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Capricorn One (1977)

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A NASA Mars mission won't work, and its funding is endangered, so they decide to fake it just this once. But then they have to keep the secret.

Director:

Peter Hyams

Writer:

Peter Hyams
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5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Elliott Gould ... Robert Caulfield
James Brolin ... Charles Brubaker
Brenda Vaccaro ... Kay Brubaker
Sam Waterston ... Peter Willis
O.J. Simpson ... John Walker
Hal Holbrook ... Dr. James Kelloway
Karen Black ... Judy Drinkwater
Telly Savalas ... Albain
David Huddleston ... Hollis Peaker
David Doyle ... Walter Loughlin
Lee Bryant ... Sharon Willis
Denise Nicholas ... Betty Walker
Robert Walden ... Elliot Whitter
James Sikking ... Control Room Man (as Jim Sikking)
Alan Fudge ... Capsule Communicator
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Storyline

Charles Brubaker is the astronaut leading NASA's first manned mission to Mars. Seconds before the launch, the entire team is pulled from the capsule and the rocket leaves earth unmanned much to Brubaker's anger. The head of the programme explains that the life support system was faulty and that NASA can't afford the publicity of a scratched mission. The plan is to fake the Mars landing and keep the astronauts at a remote base until the mission is over, but then investigative journalist Robert Caulfield starts to suspect something. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

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Taglines:

The most important event in our nation's history...what if it never really happened? See more »

Genres:

Action | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 June 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Capricornio Uno See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (original)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Mono (35 mm optical prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Elliott Gould's character interacts with a person who cites and quotes from movies just as Gould's character had done in The Long Goodbye (1973). See more »

Goofs

According to the telemetry board, it appears that the spaceship is orbiting the earth, when in fact, it is headed to Mars. See more »

Quotes

Albain: [repeated line to Caulfield] Keep your *god damn* head down!
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Connections

Referenced in Les mercredis de l'histoire: Opération lune (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Mission To Mars That Wasn't
20 March 2013 | by virek213See all my reviews

The notion of conspiracy within the bowels of the U.S. government was very much on people's minds following the triple traumas of the JFK assassination, Vietnam, and Watergate. Even something as noble as manned space flight couldn't escape the grasp of the conspiracy theorists out there, as many of them didn't believe that the Apollo 11 moon landing of July 20, 1969 ever took place, and that it was all done on a Hollywood soundstage. In 1978, one film took this conspiracy all the way to Mars and back. That film was CAPRICORN ONE, a fairly taut combination of science fiction and conspiracy thriller elements that, in some ways, presaged later TV shows like "The X Files", and, perhaps inadvertently, also accelerated the conspiracy theorists' attacks on America's manned space program.

James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and O.J. Simpson portray the three men who are about to embark on a ten-month space voyage whose ultimate goal is a manned walk on Mars. But just minutes before their ship, Capricorn One, is to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center, they are immediately ordered off; and the spacecraft launches to Mars without them. Bewildered and upset, they are then told by NASA's director (Hal Holbrook) that the life support system built into the spacecraft was faulty and that it is likely that it would have failed before the ship could ever get into Mars' orbit. They are instead ordered to "fake" the landing and the Mars walk on a soundstage in a hangar somewhere in the Mojave Desert, much against their principles though under the threat of their families being killed. But when the spacecraft they are supposedly coming home in loses its heat shield upon re-entry, everyone presumes that the three men have been incinerated. The trouble is, of course, that all three men are actually alive and well, and Holbrook knows that the space program's continued success is incumbent upon them never appearing anywhere in public again.

In steps an enterprising news reporter (Elliott Gould) who, against all odds and some very sardonic colleagues, investigates the Capricorn One incident and uncovers the truth, only to be pursued by military personnel in Blackhawk choppers. In the meantime, Brolin, Waterston, and Simpson break out of the hangar and escape into the Mojave Desert. Only Brolin is able to evade capture or death, however; and it is only through the quick thinking of Gould and an eccentric crop-dusting pilot (Telly Savalas) that he is able to sort everything out for the world.

Writer/director Peter Hyams, whose later sci-fi forays included the HIGH NOON-inspired 1981 opus OUTLAND, and the much-underrated 1984 film "2010" (the sequel to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick classic 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) directs with a good flair for suspense sequences, especially Brolin's struggle for survival in the desert as he is chased by government agents, including loose homages to both Kubrick's DOCTOR STRANGELOVE and Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He also gets good performances from his cast, however, not only from Brolin, Simpson, and Waterston as the beleaguered would-be heroes, but also from Holbrook, who does a typically solid turn as the NASA bureaucrat with a mess on his hands. The Mars landing sequences, though done on a soundstage for obvious reasons, have a crazy kind of realism to them, thanks to the special effects work of Bruce Mattox, Henry Millar, and Robert Spurlock, and the solid cinematography of Butler, who worked on Steven Spielberg's 1975 suspense masterpiece JAWS. Goldsmith, who had won an Oscar for THE OMEN in 1976, and whose sci-fi credits include PLANET OF THE APES, also provides a tense and dramatic score, with almost Stravinsky-like menace.

CAPRICORN ONE is not necessarily the perfect science fiction film; one can spot a number of implausible situations right off. That said, however, it was definitely one of those films that was right for its time, in that it managed to attach something as honorable as manned space travel to a Watergate-type of cover-up scenario. Even if the plot doesn't hold up to 21st century standards (and it may have bee hard to imagine even back in 1978), it still (rightly) made a big deal about how our government too often attempts to dissemble the truth.


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