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The Right Stuff
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142 of 149 people found the following review helpful
The fact that "The Right Stuff" lost the Oscar for best picture to "Terms Of Endearment" is beyond me; this movie should have won. The fact that it wasn't a hit at the box office back in 1983 is also beyond me. We are talking about what I think it's the best American epic in all the sense of the word.
It's strange that a Venezuelan-born like me should talk about a movie like this, but I feel that "The Right Stuff" should have been a classic -well, it is for me. The story of the "Mercury" astronauts is portrayed marvelously by Philip Kaufman's direction, showcased beautifully by Caleb Deschanel's stylish photography, and supported by an incredible cast including Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Sam Shepard, Pamela Reed, Kim Stanley, and Veronica Cartwright.
In fact, I remember when I was watching that movie at home, and my late father asked me if a man that appeared on the screen was astronaut John Glenn because he looked just like him. Of course I told him he was an actor who was playing his role. That said, it's incredible to see how Ed Harris is perfectly cast as Glenn.
And I don't want to forget one of the reasons why I love this movie, and that's Bill Conti's spectacular music score. Of course it may sound a little like Holst's "The Planets", but I usually weep every time I listen to the main theme.
I'm glad that a special edition DVD of "The Right Stuff" has been released, with fantastic extras that include new interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, and an incredible documentary on John Glenn. I'm also glad about it because I think that this movie should be rightfully appreciated not only because it deals with historical events like the breaking of the sound barrier and the first American astronauts, but also because, as I said before, this is a classic.
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112 of 124 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 21, 2000
'The Right Stuff' is one of the most glorious adventure films ever made, a story of incredible heroism, poignant romance, gripping drama, and broad humor...and amazingly, it has actually happened in our lifetimes!

This is a tale of test pilots, 'pushing the envelope', proving the sound barrier couldn't constrain mankind's reach for space. Leading the way is plain-speaking Chuck Yeager (portrayed by Sam Shepard with Gary Cooper-like charm), a Beeman's gum-chewing cowboy with a passion for his feisty wife (the beautiful Barbara Hershey), and hot planes. Not even a broken rib could hold him back when an opportunity to fly the X-1 was offered. His record-breaking flight could fill a movie by itself...and this is just the BEGINNING of the story!

Jumping ahead a few years, Yeager is joined by a new breed of test pilots, whose total love of flight challenges their relationships, and is the true measure of how they define themselves. Among them are 'Gordo' Cooper (Dennis Quaid), a hot dog jet jockey with an unhappy wife (sensitively played by Pamela Reed); and Gus Grissom (brilliantly portrayed by Fred Ward), coarse and direct, and anxious for his shot at the fastest jets.

The entire world changes when the Russians launch Sputnik, in 1957. As the American space program struggles to 'catch up', the government realizes that American men will have to go into space, and President Eisenhower wants test pilots to fill this role. Yeager is out (he never completed college), but Cooper and Grissom, and many others, compete for spots in the New Frontier.

These pilots, from all services, are weeded down to seven men, dubbed 'Astronauts', and the Mercury Space Program is born! Along with Cooper and Grissom, the story focuses on Navy pilot Alan Sheppard (Scott Glenn), laconic and prone to ethnic humor; and Marine John Glenn (perfectly cast Ed Harris), a 'boy scout' of unimpeachable morals, who loyally supports an impaired wife. Working under the glare of the world press, the seven gradually come to respect one another, and embark on an epic adventure, full of triumph and tragedy!

Meanwhile, Chuck Yeager, snubbed by NASA, continues to test new generations of jets, until, in a climactic scene, he achieves the threshold of space, himself. The flight is a near disaster, resulting in a horrendous crash, but the image of the burned but undefeated pilot, walking proudly away from the wreckage, is an unforgettable image of courage, and truly defines 'The Right Stuff'!

This is a REMARKABLE film in every way, and is director Philip Kaufman's masterpiece. Lushly scored by Bill Conti (who won an Oscar for the largely Tchaikovsky-inspired music), the film soars, both on earth and in space!

If you believe the Age of Heroes is past, buy 'The Right Stuff', and you might change your mind! This is a film to treasure!
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2000
Weighing in at three+ hours, "The Right Stuff" gives us a fantastic insight into the embryonic stages of humanity's journey into space. It is a personal disappointment to me that our species hasn't done more with the opportunities that space travel has given us.

Based on Tom Wolfe's history of the space program, the film takes us through the early stages of American space exploration. It starts with Yeager's historic speed record when he broke the sound barrier and finishes at the end of the Mercury program. For this reason I think "Apollo 13" makes a good sequel to "The Right Stuff" as it concerns itself with the subsequent Apollo program.

The cast is outstanding and they mostly offer strong performances. For much of the film Sam Shepard gets center stage in his role as Chuck Yeager. However since Yeager was never allowed the opportunity to join the space program the second half of the film focuses on the seven astronauts on the Mercury program. The leader of this group is John Glenn played extremely well by Ed Harris.

The beauty of this movie is that it brings the intimidatingly immense NASA program down to a personal and therefore understandable level. We get to see the political infighting, the childish "must beat the Ruskies" mentality and the everyday fears of the astronauts. All of this is achieved without losing the heroics of the people involved. They put their lives on the line with a determined grin on their face while NASA risks its future with every launch.

This is a very good movie as pure entertainment but when its educational potential is added to the equation, I would have to say that it is raised to the height of excellence. But be careful of allowing young boys to watch it, unless you want them growing up to become pilots.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2005
I do not fault the filmmaker for minor conceptual and factual flaws in this film. Performances by everyone involved in the film project more than make up for them. But in my opinion, there was one unforgivable factual omission specific to the 2003 DVD release. That is why I assign 4 rather than 5 stars to this DVD release.

Dialogue within the film appears to discredit Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom's statement that he did not blow the hatch cover when the Liberty Bell 7 space capsule splashed down. When the film was first released, it made sense to include this controversy and the filmmakers themselves cannot be held at fault for doing so. But in 1999, 38 years after the splashdown and 4 years before the DVD release, Wilhelm Aerospace Engineering helped salvage the Liberty Bell 7 from its watery grave 15,000 feet beneath the sea. And while no one can say for sure what caused the hatch to blow, their website includes a photograph of the "undisturbed" hatch cover trigger, proving conclusively that Grissom was not at fault ... that, as Grissom said at the time, it must have been a technical glitch.

Because the DVD was released 4 years after Grissom's vindication, this fact should have been mentioned either prior to the film or immediately afterward so as not to cast any aspersions on the bravery of this great astronaut, who later gave his life during the tragic 1967 Apollo fire (along with his colleagues, Edward White and Roger Chaffee). And, it would have also served as a belated apology for aspersions cast in the film itself and in previous releases of the film on home video.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
There are already a great many reviews here providing a summary of the plot, opinions on historical accuracy and acting. Therefore, this review will only focus upon the actual quality of the transfer of the 30th Anniversary Edition to Blue Ray. Keep in mind that the quality of what you see and hear also depends upon the quality of TV monitor you are using and its accompanying home theater processor and speakers. I have a pretty high end, esoteric system and am judging the Blu Ray off of that.

VIDEO....
This film has been properly remastered for both the video and audio, of that I have no doubt. Despite a Mbps rate that is lower than many current films on Blu Ray, averaging in the mid to high 20's, the flesh tones are spot on and color resolution throughout the film on BR is excellent. While blacks do not go as deep toward pluge as other movies on Blu Ray, for a film this old, they appear just fine. Details are easily scene, even in the desert and field shots. Since this was shot on film, there is a softer focus to the film's imaging but, all in all, this remastering is quite excellent. At no point did I see any artifacting or aliasing and there are a number of shots where stair stepping could have been created but, thankfully, weren't.

AUDIO...
Audio is Dolby True HD 5.1 lossless and they did an excellent job with the audio editing with extensive use of panning between the front and rear stages as well as discreet directionality for foley fx in the surrounds. Having a 7.1 audio system, I found that the two extra surrounds really added a great deal to the audio mix and immersed oneself into the roar of the jets. There are not that many older films, or even new ones, with such an excellent use of the home theater surround stages.

EXTRAS...
Really quality extras on the second disc with documentaries that go past a simple 'Making Of'. There was a goodly use of real and historic footage from the era, as well as focus on the story development, footage of the creation of the effects before there was CGI and some honest and interesting interviews all done recently and not back 30 years ago. How the actors see things now in retrospect after all this time was illuminating. There were also interactive time lines of the Americas space race and a great deal more that I haven't yet seen. This movie is over 3 hours long and you get about that just in the extras as well.

I did not have this film on a Standard Def DVD but am completely happy I have it on Blu Ray.
I do hope that this review has been of some HELP to you in deciding your purchase. All my reviews focus solely upon the quality of the actual disc and not redundant summaries and acting opinions.
Thanks for reading.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon February 1, 2001
The Right Stuff is Phillip Kauffman's sprawling three-hour epic about the Mercury Space Program. Based on Tom Wolfe's amazing book, the movie is a visual stunner with a top-notch ensemble cast. Sam Sheperd stands out as Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier. He portrays Yeager as a cowboy who flies jets instead of riding horses. Mr. Sheperd gives a cool and impressive performance. Ed Harris first sprang to attention with his performance of John Glenn. He gives a gentle and passionate performance and the scenes with his wife (who was hearing-impaired) are touching. Fred Ward gives a blustery and gruff performance as Gus Grissom who appears to be on the verge of cracking after his space launch goes awry. Scott Glenn adds a touch of humor to film as Alan Sheppard the first American in space. Dennis Quaid is brash and cocky as Gordo Cooper. The Right Stuff is a must DVD as its sound and picture are enhanced by the format.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2013
I've loved this movie since the first time I rented it on VHS back in the '80s. I've owned copies of it since then and was ecstatic when I learned that a blu-ray version was finally coming out. I was not disappointed.

I'm not Gene Shalit so I'm not going go into detail about the background and story. I'll summarize that up by saying that this movie stands up tremendously well after 30 years. The acting, the story, the pacing, the music, the cinematography and the pre-CGI special effects are all still top shelf. If you watch the special features, you'll realize just how amazing that last point is. Because of the way the special effects were filmed and edited together, there's just no way of telling when you're looking at the real thing or something the special effects crews came up with.

As for the product itself, this isn't just another DVD reworked into blu-ray format. They used a high quality, super clean source that was free of dust or dirt marks, had no film to digital jitters and no traces color fading. To me, it was like seeing the film for the first time. On the audio side, the score was lush and sounded full through my surround system while sound effects popped out of the air like they were right in the room. The book is a nice bonus, with lots of great pictures of both the actors and their real life counterparts. Really, my only strike would be the lack of full length commentary for the film (some commentary is included on the extra disc). But that's subjective.

Speaking of subjective, I'd like to take a moment to recognize those who have rated this film as one star. The majority of those doing so did it because it wasn't historically accurate. To them I say you're really off the mark. First, if this movie were shot to match history word for word and event for event, it would have cost about the same as the Gross Domestic Product of Ireland, been about 12 hours long, and as entertaining to watch as a Chevy rusting. Second, if you're such a fan boy of the truth, then use this movie as your gateway to spreading it. I watched this movie for the first time when I was 16. It caused me to want to learn more about the these seven brave men and the ones that followed. This in turn lead me to reading a whole lot of books over the years. And when my daughters joined me on the couch to watch this blu-ray with me, I was prepared to answer their questions, fill in back story, and point out the messages and symbolism the filmmakers were conveying. So save your one star reviews for the atrocity that is Pearl Harbor. Instead, take the time to introduce someone to this epically filmed, entertaining springboard into history that will keep the CGI jaded youth of today engaged and might even light a spark in them.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2004
When The Right Stuff came out in 1983 it was a big hit with critics but failed to get off the launch pad with audiences. The film disappeared off of almost everyone's radar for the next ten years, only appearing semi-regularly on cable movie channels. After a clunky movie-only DVD (spread over two sides of a single disc), The Right Stuff has finally been given its due respect with a fantastic two DVD set.
The second DVD features two scene specific audio commentaries. This is a recent trend that eliminates dead air by only showing footage from the movie that features comments from the participants. The first track features a good portion of the cast, from the major players like Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid, to minor ones like Donald Moffat and Pamela Reed. The track starts off appropriately with Chuck Yeager's comments on the factuality of the scene where he breaks the sound barrier. The cast all tell good stories about making the movie and one gets the impression that the actors who played the astronauts really bonded while filming-a connection that still stands today.
The second track features select crew from the movie. It is more informative and technical in nature.
"Realizing The Right Stuff" is an excellent retrospective documentary on the making of the film, from the optioning of Tom Wolfe's book to the end of principal photography. The cast and crew tell all sorts of fascinating stories, however, the difficulties with William Goldman's initial drafts of the screenplay are not even mentioned (for more on this check out Tom Charity's BFI book).
"T-20 Years and Counting" documents the post-production process. This was before CGI and so all the special effects were achieved simply, using models and other low tech methods with results that still hold up today.
"The Real Men with The Right Stuff" puts the film in its proper historical context and takes a look at the real astronauts of the U.S. space program.
"Additional Scenes" is ten minutes of footage that was cut from the movie. It is obvious why these scenes were cut but should be of interest to fans.
The "Interactive Timeline to Space" provides vintage footage from important dates in the history of the space program right up to the tragic Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
"John Glenn: American Hero" is a feature length PBS documentary on the famous astronaut and takes a look at his life and his most recent achievement of being the oldest person in outer space.
The Right Stuff is an important film whose legacy can be felt even today. Without it, there would have been no Apollo 13 or Contact. This forgotten film has finally been given a decent DVD treatment and hopefully this will lead to renewed interest.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2003
I think if "The Right Stuff" was released in any other year, it would've won every award. Nominated for only 8 Oscars, it won 4 technical awards (Sound, Editing, Music & Sound Effects). Based on Tom Wolfe's book, which is a non-fiction account of the beginnings of America's flight/space program, I'm sure it missed on Philip Kaufman's very original take on the whole idea (hence, no nomination). Indeed, Kaufman's original screenplay and superb direction (also not nominated) kept the narrative absolutely riveting, even at 3 hours. There is nothing wrong with this film; it's as good as American film could be. Most interesting is that Kaufman's screenplay didn't have to invent characters; and they were, indeed, "characters". They were living & breathing types who were committed. I'm sure the Academy didn't know what category to put him in (like Oliver Stone's "original" screenplay for "Nixon" or the Coen Bros. (adapted?) of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", both nominated). 1983 was a year of wonderful films. "Terms of Endearment" won for best Picture, and Ingmar Bergman's "swan song", "Fanny & Alexander" won all the art awards (Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes). It can only be the idea of the Academy that rewards must be given to the great guys; maybe a guilt trip. I remember this film being at the top of practically every "10 Best" list. Well, enough of that! The Academy has missed many times. What we have here is a film of power and interest, brilliantly conceived and beautifully photographed. The central character really has to be Chuck Yaeger (well played by nominated Sam Shepard). Ed Harris (as Glenn) made his mark, and the following year proved himself in "Places in the Heart". Barbara Hershey has always been underrated, and she's as good as they get (she was given the role only days before filming started). Indeed, the female roles are given second seat to the great male characters; Pamela Reed, Kathy Baker, Veronica Cartwright, and, especially, the great Kim Stanley. Jane Dornacker, as Nurse Murch, is a special treat. All great! There's some improvised nonsense between Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer that is wonderful and keeps the whole silliness in perspective, though these guys are dead-set on serious stuff. The interaction among these guys is smart, revealing and educational. Fred Ward and Scott Glenn are fine; I was especially taken by Dennis Quaid as Gordo Cooper, a relaxed performance. Since the film ends in 1964, I wish there was more reference to Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin) and Wally Schirra (Lance Hendrickson). This is a wonderful ensemble film, but it centered on only 5 of the 7, as well as Yeager. It is a tribute to Yeager, as he deserves it. The other guys had so much to tell. I did not want this movie to end!!! This new DVD version is WONDERFUL!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
Now in the 30th anniversary of its release (October 21, 1983), this remains the other best American movie (along with Citizen Kane) to be denied the Oscar. The Right Stuff is a combination of spectacular visuals, skillfully structured story, and superb characterizations. Like so many other movies of its time, it plays fast and loose with history - in some cases, very fast and loose - but The Right Stuff is dazzling, and even in this age of computer-generated images its visual power is likely to remain undimmed for a long, long time. Kaufman's epic starts at the birth of supersonic aviation in October 1947, when test pilots flew above the high California desert - which they called "The Dome of the World" - attempting to break the sound barrier in experimental aircraft that crashed with alarming frequency. Based on Tom Wolfe's outstanding book of the same name, the title refers to an elusive but undeniable combination of courage and coolness owned by only the best of these men, who literally risked their lives every time they climbed into their planes. This was particularly true of Chuck Yeager - the "Ace of Aces," as the other pilots called him. Sam Shepard plays Yeager (whom I've seen in person) perfectly, displaying a manly charm and laconic humor that belie his steely resolve, super-competitiveness and supreme survival instincts in the air. His understated heroism approaches Gary Cooper's in High Noon.

The second act depicts the arrival of America's Mercury astronauts, who were assembled in the late 1950s for NASA's attempts to launch men into space to beat the Russians. Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn and Ed Harris each are wonderful as, respectively, astronauts Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Alan Shepard and John Glenn. One of the movie's greatest achievements, however, is the vivid performances by the splendid female cast of Veronica Cartwright, Pamela Reed, Mary Jo Deschanel and Barbara Hershey, playing, respectively, Betty Grissom, Trudy Cooper, Annie Glenn and Glennis Yeager. They all convey so well the raw fear the real wives of astronauts and test pilots felt, as their husbands tempted death on a daily basis. It was shot by the great cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who gave the movie a rich golden tone and matched the archival footage seamlessly. Bill Conti adapted Gustav Holtz's "The Planets" to provide a stirring music score, and a team of film editors handled the visual complexity. In full measures thrilling, funny, touching and harrowing, The Right Stuff recalls another time when America's future and even its existence were not assured, as some were called to do symbolic battle at the boundaries of space for the good of their country. In a word, it's unforgettable. Phil's Favorite 500: Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime (2014 edition)
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