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Drama - Historic

The Right Stuff (1983)

Duration3h 13m
RatingsUK: 15, USA: PG, Sweden: 11,
Source of storyReal events chronicled by a book of the same name by Tom Wolfe
DirectorPhillip Kaufman
Writers/ScriptPhillip Kaufman
StarringSam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey, Lance Henriksen,  Jeff Goldblum, Harry Shearer, Donald Moffat
RatingsIMDb:  7.8 by 55,049 people. Rotten Tomatoes: 96% by 50 reviewers

Elevator Pitch: This is the story of the seven original American astronauts who were recruited by the US government, which was to become NASA, to ride rockets into space. The scheme was prompted by the Russian success in getting a satellite into orbit. They were recruited from the best test pilots and military pilots the Americans could find. In the film there is the flight of the Bell X-1 which sets the scene, and then the seven go through gruelling preparations and finally some are launched into orbit with considerable success, and they are lauded by the American public, with a ticker tape parade for Glenn the first American to orbit the world.

Content: There is a lot of drinking but no sex or nudity, apart from a fan dance done as part of a celebratory show. Some of the pilots drink in the scruffy desert bar run by Florence “Pancho” Barnes, herself a legendary female flyer. The bar is seen later burning down, as it did in life. We see the guys being pummelled and prodded, and alarmingly we also see the rockets which later might take them into space blowing up, but eventually it happens. There are real events. Glenn’s wife, who had a stammer, refused to go on TV with the Vice-President, and the door of Grissom’s capsule blew off in the ocean and it sank.

A View: This film was well thought of by the critics, but was not  financial success. I was keen to see it because I love the technology, but disappointingly it was rather limited, maybe due to the special effects available at the time. Apparently a lot of plastic models were used plus ingenuity. That said, the flight of the Lockheed F-104A Starfighter in the final moment of the film, gaining the world altitude record is impressive. So probably a watch if you are interested in space history and can stand the three and a bit hours of it. 

Additional Info: Although the film portrays Grissom as panicking and ejecting the door, it was proved, even by the time that the film came out came out, that this had been a malfunction. .

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels

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