33 user 22 critic

Countdown (1967)

Approved | | Sci-Fi, Thriller | February 1968 (USA)
Desperate to land a man on the moon before Russia does, NASA hastily preps a would-be spaceman for a mission that would leave him alone in a lunar shelter for a year.


Robert Altman


Loring Mandel (screenplay), Hank Searls (novel)




Complete credited cast:
James Caan ... Lee Stegler
Joanna Moore ... Mickey Stegler
Robert Duvall ... Chiz
Barbara Baxley ... Jean
Charles Aidman ... Gus
Steve Ihnat ... Ross Duellan
Michael Murphy ... Rick
Ted Knight ... Walter Larson
Stephen Coit ... Ehrman
John Rayner John Rayner ... Dunc
Charles Irving Charles Irving ... Seidel
Bobby Riha ... Stevie Stegler (as Bobby Riha Jr.)


When the U.S. learns the Soviets are about to launch a manned mission to the moon, they feel it imperative that they get there first. The moon program isn't ready to launch yet so they decide to send one man in a modified Gemini capsule that will be able to land on the moon. The astronaut will have to stay there for up to a year - in a special built shelter that will be sent ahead of time - until an Apollo mission can rescue him. The obvious choice for the mission is Chiz, who knows the Gemini inside out but the Soviets are sending civilians, not military men, so geologist Lee Stegler is asked to go. He has only three weeks however to learn about the intricacies of the spacecraft and no one is sure if he will make it. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The motion picture that puts a man on the moon ... and you will follow him every terrifying second of the way ... See more »


Sci-Fi | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


This film centers on a flight to the moon in a Gemini spacecraft modified for a lunar landing. In fact, there were several proposals in the mid 1960s to use modified Gemini craft for lunar orbital and even lunar landings, in lieu of, or complementing, the Apollo flights. They were rejected for various technical, budgetary, and political reasons. See more »


In scene of Lee's walk on the moon just before finding the shelter, desert plants are clearly visible in the background casting shadows. See more »


Chiz: Pilgrim. Pilgrim control. Do you read? Pilgrim. Pilgrim control. Do you read? Pilgrim. Pilgrim control. Do you read? Pilgrim. Pilgrim control. Do you read?
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Featured in Altman (2014) See more »

User Reviews

He's Cut The Cord! He Can't Come Back!
30 May 2006 | by sol1218See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** Made on a shoe-string budget "Countdown" is by far the movie with the best depiction of a flight to the Lunar surface then any of the previous "Flight to the Moon" films going as far back as the early 1900's. The movie went from science fiction to science fact in just under two years after it's release in early 1968 with the historic three manned Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Trying to become the first nation to put a man on the Moon the US has NASA set a mission to the Lunar surface to beat the USSR. It's supposed to be done with the astronaut sated for that historic mission to be a civilian. Air Force fighter pilot Chiz Stewart, Robert Duvall,who was hoping to be chosen for the Moon Mission is terribly upset by being eliminated because of his military background. Stewart become very hostile towards his friend Lee Stegler, James Caan, a civilian worker for NASA for getting picked for the flight christened, or designated by NASA, Pilgrim One.

Taking out his frustrations on Lee Chiz, who's in charge of training for the Moon Mission, does everything he can to have him wash out of the program. Not just because of sour grapes but because Chiz like Lee's wife Mckey, Joanna Cook Moore,feel that he's doesn't have the experience as an astronaut to handle this very dangerous assignment. On top of that Lee, being the egomaniac that he is, will end up getting himself killed on the mission because of his obsession the be the first man on the moon even if it kills him.

Just days before Lee is to blast off there's news from the Soviet Union that the Russians sent a three man crew into obit and that it would land on the Moon before the USA planned Moon shot. That still doesn't have Pilgrim One suspended with those at NASA feeling that the news may very well be a rumor. To keep them form launching the Moon Mission, by the sneaky and conniving Soviets.

Sent into space the next morning from Cape Kennedy in Florida Pilgrim One has major problems as it goes into the Moons trajectory because of a power loss during the take-off. With Chiz, at the controls at the NASA Space Center in Huston, walking Lee through the dangerous complexities of the space mission he makes it to within 200 miles from the surface of the Moon.

On the Moon NASA had two weeks earlier landed and unmanned space shelter with a rotating red beacon that Lee is to first identify and then to land, as close as possible, next to it. At the shelter there's enough air water and food to last two months. It's then when NASA would send an Apollo manned space capsule to pick up Lee and bring him back safely home to earth.

It turned out that Chiz and Mickey's worse fears were realized with Lee not wanting to have the mission aborted and sent back to earth, without being the first man on the Moon, taking his chances in landing Pilgrim One despite not really knowing if it was withing site of the NASA shelter. Which, with only two hours of air in his space suit, was almost curtain death for him.

Walking through the unknown wilderness that's the Lunar surface Lee discovers that the USSR indeed landed a manned space mission on the Moon before the USA. Lee also finds out that the three man crew were killed as it crashed, instead of landed, on impact.

With the air in his space suit almost exhausted Lee looking at his watch, which told him that he had only seven minutes of oxygen left, notices a bilking red flash reflecting off the glass back at him! Looking straight ahead Lee sees the NASA space shelter, which was Lee's only chance of surviving, with it's red rotating identification lamp guiding him straight to it.

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Release Date:

February 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Moonshot See more »

Filming Locations:

Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA See more »

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Technical Specs


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Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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