New To Blu: Capricorn One

Now it's time for a review of the '70s feature, Capricorn One. It's getting a new blu-ray release tomorrow. 

"Look!!! It's the Aluminum Falcon!!
I just love modern science!"
Ah, 1970s Hollywood action/thrillers... what a very particular breed of film. Recognizable by their ridiculously large and impressive ensemble casts, their spectacularly-overblown action set-pieces, and their irresistible combination of plausibility-straining silliness and honestly well-crafted thrills, they may not be cinematic masterpieces, but they are so infectiously entertaining that it's really hard to not have a great time while watching one. This recipe gave us such time-honored classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, which remain popcorn-movie staples among film-lovers to this day. But it also produced loads of flicks which are nearly as much fun, but which time has forgotten outside of their cult followings. One film from that category is newly-resurrected in HD this week thanks to the fine folks at Shout! Factory... and at a perfect time. Interstellar set loads of people on space-movie kicks this fall... so why not take a look at the fake-space-movie Capricorn One?

A favorite conspiracy in the American cultural zeitgeist – both among conspiracy theorists who actually believe it, and sane people who joke about it – is the idea that we never really made it to the moon, and the lunar landing was a hoax. Even Interstellar made a joke about moon-landing conspiracy theories, when its post-ecological-disaster government convinces the public to look to the earth rather than the stars by spreading false propaganda that the hoax theory was actually true. With the prevalence and semi-ironic popularity of the fake-moon-landing concept, it was only a matter of time before a filmmaker made a movie about it. And fortunately for all of us, that filmmaker wound up being cheese maestro Peter Hyams (Timecop, The Relic, Outland). Of course, Hyams' Capricorn One is actually about a near-future NASA faking a Mars landing... but it's no secret that the film just takes the moon-landing conspiracy theories and runs with them like crazy. The result is archetypal of that 70s-thriller sub-genre: short on believability, but packing plenty of thrills, suspenseful set-pieces, and camp appeal. And as usual for that type of film, it has one hell of a cast: Ellott Gould, James Brolin, Sam Waterston, Karen Black, Hal Holbrook, Brenda Vaccaro, Telly Savalas, James Karen... and in a bit of casting that history has made rather unfortunate... O.J. Simpson. Depending on your point of view, the presence of O.J. in the movie either makes the whole experience a bit uncomfortable, adds to the movie's camp appeal, or a bit of both, but either way it surely lends the film a bit of notoriety that is oddly appropriate for its bizarre conspiracy-theory theme.

"Right after I'm done filming this
movie. I'm gonna OJ some
white folks."
With a running time of over two hours (again, in keeping with its post-Poseidon Adventure genre roots), the plot takes twists and turns which only add to the silliness of the already out-there plot, but writer/director Hyams takes that all in stride, and makes it part of the fun. The script is quite knowing about its over-the-top conspiracy-bait nature, and has just enough of a sense of humor about itself to make it all work, perhaps better than it should. And Hyams' direction just sells it even further: the thrills are strong enough that we have no problem going along for the ride and having a great time, even if we know in the backs of our minds that everything we're seeing is pretty silly. Actually, we go along for the ride and have a great time because we know in the backs of our minds that it's pretty silly: this is summer popcorn cinema of the purest kind, and Hyams knows exactly what he's doing in that area. This is, after all, the same guy who made Timecop such a fun and entertaining popcorn flick despite having possibly the most distractingly nonsensical time-travel logic of any sci-fi story ever. He has plenty of help from his strong cast as well: Gould, Brolin, and Holbrook in particular carry the film with strong performances. This is no Poseidon Adventure, mind you: the film definitely has its flaws, like a few pointless and meandering sequences that should have been trimmed to tighten up the running  time. Nonetheless, it's a solidly entertaining entry in this unmistakable sub-genre which deserves to be better-known than it is. Anyone who enjoys this type of film will find a lot to like.

"Maybe if I hide in this run down
garage, OJ won't be able to find
me. But, this golf club will still protect me."
And now, thanks to Shout! Factory, the film can be enjoyed in HD for the first time in North America. Shout! Factory remains one of the very finest distributors of cult films, or generally overlooked films that deserve a second chance at exposure, and it's great that they decided to resurrect this one. I have not yet had a chance to watch their Blu-ray transfer of Capricorn One, but knowing the high standard of quality that they generally bring to their transfers, I can only assume that it will look great. However, I must sadly report that this disc falls far short of their usual standards in the area of special features. Usually Shout! Factory discs can be counted on for some cool extras, but this time around there's nothing: just a token theatrical trailer and photo gallery. This is especially a shame because the out-of-print Lionsgate special edition DVD had some very cool features, including a featurette about the movie's relationship to conspiracy theories, and a commentary by Peter Hyams. It's understandable that the Lionsgate extras couldn't be ported over, with the legal rights to such things sometimes being messy, but it's too bad that Shout! Factory couldn't produce some extras of their own instead. As such, the Blu-ray is easily recommended to anyone looking to check out the film itself in HD, but if you're a fan of the movie or a connoisseur of director's commentaries, this is sadly one to have in addition to the out-of-print DVD, not instead-of.

-Christopher S. Jordan