• Capricorn One

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 13th, 2015.
    Director: Peter Hyams
    Cast: Hal Holbrook, O.J. Simpson, James Brolin, Sam Waterston, Elliott Gould
    Year: 1978
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    The Movie:

    Everything old is new again.

    Forget Alex Jones, truthers and birthers. The 1970's, in the wake of Watergate, Vietnam, the original moon landing and government gone spectacularly wrong was when conspiracy theories made their first real imprint on the American consciousness. Cynicism had set in, patriotism was at an all time low, and "In Search Of" was a huge hit on TV. And while Peter Hyam's CAPRICORN ONE slots neatly into the mood of the times, its themes also resonate today. This is a clever film anchored by solid acting, a gripping premise and rock solid direction. It's fun too.

    Astronauts Charles "Bru" Brubaker (James Brolin), John Walker (O.J. Simpson) and Pete Willis (Sam Waterston) think they are about to embark on a huge NASA mission they've been training diligently for: the United States' first manned mission to Mars. As the whole world watches this massive media event, the powers that be spring some utterly bizarre news on the astronauts. They aren't going to Mars. They are going into hiding. And if they don't go along with the plan their families will be killed. The men will fall in line but are far from happy about it - especially Bru.

    CAPRICORN ONE is a neat twist on the fake moon landing conspiracy. Turns out that the life support system on the ship was defective. Nobody told the astronauts, but NASA got shafted by substandard equipment provided by a private contractor. Eerily prescient considering the later "O-ring" Columbia shuttle disaster, CAPRICORN ONE manages a solid swipe at both avaricious private enterprise and corrupt government right out of the gate. Since the US public has fallen out of love with the space program (They'd rather watch "I Love Lucy" reruns than starships) the NASA high command, headed by Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook), has hatched a massive conspiracy to cover up the failure and save the agency from a possibly fatal defunding. The capsule will be hurled into space unmanned and the astronauts will be hidden on a film set in the Texas desert. The manned landing will be faked on an impressive soundstage and when the empty capsule returns to earth a switcheroo will be pulled. But when the ship has a malfunction on atmospheric reentry to earth and is destroyed the astronauts become a liability that must be erased.

    What really makes CAPRICORN ONE tick is the engaging acting and nifty premise. Holbrook is just terrific. Oily but folksy and weirdly idealistic he's the walking embodiment of the road that goes to hell is paved with good intentions axiom. Holbrook specialized to a degree in kindly figures, but this was part of his smarmy bad guy oeuvre that included his slimy cop in MAGNUM FORCE. Brolin is also very good. He brings his all-American everyman vibe to the role without being dull, much like his sheriff in THE CAR. Waterston is likable and personable and O.J., long before he became America's most famous defendant, was the O.J. of the me decade: a mediocre but mildly charismatic actor that people were fond of because of his ex-football star status. But Fred Williamson he wasn't. Elliot Gould as a hard nose reporter is fun and Brenda Vaccaro shines as Bru's wife. Special note should be made of two outstanding small roles too: Telly Savalas ripping it up broadly as a cranky crop duster pilot and David Doyle of "Charlie's Angels" fame as a fed up editor.

    Hyam's went on to helm more traditional action fare like the Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle TIMECOP, but CAPRICORN ONE has some of his best action scenes ensconced in a film that has more in common with THE PARALLAX VIEW than OUTLAND. The final chase sequence is A grade stuff and despite a little flab in the middle section, this is a two hour film that moves well and maintains excitement. The fact that you care about these guys and their families helps too.


    CAPRICORN ONE's 1080p AVC encoded transfer in 2.35:1. on this Timeless Media Blu ray is the same transfer as the British edition from a few years ago. This is an average transfer that teeters on the slightly subpar side but gets cut considerable slack due to the gruesomeness of the earlier DVD issue. Soft image is rampant and detail is below average for HD but it isn't disastrous. The print itself is in very good shape however with little visible damage. Color palette is represented moderately well (though it is worth noting that huge swathes of the film take place in the earth toned desert) and no DNR or digital trickery has been employed. Houston, we have organic!

    Audio? Surprisingly robust. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has some unexpected testicular fortitude in the LFE department. Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score is represented in fine fettle and all dialog and effects are perfectly clear. English subtitles are available for those that need them as well.

    Extras. Pretty much zilch save for a theatrical trailer and mildly diverting photo gallery. Hyam's audio commentary from the 2008 DVD has sadly not been ported over. Bummer. This was an interesting film with some fascinating back stories. A DVD version is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Unjustly overlooked and a bit forgotten, CAPRICORN ONE is a lot of fun and has aged remarkably well. It has a cool mix of rousing action and brainy plotting that gels nicely and is backed by a great cast. Despite the average A/V presentation this is still the best this film has ever looked on any home video format and is perfectly watchable.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!