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December 2009

For All Mankind

featuring: the Apollo astronauts

director: Al Reinert

79 minutes (E) 1989
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Eureka DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
review by Steven Hampton

For All Mankind

Former journalist Al Reinert co-wrote Ron Howard's blockbuster movie Apollo 13 (1995), and he also contributed to magnificent TV docudrama From The Earth To The Moon (1998), presented by Tom Hanks. Before any of that, however, Reinert's dedicated researches for this low-budget celebration of the first voyages off-world mined the NASA film library to study archived footage, shot by crews and teams of astronauts themselves between 1968 and 1972, much of which had never been seen before by the general public.

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard" - JFK

Taking individual narratives, detailing seven missions to the Moon, and editing the highlights together into a single condensed vision of space flight reveals the Apollo programme as the most audacious endeavour in history. And here, with astronauts positioned as both 'challengers of the unknown' and 'representatives of humanity', we embark upon - certainly - the most expensive 'home video' ever created, "shot on location." Although there were prosaic reasons for NASA to film everything they did, the resultant compilation of 'best' moments, and stunning images of the finest quality possible, covering every aspect of the various Moon journeys, is assuredly a thing of great beauty. There is a particular word that's often misused or repeated, today, ad nauseam. That word is 'awesome'. It's a word that genuinely fits the bill here, and it can honestly be applied to describe the staggering emotional impact of viewing this unique film about an undertaking that changed human perspectives.

"This is the Moon. That is the Earth."

For All Mankind is not simply, or merely, just another 'space-travel docudrama'. It's a wholly successful attempt to capture the meaning of a sequence of events that begins with President John F. Kennedy's rousing speech in 1961. This film cleverly recycles JFK's words as the perfectly apt coda for its closing scene where the Apollo capsule splashes down back on Earth, safely; mission accomplished. With engaging and frequently eloquent narration by the astronauts, and surprising visual dramas, this tribute reminds us that the Moon-walkers are usually viewed not as brave lone heroes but as a single body of men - united by esprit d'corps of The Right Stuff, and fulfilling their memorable roles as pioneers of a future, so rich in promises, that we cannot easily predict the nature of, or extrapolate a likelihood of its probable reality, and it's a bold future that we have, so far, failed to take the next obvious steps towards. If there's an overarching message here, of course, it's that any further missions into space that return to the Moon and reach beyond it; must be done "for all mankind."

"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people." - JFK

This special edition in the masters of cinema collection from Eureka has been fully restored and re-mastered for its home viewing premiere, with comprehensive extras: a director's commentary (with Eugene Cernan, last man on the Moon), the making-of 20th anniversary documentary featurette An Accidental Gift (with astronaut Alan Bean interview and some NASA archive staff), a gallery of Bean's artwork, optional subtitles, and identification captions. DVD or blu-ray formats also include a lavish booklet, but that particular item was not provided with the review screener.



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