For All Mankind – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #54 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 29, 2010 by Dennis Amith
One of the greatest American documentaries looks incredible on Blu-ray. “For All Mankind” covers man’s quest to walk on the moon and arrive back safely. For those who are passionate about the space program or have an interest in seeing footage that many have never seen of the man’s arrival to the moon, let alone walking on the moon, should definitely give this awesome documentary a try!
© Apollo Associates. 2009 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: For All Mankind – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #54
DURATION: 80 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Color, Stereo
COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: 2009
Directed by Al Reinert
Executive Producer: Ben Young Mason, Fred Miller
Producer: Betsy Broyles Breier, Al Reinert
Associate Producer: Jonathan Turell
Co-Producer: David W. Leitner
Music by Brian Eno
Edited by Susan Korda
Edgard D. Mitchell
Thomas P. Stafford
In July 1969, the space race ended when Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” No one who witnessed the lunar landing will ever forget it. Al Reinert’s documentary For All Mankind is the story of the twenty-four men who traveled to the moon, told in their words, in their voices, using the images of their experiences. Forty years after the first moon landing, it remains the most radical, visually dazzling work of cinema yet made about this earthshaking event.
The space race between the USA and Russia was an amazing time in American history. President Kennedy issued the challenge to our space program to land a man on the moon and return safely back to Earth. And in 1969, America accomplished its goal and since then, our space program had flourished since.
For many of us who have seen the footage of man on the moon many times before, it was not until 1989 when journalist Al Reinert was given access to NASA’s archives and what Reinert found was amazing. Over 6,000 hours of film footage from seven moon missions and footage that many people have never seen before.
And thus the documentary “For All Mankind” was born. An amazing spectacle and giving the viewer a chance to become part of that journey by the astronauts who flew into space, hear from their words of their experiences when they lifted off, were in space and having fun with zero-gravity, NASA and the astronauts having to deal with a major emergency and the feeling of seeing the planet below them and landing on the moon and giving us a broader scope of exploration on the moon. We get to see both sides of from NASA working on Earth, coordinating with the astronauts and seeing how life was for the astronauts that were in space.
The film chronicles the Apollo 11 mission and focuses on the three astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edward Aldrin and their journey to the moon. The documentary was the first of its kind back in 1989 and earned itself an Academy Award nomination for “Best Documentary” in 1990.
Although, many people watched the astronauts walking on the moon on television (in not the best quality), the majority of the footage has never been seen by the public until this documentary was released. And since 1989, “For All Mankind” has been one of the most significant American documentaries ever created. And now that wonderful documentary about the Apollo missions has been brought to us once again but this time in High Definition courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
“For All Mankind” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1). According to the Criterion Collection, “For All Mankind” was restored, supervised and approved by the director Al Reinert and that the high-definition transfer of the film, which was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm interpositive.
For the most part, despite the film being shot in the ’60s, watching it on high definition was a major surprise. A lot of the footage just looked fantastic and because of the transfer to Blu-ray, there is a good amount of grain. Some parts may look a bit aged but once you watch the astronauts on the moon, you can’t help but be in awe. Especially in one scene in which the astronauts look out in space where you see nothing but planet Earth in a distance. Awesome!
But it’s important to note that the video varies depending on the source featured. The video is from the late ’60s, so video footage looks aged, some footage looks great but video varies in this documentary.
I’ve seen bits and pieces growing up of the astronauts on the moon, so watching this footage in HD was exciting.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“For All Mankind” was presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. According to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from 35mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum have been removed manually using Pro Tools HD. Audio for the most part is quite clear, including Brian Eno’s musical score.
There is an optional English Hard of Hearing (HOH) track included as well as optional intertitles to identify who is saying what during the film.
“For All Mankind – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #54” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Audio commentary featuring director Al Reinert and astronaut Eugene Cernan recorded in 1999. Both talk about President Kennedy’s challenge, the idea for the film, astronauts as space explorers, the blackness and darkness of space, working with LEM and Eno for the music, getting the young generation interested in space, zero gravity and more.
- An Accidental Gift – (32:00) This special feature is about director Al Reinert going through the archived footage. Featuring Al Reinert, Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, NASA film editors Don Pickard and Chuck Welch, film vault curator Morris Williams and lead librarian Mike Gentry.
- On Camera – (20:35) In this featurette, Reinert showcases on-camera interviews with fifteen astronauts from various Apollo mission films which were excerpted from his favorite films. The interviews are from Jeff Roth’s “The Wonder of It All” and Mickey Lemle’s “The Other Side of the Moon” and “Our Planet Earth”. Also, from two events honoring the 40th anniversaries of Apollo 7 and Apollo 8.
- Paintings from the Moon – Intro (7:32) – Alan Bean talks about his life as an astronaut and how became one. (37:50) Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon and later commanded the Skylab 3 Mission and now he is a painter. In each of his wonderful paintings, he includes a piece from his travel to the moon (may it be moon dust or particles from a suit that went to space) into his paintings.
- NASA Audio Highlights – A total of 21 soundbytes from the first decade of the US space program.
- 3, 2, 1 Blastoff! – (2:35) Launch footage from Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions.
- 28-Page Booklet – The 28-Page booklet features Terrence Rafferty’s essay “Fantastic Voyage” and Al Reinert’s essay “A Trip to the Moon”.
“For All Mankind” is definitely one of the most impressive and greatest American documentaries. This documentary does not focus on the space race between the US and Russia, nor does it focus on the failures of the NASA program. The footage is about America’s goal to get on the moon and return safely as JFK challenged the NASA program and was done in 1969.
Since the release of “For All Mankind” in 1989, there have been many space program documentaries that have followed – “From the Earth to the Moon” (1998), “Magnificent Desolation – Walking on the Moon” (2005), “In the Shadow of the Moon” (2007), Discovery Channel’s “When We Left Earth – The NASA Missions” (2008) and many more. But what made “For All Mankind” so special, especially for a lot of people who caught the documentary in 1989 was the footage that no one has seen before. These Apollo Flights have been seen it bits and pieces, some have seen a few seconds of it during the early MTV years and some were lucky to watch it when it first was shown on television.
But what “For All Mankind” does provide for the viewer is a dream, a goal and to accomplish that dream that many believed to be impossible. The film does not focus on one Apollo mission but gives us clips from the various moon missions and edited to show man’s mission to the moon. So, it seems as if it is one mission but “For All Mankind” is documentary of a series of missions.
I have to admit that this Blu-ray release was quite impressive. For footage that is over 40-years-old, you can’t help but be surprised of how beautiful some of the scenes are. Some that make you want to do a double-take to make sure that there was no CG used because it looks so clear and detailed but motions that seem so foreign for many of us, since we have not been in these astronauts shoes. In fact, if there was one thing that I wanted to see and that is Michael Collins tell us in how own words of how he felt about being the man who had to stay behind while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the moon. Of course, Collins role is very important as he is responsible in making sure these men return safely back home but I’ve always wondered how Collins felt and he tells us in the documentary of how he felt.
And some people may have felt the space mission was quite vanilla and without problems but as you will see in the documentary, there was situation that caused concern to NASA and the astronauts and to see them scramble to fix the problem was quite interesting to see. I never knew about this until I saw “For All Mankind”.
But a big question many people may ask is if “For All Mankind” is for them? For those who have spent their hard-earned money on The Criterion Collection Blu-rays, some may wonder to themselves if it’s worth owning. Personally, “For All Mankind” is such an important documentary about man’s journey to the moon. For many people, this is exciting and intriguing and for others, probably not. But it all comes down to one’s preference, but I can easily recommend “For All Mankind” for it’s awesome content and the restored and remastered for Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is absolutely gorgeous.
Overall, I give this documentary a high recommendation and it’s definitely worth having in your own personal Criterion Collection.
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