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Entry updated 17 January 2023. Tagged: Film.

Film (1969). Columbia. Directed by John Sturges. Written by Mayo Simon, based on Marooned (1964; rev 1969) by Martin Caidin. Cast includes Richard Crenna, James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, David Janssen and Gregory Peck. 134 minutes. Colour.

John Sturges is best known for Westerns (in particular The Magnificent Seven [1960]), though he also directed the borderline sf film The Satan Bug (1965) based on The Satan Bug (1962) by Alistair MacLean. The Spacesuit Films venue of outer space may be a less suitable setting for his work. The film is a quasidocumentary (see Space Documentaries) about the rescue, by a Soviet/US team, of three astronauts (Crenna, Hackman, Franciscus) trapped in orbit around the Earth. There is much debate involving NASA's Director of Manned Spaceflight (Peck) and Chief Astronaut (Janssen). Opinions are divided on whether the slowly built suspense is potent or monotonous; the dialogue is even more banal than real NASA chat. The special effects are low-key and accurate, but not visually memorable; indeed, the most impressive sequence in the film is the one containing shots of a genuine Saturn rocket-launch. Marooned also suffered through being released not long after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) directed by Stanley Kubrick. However, the friendly treatment given to Russian cosmonauts in Marooned supposedly played a part in bringing about the Apollo-Soyuz space rendezvous of 1975.

Martin Caidin's original novel featured only a single astronaut in peril and was revised to accord with the film; the 1969 version is thus to some extent a Tie. [JB/PN/DRL]


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