In the middle of the 20th century, America pondered its future - and looked to the skies. Based on Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff is the tale of how that future began, a thrilling epic of intrepid test pilot Chuck Yeager and the seven pioneering astronauts of the Project Mercury space program. Philip Kaufman scripts and directs, pushing the envelope with a filmmaking bravado that matches this soaring story of training and heroism; and of sudden fame for which there is no training. Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid and Fred Ward are among the perfect cast of this winner of 4 Academy Awards* that in a pristine 20th-anniversary digital transfer remains the stuff of must-see entertainment. Let's light this candle, flyboys!
For the film's 20th anniversary, a new two-disc edition replaces the original bare-bones DVD. The film looked pretty good on the old disc, but there is more depth to the remastered soundtrack and better yet, you don't need to flip the disc to view the entire film. The second disc of extras is well done, but a bit light. There are 20-minute commentaries from director Philip Kauffman and another track of many actors' fond reminisces of working on the film. They are so engaging it's odd to think there wasn't enough to do a complete commentary track, or even two. A newly produced three-part documentary looks at the project from Tom Wolfe's book to screenplay, the making-of the movie, and interviews with the real participants of the saga. Again, the running time (45 minutes) feels too short. The 13 additional scenes, sans set-up, are really pieces from the cutting-room floor but curiously interesting. The bulk of the extras is the 90-minute PBS program on the life and times of John Glenn, aired around the time of--and mostly about--his second trip into space in 1998. The DVD extras could have used an outside voice--or historian or film critic--to give an objective viewpoint to this outstanding film. --Doug Thomas