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The Wrong Stuff: Capricorn One

April 15, 2010

Houston doesn't have enough hours in the day to hear about these problems

Capricorn One is an unintentionally campy mess, which probably sees itself as The Parallax View of sci-fi films. It’s not. Like most campy flicks, the premise – surprise! they’re faking a Mars landing! – all but guarantees there will be heaping amounts of fail piled high on the plate in Vegas prime rib buffet portions.

Billed as a “speculative thriller” – speculation as to the amounts of hippie happy they were smoking – Cappy One asks far too much of its audience, specifically to suspend disbelief long enough to accept Dr. Steven Kiley, Jack McCoy and OJ Simpson as astronauts . There was nothing Kiley could prescribe, nothing McCoy could prove in court nor enough Hertz rental cars Simpson could hawk to salvage this intergalactic wreckage. The plot had more bald patches than six year old’s Barbie.

If you want believable space cowboys you wrangle in your Scott Glenns, your Ed Harrises or your Danny Glovers. You do not put a foxy Brolin at the helm of any piece of electrical equipment more complicated than, say – a toaster oven.

And what of this freeze dried jiffy pop container cum spaceship filmed on what appears to be The 25,000 Pyramid soundstage? That’s right, folks, shake that bad boy over an open flame and POP – you’ve got astronauts! Unless they’re filming in Lanavision I’m just not sure how the public was supposed to be fooled. As for asking the actors pretending to be astronauts to pretend to be going to the moon, well it’s enough confusion to take the glossy luster right out of Brolin’s Barry Gibb blowout.

you can't make this kind of stuff up! sam, james and oj!

Vincent Canby’s surprisingly generous 1978 reviews provides this food for thought:

The stuff that comes in between is humorless comic-strip stuff about a conspiracy so widespread that you finally realize that the only people in the country who don’t know about it are the three astronauts, a minor space employee, one unreliable television reporter, an eccentric crop-duster, owner of the lovable biplane, and the members of their immediate families.

But hold the phones!

We’ve got not one hubby o’ Babs, but TWO. Yes, Carmine said there would be one hubby, but once again, here there are two.

Elliott Gould plays an earnest reporter – as evident by his choice of neckties – who clearly feels this is his Watergate. A reasonable assumption given the presence of Hal Holbrook, who shut it down as Deep Throat in All the President’s Men, though he’s not playing that character here. The rest of the cast reads like the opening credits of The Love Boat: Brenda Vaccaro, David Huddleston, David Doyle, Karen Black and Mr. Who Loves You, Baby? himself – Telly Savalas as the aforementioned crop duster. If you’re asking what the hell does crop dusting have to do with a faked mission to Mars; you are not alone.

Turns out, not much.

Writer-director Peter Hyams – who later would further his space explorations in 2010: The Year We Make Contact – isn’t entirely an awful writer or director, though honestly, I haven’t seen much indicating he’s a good writer or director either. That said, I admire the moxie and the level of skill required to create a film that never wavers in its cheesiness. It’s as cheesy today as it was the first time I saw it nearly twenty years ago! I just wish upon realizing the whole thing had gone to hell, he’d opted to really emphasis the camp. I mean he had to know it was riddled with unintentional hilarity, unless unlike the viewing audience he was actually fooled.

  • Written & Directed by Peter Hyams

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 7:12 am

    Anthony Lane himself couldn’t have done a better (and funnier) job of deconstruction. I love it when you scathingly review cheesy films — “the rest of the cast reads like the opening credits of The Love Boat” — HAH!

  2. araymondjohnson permalink
    April 15, 2010 9:13 am

    omg, I made a Karen Black reference the other day and no one got it, much less laughed. WHERE WERE YOU??

  3. April 15, 2010 9:22 am

    Now I love me a Brolin as the day is long, but a Brolin helming a spaceship? Man, get the fuck out of here! If they let men that foxy go into space we would have already colonized the moon.

  4. April 15, 2010 12:07 pm

    Naturally there’s talk of a remake. I wonder what ever happened with this.

  5. April 15, 2010 12:34 pm

    A REMAKE? Just the thing to resurrect OJ’s chopped and slashed career.

  6. April 15, 2010 12:42 pm

    capricorn 1 capricorn 1 nothing is wrong, i’ve got a pistol in my pocket that says you’ll go along!
    capricorn 1 capricorn 1 we’re all team players on capricorn 1.

  7. April 15, 2010 2:08 pm

    If they do a remake, I hope they get DeNiro and Hoffman for it.

  8. April 15, 2010 2:20 pm

    They could never tell that story again!

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