A futuristic documentary for Martin Marietta Corporation, about America's plans for a space station and space shuttles.




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Frank Capra's last film was a documentary for Martin Marietta Corporation, shown at the Hall of Science Pavilion of the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965. After a series of scenes of Earth from space, narrator Danny Thomas gets various opinions on space travel from "the man in the street" (actually, actor Sid Melton and players from other Capra films like Charles Lane, Alan Reed, Doodles Weaver and John Litel, plus a black woman, an Asian man, a heavyset woman, a man with a large family, and a no-nonsense type who says knowledge isn't expensive, ignorance is.) Animated sections illustrate the invention of gunpowder, a typical space shuttle visit to resupply a space station, and the problems to be overcome living for long periods in space. Written by Woodrow Truesmith

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Documentary | Short





Release Date:

10 September 1964 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Frank Capra, who died in 1991, lived to see Skylab, America's first space station, and the Space Shuttle, though not an actual docking. See more »


Symphony No. 9 - Ode to Joy
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

Don't Confuse this with the Other Frank Capra Films or Documentaries
21 April 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Capra, in the previous decade, had done a really good number of fun and top quality documentaries. So I had high expectations for this one.

This review is to keep you from having that same experience. This short has its ups and downs, but I'm hoping you can avoid the disappointments and confusions it might otherwise bring you.

There is some good stuff here, so you will be rewarded for watching, but I think the opening minutes are a puzzle. The first minutes are the views of one rocket launch after another, after another, after ... yes, really, they go on for a loooong time. It is not a spoiler to say that one blows up ... but the next shot is of a scientist/engineer who thoughtfully writes something in his notebook, and there are more rocket launches ... so we don't understand what the point is of all the rocket launches. No one explains what we are seeing or why.

Finally we get a quick audio and shot of an astronaut reporting from the early 1960s, one-person Mercury ship, and then another long long time of watching the Earth from 100 miles up over the Atlantic, and more Atlantic, and then we're told to watch for Africa, and a long time later we wish Australia a "good night", as we look at footage of Earth from 100 miles up.

And THEN it gets to be like Frank Capra for a little while. We see a cartoon moon (voiced by Jim Backus) getting worried by all the rocket launches and complaining to Mr. Space (voiced by Paul Frees), who says mankind has no reason to go to Mr. Moon. Next is a series of man-in-the-street interviews done by Danny Thomas, who is the narrator for the rest of the film ...

... which turns into a depiction of a kind of mini-shuttle taking astronauts and supplies to an orbiting, nuclear powered, space station. There is a quick "Rendezvous in Space" fulfilling the title.

For almost half of the short, it is just the shorts of rockets and the Earth. The very short cartoon and interview clips are played for laughs. The trip to the space station and back is pretty static animation.

If you are into old space documentary for historic reasons, it's not a bad look at one 1964 mission concept that didn't make it. (The mini-shuttle is not the "Dyna-Soar" plane, more like the "lifting body" vehicle (with aft-section cargo and equipment modules) that was shown in the "Marooned" movie. The space lab is neither Skylab nor the old MOL orbiting lab.) The need for isometric exercises is shown correctly, inside the space lab. There is an amusing sequence in which some experimental flowers there complain about continually trying to face the sun during the 45 minute days.

If you like seeing the old faces and hearing the old voices again, you can pick out the people who voiced Fred Flintstone and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Danny Thomas was incredibly popular at the time.

But if you were interested in Frank Capra's last documentary, it's a disappointing comparison to his others.

(I will UPDATE this just a bit with personal stuff ... I was one of the smart-aleck space-nut kids that loved the Space Program. I saw this a little after the New York World's Fair, but I don't think my family saw it there; it was a little after, at some museum or something out in the country. We were in something like a planetarium and it was projected up on the curved ceiling. (The idea that we had pictures of rocket launches, and color film of the Earth from 100 miles up, that was a new thing and people were fired up about it. So it's fair to say that not many objected to the long "looking down on the world" sequence, or to all the rocket launches. I remember liking them myself, but getting tired after a while. (It is worth remembering that this film is probably intended to be a part of a bigger exhibit.)

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