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.
The Criterion Collection DVD makes this indispensable record of the Apollo
space program even better. The likable interaction between director Al Reinert and Apollo 17
astronaut Eugene Cernan creates a noteworthy audio commentary. Reinert focuses us on how the images here are better than any other NASA footage and on curious mission facts (why the earlier Gemini
program created superior shots of the earth, for instance). Cernan, the most philosophical of the 12 moonwalkers, discusses at length the life-altering experience of space travel. By using the subtitle menu, each onscreen astronaut (and astronaut's voiceover) is identified. The film's sound and Brian Eno's evocative musical score has been remixed for a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. --Doug Thomas