a sort of space/moon doco with rock music.

When Palmer met with Nasa -- the recent interview footage here is the bonus, the affable Palmer with a bottle of Jacob's Creek red wine at his side -- he asked how much footage they had of the mission.

"About 40 miles" was the reply.

From this Palmer made his film which, at the time, was breathtaking for its previously unseen footage and the innovative use of music by Mike Oldfield, the last musician to appear in All You Need is Love and hot at the time as Palmer concedes.

Viewed today when we have seen more footage, watched a space shuttle explode, seen dozens of films set in the final frontier and CGI-ed into thrilling reality, and had the pioneers and explorers reduced to caricature or the partner of a congresswoman, The Space Movie doesn't have quite the same frisson.

The footage of Kennedy announcing the goal of putting a man (American) on the moon, the explosive early failures, the "space race", the dialogue between the USA and USSR, and finally the Apollo 11 mission is still interesting of course. As is the footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin clowning around on the lunar surface, and the joking between them and Houston space centre.

220px_First_Man_on_Moon_1969_Issue_10cBut the transfer to DVD isn't sharp and the use of Oldfield's music (new pieces but some from Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge) is variable: sometimes it captures the excitement or reflective images, at other times it seems at odds and intrusive.

This extended director's cut (80 minutes) will remind of just what that period looked like -- but in the absence of anything about the people involved (it is stripped of personalities in favour of an insight into the technology) it is highly unlikely to command the attention of those for whom "astronaut" might just be another job . . . and nowhere near as much fun as professional skateboarder or video games inventor.

Interested in more about space exploration? Then try here.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

HOW WE BUILT BRITAIN, a documentary series with DAVID DIMBLEBY (BBC DVD)

HOW WE BUILT BRITAIN, a documentary series with DAVID DIMBLEBY (BBC DVD)

Anglophiles and architects may naturally be drawn to this six-part series which comes with the subtitle "The Dramatic and Heroic Story of Britain's Architecture". But architects might be... > Read more

GRAND DESIGNS; SERIES SEVEN with KEVIN McCLOUD (Roadshow DVD)

GRAND DESIGNS; SERIES SEVEN with KEVIN McCLOUD (Roadshow DVD)

One of the most interesting aspects of this series in which various Brits -- mostly well-heeled, but a few not -- undertake building a home of their own design is how the people involved refer to... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

BROTHERS by YU HUA: The China syndromes

BROTHERS by YU HUA: The China syndromes

If music may be considered a universal language because it can transcend the limitations of words, conversely word-based humour is constrained by those boundaries. Western readers coming to this... > Read more

Guy Davis: Skunkmello (Red House)

Guy Davis: Skunkmello (Red House)

Before you look at the title and the cover art -- Davis laughing and surrounded by smoke -- let's get it straight: this isn't a stoner album but (apparently) takes its title from a notorious... > Read more