Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



What a total disaster. It was Robert Altman’s third feature film, with That Cold Day in the Park still to come before his breakout hit with M*A*S*H. It was adapted from a novel by Hank Searles, who specialized in aviation stories. The science is garbage. James Caan is going to be the first man on the Moon, and he’s going there in a “modified Gemini capsule,” souped up with a “cryogenic” rocket. Hey. How ridiculous. What do you think the liquid oxygen that powers most rockets is? Cryogenic fuel, that’s what. And a Gemini capsule? You must be kidding. It’s clear that they must have shaped the story around what was available to use as props. NASA cooperated in the making, and shame on them. They certainly knew it was all way beyond impossible.

Caan is expected to spot a module that landed on the surface a few days before, from an altitude of six hundred miles. The habitat is about the size of a phone booth, and he’s expected to spend nine or ten months in it. Good luck with that. But most of all, it is boring! The pace is very slow. All the tension is phony, including the rivalry between Caan and Robert Duvall. Altman was fired from the picture before he could edit it. The producers were appalled at his use of overlapping dialogue, which would soon become an Altman trademark and one of the things that made his films come alive. They thought he was just incompetent, when what he was doing was experimenting.