Filmmaking didn’t come to Al Reinert right away. His interest was piqued when – while working as a journalist – he researched NASA’s Apollo program for his first article for Texas Monthly in 1973. Despite having no prior experience in film, Reinert was committed to bring the images once exclusively seen on TV to film, with For All Mankind the end result of this extensive and ambitious project. Criterion has revisited the landmark documentary – which they released on both DVD and Blu-ray – for its UHD Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 5/5
“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, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others too.” – President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962
With those words, America was launched into the space race with the ultimate goal of putting a man on the moon and bringing him back to Earth safely. That mission was accomplished with the Apollo 11 mission in July of 1969, captivating America and the world. However, For All Mankind consists not only of footage from that fateful, landmark and important mission, but from the Apollo 7 to Apollo 17 missions – including some from Project Gemini – to fashion an overall image of the voyage to the moon. Covering nearly a decade in production and featuring 36 of the important figures in making the impossible possible from that time (from President Kennedy to Neil Armstrong), Al Reinert has created a uniquely singular look at this historic and soul stirring event, made all the more impressive since the “narration” is done by the men fortunate enough to take part (all done via archival interviews). Combining the actual audio from these missions with an engrossing music underscore by Brian Eno, the end result is a documentary that’s still captivating even after thirty plus years.
The 13 astronauts who make up the film’s “narration” include Jim Lovell (Apollo 8 & Apollo 13), Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), Eugene A. Cernan (Apollo 10 & Apollo 17), Michael Collins (Apollo 11), Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, Alan Bean (Apollo 12), Jack Swigert (Apollo 13), Stu Roosa (Apollo 14), James Irwin (Apollo 15), Ken Mattingly, Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (Apollo 17). Additional astronauts and mission control specialists who appear in the NASA footage include Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman, Fred Haise, Alan Shepard, Gene Kranz, Ed White, Bob Overmyer, Tom Stafford and Neil Armstrong, just to name a few.
3D Rating: NA
There are two options on this release: the original 1:33:1 aspect ratio and the alternate 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, taken from a brand new 4K digital restoration of the original 35mm negative blowup of the original 16mm film shot by NASA, both of which are on the UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs; on the UHD Blu-ray, the film is presented in HDR while the Blu-ray accompanying this release presents the movie in SDR. Colors and fine details are all faithfully represented with a minimum of issues like scratches, tears, dirt, vertical lines or other instances of print damage present. Criterion’s previous Blu-ray release was already solid in this department, but this release surpasses that, making it likely the best the film will ever look on home video.
The original surround soundtrack is a presented on a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and Brian Eno’s music score are all faithfully presented with minimal instances or crackling, popping, hissing or distortion present. Criterion has again bested their previous Blu-ray release with likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 5/5
Note: all the special features here are found on the accompanying Blu-ray disc.
Commentary by director Al Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan – Carried over from previous Criterion releases, Reinert talks about the painstaking process in making the movie while Cernan shares his experiences and looking back on his time in going to the moon.
An Accidental Gift: The Making of For All Mankind (32:00) – Carried over from the 2009 Criterion Blu-ray, a look at how the singular film came together; featuring interviews with Reinert, astronaut/artist Alan Bean, NASA film editors Don Pickard and Chuck Welch, NASA film curator Morris Williams and NASA librarian Mike Gentry.
Excerpted Interviews (20:35) – Snippets of interviews from the documentaries The Wonder of It All (2007), The Other Side of the Moon (1989) and Our Planet Earth (1990) with the astronauts who made the awe-inspiring voyage; among those interviewed include Charlie Duke, Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, Bill Anders, Al Worden, Jim Lovell, Michael Collins, Stu Roosa, Buzz Aldrin, Edgar Mitchell, Cernan, James Irwin, John Young, Frank Borman & Rusty Schweickart.
Paintings from the Moon (37:53) – Featuring an introduction by Bean (7:33), the artwork by the astronaut turned painter is presented in a photo gallery with commentary on each painting by Bean.
NASA Audio Highlights (21) (6:45) – Audio snippets from some of the missions featured in the movie.
3, 2, 1… Blast Off! (2:35) – Lift off footage of several of the rockets used in the Apollo missions to life that sent the NASA astronauts into space.
Optional on-screen identifications of the astronauts and mission control specialists
Booklet featuring essays by film critic Terence Rafferty and Reinert
One of the greatest documentaries of all time, For All Mankind hasn’t lost one iota of its amazing and breathtaking power since its initial release (just in time for the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission). Criterion has likely delivered the best home video release of this singular movie, with a stellar HD transfer presented in two different aspect ratios and carrying over all the legacy special features as well. Very highly recommended.
Amazon.com: For All Mankind (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]: Richard Gordon, Charles Conrad, Michael Collins, Charles Duke, James Lovell, Russell L Schweickart, Eugene A Cernan, Charles Conrad Jr, Richard F Gordon Jr, Alan Bean, John L Swigert Jr, Stuart A Roosa, James B Irwin, Al Reinert, Betsy Broyles Breoer: Movies & TV
Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.
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