Capricorn One (1977) – Compelling (if Flawed) Sci-Fi Conspiracy Flick Worth Watching
I first saw Capricorn One as a kid in the theatre with my then best buddy, Craig, more or less on a whim. As kids of 8 (or so) years old we often based our movie choices based on the Movie poster – this was no different, except we liked this one. I liked it even more, watching it 35 years later.
Capricorn One tells the story of a faked, manned Mars landing. Based on the faked lunar landing conspiracies (which I do not believe -I am convinced Man DID walk on the moon), but applied to a fictional Mars landing, writer/director Peter Hyams created a (semi) believable tale of conspiracy and cover ups that keeps the audience watching and waiting.
The story goes something like this: Just minutes before the launch, the crew of Capricorn One, the first scheduled manned mission for Mars, the three man crew is pulled from the capsule and secreted away to an abandoned military base, while the rocket is allowed to lift off without crew. Once at the military base the astronaughts (played by James Brolin, Sam Waterston and O.J. Simpson) are briefed about a problem with the life support system that would have left them dead within two weeks of launch, and that they would be required to act out parts of the mission here on Earth. It’s argued that this is the only way to save the space program and American pride. When they don’t immediately agree to the plan, their families are threatened, which convinces the crew to go along. Over the period of the “mission” a member of the ground crew notices that television feed from the crew seems to be coming from a much closer source that Mars. After bringing this fact to his superiors attention multiple times (and given a bogus excuse about issues with the terminal that he works on), he is finally “disappeared” by the powers that be… Which gets the attention of his reporter friend, played by Elliot Gould, who stumbles upon the whole conspiracy.
Meanwhile, upon re-entry it is announced that the heat shield on the capsule had separated and the crew had died (despite never being ion the ship). The astronauts quickly figure out that this means that they’re going to be killed to keep the conspiracy buried. Quckly, they decide to try to escape and soon take off on a Learjet parked nearby. Unfortunately, the plane is low on fuel and they are frced to land in the desert where they head in opposite directions in an attempt to get to a major population centre thereby blowing the roof off the whole scam.
If I tell you more, I’ll give away too much. Let me just say that this is a great, fun adventure, and that while I don’t believe the whole “they faked the moon landing” thing, but that this made for an entertaining film and I definitely suggest this one a s a go ahead and watch movie.
Here’s the trailer: