Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Dark Side of the Moon...er, Mars
Today is July 20. 47 years ago on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. Ever since then there has been conspiracy theorists who have tried to make a case that it didn't happen. I recently saw an interview, supposedly made with Stanley Kubrick before he died, in which he claims he had a hand in the filming of the "faked" moon landing. (Google "Kubrick" and "moon landing" to check out that for yourself.)
Personally, I believe, along with the majority of sane people, that we actually did land men on the moon on that date. But I am also a pragmatic individual and if the evidence was presented that clearly refuted that belief, I'd have no problem accepting it. Be that as it may, the conspiracy theorists do have a voice. In fact, it was probably those people who found an avenue to present the topic of today's movie, Capricorn One.
Capricorn One (1977)
The movie opens as three astronauts, Charles Brubaker (James Brolin), Peter Willis (Sam Waterston) and John Walker (O. J. Simpson) prepare to launch a rocket to Mars. Dr. Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) stops them before the launch occurs and escorts them out of the capsule. He informs them that a malfunction occurred and that their life support systems would have failed before they ever got to Mars.
He tells them that the powers that be have decided to go ahead with the launch and run it through its program. The exception being that instead of the crew being on the module, they will be on a sound stage at a remote abandoned army base here on Earth and filming everything as if they really were on Mars. Of course, the astronauts object, but they are told that if they refuse, each of their families will be eliminated. (Makes you proud to be an American, huh?)
The launch goes through as planned. It is observed by a smarmy senator (David Huddleston) and the Vice President (James Karen). Given the time period of the movie, it's not hard to discern which political parties are represented by each. Only the senator makes very many more appearances in the movie, primarily, it seems, to hammer home how smug and smarmy the people and the political party which he represents, is.
Returning to the astronauts, they perform their duties and complete the "mission". In a phone call just before they are "supposed" to arrive back at Earth, Brubaker tells his wife that he is going to take her and the kids to Yellowstone, "just like last year". (That's important, remember it.) Anyway, as the module enters Earth's atmosphere, a heat shield malfunctions, and the shuttle burns up.
But the astronauts, who were supposed to be n the shuttle, and thus now dead, are still alive. Now at this the point, the powers that be can do one of two things. They can fess up that the whole thing was a sham and apologize. Or they can kill off the astronauts. Which option do you think they'll take? (If you said "fess up", then you should stop doing the drugs right now...)
Brubaker and company realize something is wrong and try to escape. They commandeer a plane outside the hangar where they are being held, but it runs out of fuel and they end up marooned in the desert. They each take some supplies from the emergency kit, including a flare for each of them and trek off in separate directions to try to find anyone who will hear their story. But the powers that be launch a search by helicopters to find (but not to rescue) the astronauts.
Meanwhile, in a subplot that runs along the same timeline, a reporter named Caulfield (Elliot Gould) receives a tip from one of the monitor operators at the Air Force base, Whitter (Robert Walden), that something is amiss. But just after he gives Caulfield this hot tip, Whitter disappears. Not only that, but every trace of his existence disappears, too.
Caufield is sure he is on to something. After visiting the apartment of his friend (which turns out to be the apartment of someone else, who, by the way, claims she has been living there for over a year), he finds his car has been tampered with and he ends up having to drive it into the water. He also interviews Brubaker's wife who reveals that they did not go to Yellowstone the previous year, but to a ghost town tourist site. He goes to the ghost town where he is shot at. Later his apartment is raided by feds who "find" cocaine which was not there before they came and he is arrested. Obviously someone doesn't want him on this story.
Have I intrigued you enough? I'm going to stop here for a change and reveal nothing else. Just a final personal note. I'd heard of this movie for years, but it took a late night bout of insomnia in 2008 before I finally got to see it on TV. This is one of those movies you may kick yourself for having missed this long.