The Mighty Saturns:
Saturns 1 & 1B (Spacecraft Films)
Sound: B- Extras: B Main Programs: B
The Mighty Saturns is the beginning of a DVD-only
series of boxed sets Fox is releasing with NASA and the series’ producers that
will go the farthest long-way yet in documenting the early glory days of the
United states space program. It is the
first of four 3-DVD sets to be initially offered, followed by three more 6-DVD
sets, hopefully just for starters. Five
of these boxes will cover the various Apollo programs, leaving this set and one
on Gemini to launch the series.
There have been many great documentaries on the program
like many an IMAX film done with NASA, as well as other gems like Al Reinart’s For
All Mankind (1989, on Criterion DVD).
Like that DVD, this has sound remixed for multi-channel playback. Unlike that single DVD, all three in this
set may be credited as 5.1, but are really Dolby Digital 3.1 sound! That is still not bad, especially for the
age of the audio, when there is even audio available. An alternate Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is offered. You do get it in the main program, but you
will find a surprising amount of footage in the extras and interactive
sections, film and video, that is silent.
All that footage is full screen, either from 16mm NASA or
videotaped NASA archival records, plus all the new interviews are taped in the
same frame. We are generally used to
the classic film footage of the space program, but there is much more
videotaped clips of the time than expected.
It is interesting to see the analog video sometimes not being able to
hold its picture, but that is also usually in color, like the vast majority of
what is here. Image quality is various,
as is the case with most documentaries.
Disc One has a 49-minutes-long main program, along with
very specifically-labeled camera angles of many a launch. There are also great behind-the-scenes clips
of the actual building of what is still to date the most powerful series of
rockets ever built. The final Saturn
remains the king of all time, a feat that the now-defunct Soviet Union never
caught up to. Disc Two is all clips,
and Disc Three shows how Saturn rockets made the Apollo 7 launch possible. You also get camera angles form the rockets
Now many might find this kind of set to abstract, but fans
will LOVE IT and it is bound to inspire and educate the millions who will see
these programs. It also acts as an
archival record of very thorough proportion like hardly anything that has ever
been issued on home video before, even as compared to the most deluxe feature
film DVD releases.
Fortunately, Fox has thought ahead, putting each DVD in
one of the ultra-slender cases they have used on their exceptional Family
Guy packagings. This is the kind of
interactive and referential programming DVD’s technological capacities always
promises, but rarely delivers. That
makes The Mighty Saturns (and/or any other installment of this series)
something everyone who owns a DVD player should look into.
- Nicholas Sheffo