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Go / No Go :
"Project Gemini: A Bold Leap
Forward" DVD

Review by Rick Houston

Studio:   Spacecraft Films/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release:   2003
Length:   More than six hours
MSRP:   $44.99
Extras:   Gemini control panel; spacecraft development; Titan ICBM; Titan stacking; desert survival training footage; footage of Grissom and Schirra in training

Released last year, the first disc of "Project Gemini: A Bold Leap Forward" begins with an incredible one-hour documentary, written by Andrew Chaikin. No detail is left unexamined - from construction of the Gemini spacecraft to the selection process for the Titan II booster, from the consideration of a paraglider landing system to rare audio from the press conference announcing the untimely deaths of original Gemini 9 crew members Elliott See and Charlie Bassett.

The documentary is a treat, but the true draw for this set is the content of the other two discs. Complete onboard footage from every manned mission is included, along with air-to-ground and post-flight press conference audio when available. There are spacecraft checkouts, suitups, walkouts and multiple angles of every launch.

This is not a slickly edited Hollywood production. It's raw footage, just as it was initially shot. Millions have seen brief snippets of Ed White's breathtaking Gemini 4 spacewalk, but to see the whole thing from start to finish is the next best thing to being there. The colors of the motion picture are every bit as vibrant as the best still photograph, and to hear White and Gemini 4 commander Jim McDivitt describe the experience throughout the entire spacewalk sequence is worth the price of the three-disc set alone. Truly, truly amazing.

Equally stunning in the Gemini 4 segment are shots of McDivitt and White inside their cramped cockpit. Personally, Even if you are not claustrophobic by any means, how could anybody have spent any length of time in such a small space?

Another highlight is the Gemini 11 press conference featuring Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard Gordon, who describe some good-natured bickering while trying to get their spacecraft oriented correctly.

Some may be put off by the absence of commentary for some sequences, or by the jumpy camerawork in many cases. The audio is the best available, although it would've been nice to have an option to choose between complete air-to-ground and post-flight press conference audio as is available on the company's 20th Century Fox Apollo-related products. As it stands, there is little air-to-ground communication included with this Gemini set.

As for the camerawork, this the chance to watch an astronaut's home movies. Take the good shots with the bad, the blurred with the crystal clear. This is the space-age equivalent of the Zapruder film with a happy ending.

This is history, as it happened.

Extras: Extras are included on the first disc:
  • Control panel - subject testing of the functionality of the Gemini spacecraft interior, and a complete inventory of the controls and displays;

  • Spacecraft development - various footage detailing the development and construction of Gemini;

  • Titan ICBM - launches, including onboard footage of stage separation and Titan stacking;

  • Desert survival training footage;

  • footage of Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Walter "Wally" Schirra in training;
While there is no audio, the desert survival and Schirra/ Grissom sequences are priceless. The world might not be a better place now that video is available of Pete Conrad in his long johns, yet there he is, in all his desert survival training glory.

Go/No Go: If you have even a passing interest in the space program and don't own a DVD player, buy one. Now. The Spacecraft Films series is that important a body of work.

If you're interested in the early space program and already own a player, but haven't yet purchased producer Mark Gray's masterpieces, then you do not know what you are missing. No space collection is complete without a complete Spacecraft Films library.

Order now: buySPACE | Amazon | Spacecraft Films

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About the reviewer:
Rick Houston is an avid collector of DVDs (he has more than 600). Houston is also a space history enthusiast, so he is sure to not miss a documentary or docudrama.

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