Wednesday, March 25, 2009

[DVD] For All Mankind (1989)

Yes, it's strangely surprising that the next DVD I would pop in the player would be NASA related as well. The previous was mission specific, looking back at the Apollo 13 mission, but this documentary by Al Reinert consists of many first hand account as well as rarely seen footage caught by various moon-bound astronauts over the series of successful Apollo missions.

And it isn't really surprising that the astronauts all have a film camera with them when they blasted off into space. After all, who better than to record some never seen before visuals, either en route to the way up to outer space, or to the lucky few who got to land on the moon, the view from out there looking back on Earth. They become filmmakers in documenting their lives too living inside a cramped space craft, to bring to us some National Geographic moments of the lunar surface, and plenty of picturesque shots of our planet.

Covering the viewpoints of multiple astronauts, most have confessed that it's easy to get distracted by the view from up there. You get to listen to their thought process, and plenty of unseen footage of the surface that while on one hand fascinating, on the other it may be a bit monotonous because frankly, there's nothing up there except miles and miles of rock and dust. You can tell the enthusiasm of all the astronauts as they frolic around in tumbles and falls, thrilled by the 1/6 gravitational pull, with the nagging fear that should they spring a leak in that suit because of a sharp edge, it'll mean instant goodbyes. If you'd think it's all grim and serious there, then this documentary would change your mind.

The Region Free DVD by Criterion is presented in 4x3 Full Screen format and comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 English. Subtitles are available, and there's another option for the subtitles to feature instead the labels to identify all the space crew so that you know who's who. Scene selection is available over 19 chapters, and as per all Criterion Collection DVDs, this one-disc edition comes with a chock-load of wonderful extras.

First up, the Commentary by filmmaker Al Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan, who was the last person to set foot on the moon, and can be listened in through 19 chapters as well. There's a wealth of information dispensed from Cernan being the man who has been there and done that, and he shares plenty, so much so that he doesn't exactly just talk about what's happening on screen, which most commentaries will lapse into. For Reinert, he shares from the filmmaking aspect, and it's quite a tedious task of sieving through some 6000 hours worth of footage within NASA's archives for footage befitting a 90 minute film.

Astronaut Identification is subtitle-related, as mentioned, and by turning this on, the subtitles will come on to identify astronauts and mission control specialists in the film. The usual closed captioning and subtitles are turned on separately though, so you can't use one with the other concurrently. Paintings From The Moon features some 24 beautiful paintings by Astronaut Alan L. Bean, who was the 4th man to walk on the moon, and comes complete with an audio annotation by Bean, who turned to painting full time after retirement from NASA. The audio annotation is rich in content and filled with plenty of personal anecdotes, and should definitely be given a listen to.

NASA Audio Highlights contains some 21 audio clips from the Freedom, Friendship, Gemini and the Apollo missions, including many legendary Apollo 11 moments such as The Eagle and that Neil Armstrong's statement about the small step and giant leap for mankind, and that from Apollo 13. 3...2...1... Blast Off! features 5 launch footage for all the rocket boosters (to see the progression made until the Saturn V rockets) in project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Missions. Lastly, this extra - Color Bars is curiously added for color adjustments for your television screens. Nothing much here.

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