on June 23, 2004
The fact that "The Right Stuff" lost the Oscar for best picture to "Terms Of Endearment" is beyond me; this movie should have won. The fact that it wasn't a hit at the box office back in 1983 is also beyond me. We are talking about what I think it's the best American epic in all the sense of the word.
It's strange that a Venezuelan-born like me should talk about a movie like this, but I feel that "The Right Stuff" should have been a classic -well, it is for me. The story of the "Mercury" astronauts is portrayed marvelously by Philip Kaufman's direction, showcased beautifully by Caleb Deschanel's stylish photography, and supported by an incredible cast including Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Sam Shepard, Pamela Reed, Kim Stanley, and Veronica Cartwright.
In fact, I remember when I was watching that movie at home, and my late father asked me if a man that appeared on the screen was astronaut John Glenn because he looked just like him. Of course I told him he was an actor who was playing his role. That said, it's incredible to see how Ed Harris is perfectly cast as Glenn.
And I don't want to forget one of the reasons why I love this movie, and that's Bill Conti's spectacular music score. Of course it may sound a little like Holst's "The Planets", but I usually weep every time I listen to the main theme.
I'm glad that a special edition DVD of "The Right Stuff" has been released, with fantastic extras that include new interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, and an incredible documentary on John Glenn. I'm also glad about it because I think that this movie should be rightfully appreciated not only because it deals with historical events like the breaking of the sound barrier and the first American astronauts, but also because, as I said before, this is a classic.
on February 3, 2004
When The Right Stuff came out in 1983 it was a big hit with critics but failed to get off the launch pad with audiences. The film disappeared off of almost everyone's radar for the next ten years, only appearing semi-regularly on cable movie channels. After a clunky movie-only DVD (spread over two sides of a single disc), The Right Stuff has finally been given its due respect with a fantastic two DVD set.
The second DVD features two scene specific audio commentaries. This is a recent trend that eliminates dead air by only showing footage from the movie that features comments from the participants. The first track features a good portion of the cast, from the major players like Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid, to minor ones like Donald Moffat and Pamela Reed. The track starts off appropriately with Chuck Yeager's comments on the factuality of the scene where he breaks the sound barrier. The cast all tell good stories about making the movie and one gets the impression that the actors who played the astronauts really bonded while filming-a connection that still stands today.
The second track features select crew from the movie. It is more informative and technical in nature.
"Realizing The Right Stuff" is an excellent retrospective documentary on the making of the film, from the optioning of Tom Wolfe's book to the end of principal photography. The cast and crew tell all sorts of fascinating stories, however, the difficulties with William Goldman's initial drafts of the screenplay are not even mentioned (for more on this check out Tom Charity's BFI book).
"T-20 Years and Counting" documents the post-production process. This was before CGI and so all the special effects were achieved simply, using models and other low tech methods with results that still hold up today.
"The Real Men with The Right Stuff" puts the film in its proper historical context and takes a look at the real astronauts of the U.S. space program.
"Additional Scenes" is ten minutes of footage that was cut from the movie. It is obvious why these scenes were cut but should be of interest to fans.
The "Interactive Timeline to Space" provides vintage footage from important dates in the history of the space program right up to the tragic Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
"John Glenn: American Hero" is a feature length PBS documentary on the famous astronaut and takes a look at his life and his most recent achievement of being the oldest person in outer space.
The Right Stuff is an important film whose legacy can be felt even today. Without it, there would have been no Apollo 13 or Contact. This forgotten film has finally been given a decent DVD treatment and hopefully this will lead to renewed interest.
on November 29, 2003
The story behind America's journey into space has always been a fascinating tale. The courage displayed by the early space pioneers cannot be understated. This select group of men placed their lives on the line for the pride of a nation and helped shape the course of space flight well into the current century. Their story has been immortalized in Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff."
Knowing the dangers involved with testing new experimental spacecrafts, a group of pilots chose to brave the odds in their quest to travel the stars. There are several arcs in the film that follow these pilots with the ones involving John Glenn (Ed Harris), Leroy "Gordo" Cooper Jr. (Dennis Quaid), and Virgil "Gus" Grissom (Fred Ward) being the most engaging. Each arc explores the unique contribution each man made to the space program. In addition, the film also explores how the astronauts' newfound celebrity changed their personal lives and their place within the American popular consciousness.
The triumph of "The Right Stuff" is its ability to chronicles just how difficult and dangerous a venture it was to travel beyond the Earth during the early stages of America's space program. Television and historical accounts of the early space flights typically did not show this dimension of the initial flights - we saw the rockets taking off, we glimpsed some footage of outer space, and then we saw the capsules returning back to Earth. The public never saw the blood, sweat, and tears it took to develop and implement the space vehicles and the hard decisions made by individuals who were placing their lives or the lives of others at risk. Kaufman is careful to document each link in the chain in the evolution of the space program and all its accompanying dangers. Yet, the film never loses sight of the individuals who helped humanize one of the most exciting journeys in the modern history of humankind. This balanced narrative makes "The Right Stuff" a tribute to the intrepid spirit that was behind America's space pioneers as well as a tribute to the pioneers themselves.
on November 2, 2003
This is one terrific movie and it acheives its' greatness on many different levels. Take any category, acting, directing, writing, sound, photography, costume and design, supporting acting, editing, etc, and you come up with a winner in this movie. So let's start with the acting. For several of these young actors, especially Scott Glen and Ed Harris, this was their first major introduction to the general movie-going audience and they came away as big-name actors. Theirs were only two of many great preformances. Sam Shephard got the prize role of Chuck Yeager and did a terrific job with it. The contrast between Yeager and the seven Mercury astronauts was effectively protrayed by periodically switching the focus from one to the other. This was done extremely well at the end of the movie. The point of this contrast might be debatable. To me, it showed that the heroes we are given in life are often subjectively selected. Yeager is certainly a familiar name (especially after the release of this movie). However, think of what name recognition he would have if HE were the first American to go into space.
The script, from Tom Wolfe's excellent book of the same name, is fantastic. For all of us who experienced the early days of the "space race", there is a lot of information that we never knew before. Some of the information we get tells us how "human" the astronauts were (are) and some tells us how "human" some of out leaders and directors were. Every scene is important in its' own way which is a credit to the directing and editing of this film.
There are a number of scenes where the photography is particularly stunning. Not the least of these is at the end of the movie when Yeager actually appears to enter outer space in an aircraft. The music is very impressive. There are a number of climatic scenes where the music actually gives you goosebumps.
This is a movie that all audiences can enjoy. There is plenty of history in this movie. There is also a great deal of implied flag-waving as the US vs. Soviet space race is on display. There is also a lot of heroics, action, and humor. The final scenes, as previously alluded to, are very artistically woven together. We see the glitz of fame versus the guts of anonymous individual effort. This is a real "feel good" movie. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for.
on August 21, 2003
The Mercury 7 astronauts were once-proud figher jocks who sold out to NASA and LBJ by volunteering to be "spam in a can" on
"flights" over which they had no control and on craft they were not allowed to maneuver. In fact, the originally designed space capsules had no windows, and Alan Shepherd had to urinate in his suit -- pee in his pants -- on the launch pad because he had no control over the launch and couldn't leave his seat. In other words, they became like circus performers who are shot from a cannon -- undoubtedly brave, but neither skillful nor pilots -- and all for the glory of hyped-up public recognition and assorted freebies.
The real pilots, the best pilots, were the test pilots, against whom the astronauts are compared throughout the movie. They were the real heroes, like Chuck Yaeger, who broke the sound barrier with a broken rib and had to close his plane's door using a sawed-off broom handle for leverage. These men flew planes, tested the edge of their skills and of their crafts, and often died trying. The best ones weren't interested in being astronauts because it wasn't "flying" and didn't really require "pilots."
The astronauts are stuffing themselves on free food and ogling fan dancers in the Houston Astrodome during a celebration LBJ put together for them for strictly political purposes. "Look what I brought you, Texas!" LBJ shouts, introducing the astronauts and, by implication, the pork of the new Houston Space Center. Grateful for the glory and bounty, the astronauts momentarily look at each other pensively as if to admit, just for a secret moment, that they aren't really hot stuff and don't deserve all this; that the best pilots, the real pilots, are still out there "pushing the edge of the envelope," unsung by the public.
For meanwhile, in a wonderful editing juxtaposition typical of this marvelous movie, Chuck Yeager flies his new experimental plane from the runway up to the far reaches of the atmosphere, achieving the near reaches of outer space, entirely on his own skills as a pilot, and loses control of his craft in the thin air. It appears he made this flight on his own say-so, on his own terms, an ability the astronauts gave up long ago for cheap public glory.
on June 30, 2003
Warner Home Video has rereleased "The Right Stuff" in a two-disc set that packs the 3-hour-and-13-minute film onto a single disc, uninterrupted (unlike the previous Warner DVD).
The Oscar-winning sound returns in a hair-raising Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The new audio maximizes the supersonic possibilities without straying into overkill, resulting in an aural experience that's simultaneously bone-jarring and elegant. The subwoofer track maintains an even strain when not required to power up for launches.
The movie comes in widescreen only. Video is decent, but flat in some outdoor scenes. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel's beloved sunrises and sunsets look fine, as do most scenes under controlled lighting. All that silver taxpayers' metal looks sharp and focused. There is a fair amount of speckling early on, but nothing to detract from the home-video experience.
Bonus materials about the production and the space program fill the second disc, highlighted by KCET's "John Glenn: American Hero," a sensational 90-minute documentary packed with historic footage both familiar and seldom seen. Levon Helm, who narrated "The Right Stuff," returns to talk over a trio of new DVD documentaries, his voice having migrated into Chill Wills territory. Two of the docus cover the film; the other checks up on the surviving astronauts.
Most of the film's key participants roll out for interviews and reminiscences, most of them marveling at the time they had making this film. No wonder -- it's the best and most exciting drama made about the U.S. space program.
on June 30, 2003
I think if "The Right Stuff" was released in any other year, it would've won every award. Nominated for only 8 Oscars, it won 4 technical awards (Sound, Editing, Music & Sound Effects). Based on Tom Wolfe's book, which is a non-fiction account of the beginnings of America's flight/space program, I'm sure it missed on Philip Kaufman's very original take on the whole idea (hence, no nomination). Indeed, Kaufman's original screenplay and superb direction (also not nominated) kept the narrative absolutely riveting, even at 3 hours. There is nothing wrong with this film; it's as good as American film could be. Most interesting is that Kaufman's screenplay didn't have to invent characters; and they were, indeed, "characters". They were living & breathing types who were committed. I'm sure the Academy didn't know what category to put him in (like Oliver Stone's "original" screenplay for "Nixon" or the Coen Bros. (adapted?) of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", both nominated). 1983 was a year of wonderful films. "Terms of Endearment" won for best Picture, and Ingmar Bergman's "swan song", "Fanny & Alexander" won all the art awards (Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes). It can only be the idea of the Academy that rewards must be given to the great guys; maybe a guilt trip. I remember this film being at the top of practically every "10 Best" list. Well, enough of that! The Academy has missed many times. What we have here is a film of power and interest, brilliantly conceived and beautifully photographed. The central character really has to be Chuck Yaeger (well played by nominated Sam Shepard). Ed Harris (as Glenn) made his mark, and the following year proved himself in "Places in the Heart". Barbara Hershey has always been underrated, and she's as good as they get (she was given the role only days before filming started). Indeed, the female roles are given second seat to the great male characters; Pamela Reed, Kathy Baker, Veronica Cartwright, and, especially, the great Kim Stanley. Jane Dornacker, as Nurse Murch, is a special treat. All great! There's some improvised nonsense between Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer that is wonderful and keeps the whole silliness in perspective, though these guys are dead-set on serious stuff. The interaction among these guys is smart, revealing and educational. Fred Ward and Scott Glenn are fine; I was especially taken by Dennis Quaid as Gordo Cooper, a relaxed performance. Since the film ends in 1964, I wish there was more reference to Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin) and Wally Schirra (Lance Hendrickson). This is a wonderful ensemble film, but it centered on only 5 of the 7, as well as Yeager. It is a tribute to Yeager, as he deserves it. The other guys had so much to tell. I did not want this movie to end!!! This new DVD version is WONDERFUL!
on June 22, 2003
I was glad to see this come out in a special two disk edition. But since the soundtrack was never released, I was extremely disappointed that they didn't take advantage of the new edition to add an isolated music score as one of the extra features.
The latest release of Apollo 13 DVD plays the entire music score when the DVD is at Menu. The same could have been done for The Right Stuff, and soundtrack fans would FINALLY have the soundtrack available in entirety at least in DVD form, and have one more reason to purchase or upgrade the DVD version. You can get some bits of the Right Stuff soundtrack on a combo CD with music from another film, but you simply can't buy the complete soundtrack.
So it was very short-sighted decision not to include this award winning soundtrack on the DVD.
DVD makers should strongly consider the feature where the entire music score plays when the DVD is left at the menu option. It's a real bonus to soundtrack fans. And even for non-music lovers, it's a break from having the same short extract play annoyingly over and over if you are called away from a DVD that has reached the menu option.
Other than missing an isolated music score with the ability to play the soundtrack as an additional feature, this was a fine set.
on June 20, 2003
Sure, "The Right Stuff" is one of the most epic and compelling movies ever made. And the overwhelming majority of us have watched it with rapt attention...at least once, if not several times. But, in the tradition of "Why leave anything alone, when we can throw in some extras, repackage it as a "Special Edition", and persuade folks that it is worth shelling out another $20 for"...
It's not even worth discussing the movie itself, because we are all familiar with its grand tale of 7 men with "the right stuff�h and their involvement with the Mercury Program in the early 60's during the beginning of the "space race".
The two disc special edition consists of the original film on one disc (finally placed completely on one side, as opposed to the original "flipover"), and a disc of special features that were definitely lacking (missing entirely, as a matter of fact) from the original DVD release. Although it's nice to have special features as a compliment to the movie, it would be even nicer if they were as special as they could have been.
A couple of short documentaries, while not going in-depth on the making of the film, are a collection of reminiscences from cast, crew, the remaining Mercury astronauts, and Chuck Yeager. The 15 minutes of �gextra scenes" are basically cutting room scraps, not possessing any of the details or beauty of the actual film. In many cases, the extra scenes don't even appear to fit properly into any particular spot in the film (which is probably why they were cut). There is a 25-minute section of "selected" scenes where you can hear commentary by EITHER the cast or the crew, which are actually enlightening and amusing...but the logical move would have been to include a commentary track (or 2) for the entire film. There is also a very lame "interactive timeline" for the space program...12 or so listed dates that you click on to get a 10 second video blurb or a 2 screen text description of the event. Although it�fs nice that these were included in the set, there isn't anything overly "special" about any of these features.
However... as the final special feature, there is a 90-minute PBS production on John Glenn: American Hero, which is interesting, informative, and downright attention grabbing. Incredibly well done, it focuses on the one member of the Mercury Team who has actually remained in the public spotlight for 40+ years, from his younger years, up to his return to space as part of a shuttle mission in 1998.
If you already own the original release DVD, it is probably not worth it to upgrade just for the sake of getting the special features. But, if you have never owned this classic before on DVD, it is worth every penny, and can definitely be considered the "right stuff".
on June 18, 2003
I have been an aviation fan for as long as I can remember. My mom thinks that my first words might have been "airport beacon". As such, I found the book version of this movie at the airport and decided to read it. I was amazed at both the history of the Mercury program and the early history of Edwards Air Force Base. Anyways, it was a very good book.
Having read the book, it was only a matter of time before I watched the movie. I was not disappointed by the movie (unusual for movies based on books). I thought it was a very well acted, directed and special effects movie. I can understand why it won two Oscars for the technical stuff. It's a shame it didn't win Best Picture. Hollywood is not known for Oscars for military related movies.
I've seen the movie several times now and I bought this when it first came out on DVD. It is cool at the beginning to hear the engines of the B-29 as Yeager goes out to break the sound barrier. It's also cool to hear the echoes as he talks in the hanger to Ridley. I wish more movies were like this one.