This documentary was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary, Feature, losing to The Serengeti Shall Not Die. There will be spoilers ahead:
This is an interesting and entertaining look back at the early proponents of rocketry and manned space flight, as well as the early days of the "space race" between the US and the USSR. The documentary opens with footage of the first Sputnik launch, with Mike Wallace's distinctive voice in narration. Ten we see Wallace on screen and he talks briefly about the race for space before covering the early days of rockets and pioneers like Tsiolkovsky and Goddard and their experiments with rocket-propelled flight.
Wallace interviews Goddard's widow, Esther Goddard and though the interview itself feels a bit rehearsed and staged, it does contain interesting information and insight into Goddard and his research.
The documentary then covers the Germans, their interest in Goddard and rockets, Werner von Braun and the base at Peenemunde and the V-2 rocket. The Germans wanted to develop a super weapon, but a couple of misfires gave the Allies sufficient information to go on for them to realize they needed to at least try to delay the German program. Eventually, von Braun and other German scientists went to work for the US.
The bulk of the documentary is on the Russian Sputnik program, its successes and the resulting crash program to try to catch up by the US. Portions of this section feel at least a little staged, though it's possible that this is all official footage. The narration is often rather over the top, but it's still worth watching.
This documentary is available as part of a two-disc DVD set, The Race To Space, a ten-part documentary series on the early days of space flight. The film shows its age but the DVD set and this documentary are recommended.
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