For All Mankind
Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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Avant-garde music and the words of astronauts highlight striking NASA footage of Earth and the moon.
A Special Message from Jonathon Turell, Criterion CEO
I was nine when the Apollo 11 Eagle landed on the moon. I remember vividly watching it on a small black-and-white TV at sleepaway camp that summer of 1969. I’ve been hooked on the space program ever since. Just about twenty years ago, a friend told me he had seen a rough cut of a new space movie and I should see it. I got a tape and watched For All Mankind for the first time. It was unlike anything I had seen before, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I met Al Reinert and we became friends. Janus Films helped to finish the film, and I became an associate producer as we completed the movie. For All Mankind was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary—losing out to Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. It played festivals around the world. There was a special screening for NASA and the astronauts in Galveston, Texas, and the film showed at the Air and Space Museum at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the moon landing.
We started working on the laserdisc release of For All Mankind before the film was complete, and I traveled to Houston to meet Al and interview Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean for inclusion on the disc. Bean’s comments were so good that Al recut the film to include a wonderful story about piloting the lunar module in orbit around moon. Meeting one of the astronauts who walked on the moon is still one of the greatest thrills of my life. Last year, when we began working on our Blu-ray release of For All Mankind, we got in touch with Bean again and asked him to participate. He happily agreed to update the feature on his paintings and also to sit down and talk with us about a subject I had become very interested in—science versus art. I wanted to explore the question of whether the astronauts (or the people at NASA) realized they were shooting some of the most artistic images ever recorded (and now some of the most famous) or if it was really all about moon rocks and beating the Russians. This second meeting with Bean didn’t disappoint; he says some wonderful things that are included on the disc. When we finished taping our interview session, he gave me a ride to lunch. The famous Apollo 12 Corvette is gone, replaced by a truck to carry his paintings, but that ten-minute ride will stay with me forever. He talked about walking on the moon; I talked about what movies I like. It didn’t seem quite parallel—for him it was an interesting conversation, for me, it was an audience with a hero.
Over the years, I think I’ve seen every film and TV miniseries about the Apollo program (at least twice), but for me For All Mankind still stands apart. It is unique in its poetic approach and ability to capture the pure emotion of the greatest journey of our time.
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Pros: Footage is exclusively real Apollo mission footage. It's beautifully remastered.
The only voices you hear are those of the astronauts and men in the control center.
There is plenty of footage/mission recordings/astronaut commentary that I have never come across in other documentaries or books.
Cons: Teaches nothing of the science or politics involved in space travel. It is simply footage from the missions with no explanations.
Footage from multiple missions and comments from various astronauts is jumbled together. Footage is in order from take off to EVA in Earth orbit to traveling and landing in the Moon and returning, but none of it is labeled or explained. It is impossible the vast majority of the time to tell who is speaking or which mission's footage you are watching.
In summary, it is a bunch of cool footage, but it is best enjoyed by someone who already has a good understanding of the men and science of the Apollo program, or by someone who doesn't care about science or learning about the astronauts themselves, but just wants to see some footage of rockets and the Moon.
As far as the video/audio quality, I'm very impressed w/ the blu ray and music (score) 5.1 DTS-HD transfer. Considering the footage is nearly 4 decades old, and is an improvement from dvd. Also, since all clips are NASA raw footages (not Hollywood), no make up, it does give a realistic sense you as the audience are part of it, and hence like any successful moon/space program, this film did make me mesmerized. The main feature is 1.33:1, while most of the extras are widescreen and high def 1080.
As far as the extra bonus material, you get 2 more in this BD than the dvd. However, the menu for the bonus sound clips were not displayed the same way (not interactive) as the dvd's version (click on the many icons on the moon). That was my only disappointment. There's a booklet enclosed, but it's not a big deal. I flipped thru it only once.
As far as the packaging, this blu ray is cased in a non-conventional clear case; I believe this is the mode of the Criterion collection marketing attempt to be unique, or independent. Also, the front cover is completely black and white (as opposed to the older original dvd cover). At first this was a disappointment to me because I thought I was getting sub par recycled bootleg, but don't worry, it's straight from the factory. It's still a blu ray disc, and high def transfer.
In summary, this is not a Hollywood movie, nor is it a documentary. These are just raw footage clips and raw sound transmissions, masterfully crafted in chronologic order to display a flavorful 1 mission journey to the moon and back, as it truly is, from NASA. The multiple audio tracks and CC become o so more important in its enjoyment.
I rate this blu ray 5 stars, but the film 4 stars, for the reason that this is not an ideal stand alone one and only moon program of ownership on your shelf. But it is a superb, and I recommend as an additional necessary supplemental accompaniment to: In the Shadow of the Moon, HBO's From the Earth to the Moon Signature Series, and Apollo 13 movie. Enjoy your collection. No pun intended Criterion.
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