“A funny thing happened on the way to Mars.”
Inspired by conspiracy theories claiming the Apollo moon landing was faked, 1978′s Capricorn One features something I’ve always wanted to see in a movie: renegade astronauts! NASA is depending on their mission to Mars to revive public and political interest in the space program, but when it’s apparent that the cheapo life support system they bought won’t work properly, they make a desperate move. Col. Brubaker (James Brolin), Lt. Col. Willis (Sam Waterston), and Cmdr. Walker (O.J. Simpson) are pulled from the shuttle minutes before launch and brought to a secret military base in Texas…complete with a Mars stage set! The shuttle is launched as planned and the mission to Mars is completely faked. The astronauts are kept hidden for something like 300 days until the shuttle returns home. But something goes wrong on re-entry and the shuttle burns up. Connect the dots.
Boozing journalist Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould) gets involved when his drinking buddy at NASA tells him about some funny readings which indicate the television transmission is coming from somewhere much more closer than Mars. Caulfield’s investigation sets off a paranoia-fueled chase for the truth that ends with one of the goofiest slow-motion sequences I’ve ever seen. Gould is one of my favorite actors and there really is nobody who can play a smart ass like him (see: The Long Goodbye). O.J. only has about five lines and Brolin is decent in his role as the leader of the renegade astronauts. Telly Savalas has a fucking fantastic small role and watching him and Gould go back and forth gave me douche chills. The movie slows down a lot during the second half, but overall it’s a great piece of ’70s paranoid-thriller. I couldn’t find a shot of Gould from the movie, so here’s one of him circa ’78, looking fresh as always. Check it out on Netflix Watch Instantly or Google Video.
- Patrick Cooper