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Author Topic:   Sputnik Mania (David Hoffman documentary)
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 35839
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-06-2007 01:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"The Fever of '57" is a documentary-style feature film by director and filmmaker David Hoffman that tells "the never-before-told story of how close the United States and the USSR came to starting World War III in 1957-1958.

A key revelation of the movie is that a secret agreement between two former generals (President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Premier Nikita Khrushchev) played a major role in preventing the possible outbreak of global thermonuclear war."

Based on the book "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century" by Paul Dickson, "The Fever of '57" uses "recently declassified documents and never-before-seen footage to tell its gripping tale of fear and paranoia during the Cold War military buildup and space race. From a press release:

"The Fever of '57" tells the gripping story of America's reaction to the Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik in October 1957. According to Hoffman, America's initial reaction of wonder and awe quickly turned to fear and widespread panic as the people were told by political and military leaders that the same rocket that carried Sputnik to space could also be used as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of delivering nuclear weapons to American soil.

"I uncovered a story that has never been told and got unprecedented access to people who told me parts of the story that allowed me to put the whole thing together. It shocked me, and I hope it shocks audiences as well," said Hoffman.

Notably, "The Fever of '57" was made by only three people: Hoffman, editor John Vincent Barrett and 24-year-old, first-time producer Eric Reid. They uncovered never-before-seen films and recently declassified government documents that proved crucial in capturing the feelings of the day and telling the story. Such facts included:

  • An April 1958 Gallup poll showed that more than 60 percent of Americans believed that nuclear war was imminent and that half the nation's population would be killed.

  • Throughout 1958, a hydrogen bomb was exploded every three days in the atmosphere by the United States or Soviet Russia.

  • In mid-1958, the Soviet military was placed on Full Alert status (its highest level of military readiness) for a 10-month period.
Hoffman previously served as executive director of the miniseries "Moon Shot" based on the book of the same title by Howard Benedict and Jay Barbree with Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 35839
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-06-2007 01:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Variety ran an early review of The Fever of '57 in their July 5 edition.
A seemingly esoteric subject -- the launch of Russia's Sputnik satellite -- is exhumed and made exciting in this important slice of you-are-there documaking. If distribs can see the timely value of this snapshot of a crucial moment in U.S. and world history, "The Fever of '57" has a shot at reaching auds who will find it useful material a half-century later, at the start of a new, potentially more dangerous era.


Posts: 1162
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 03-26-2008 03:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Sputnik Mania" (previously "Fever of '57") had its U.S. premiere on March 14th in New York City. The director, David Hoffman, was on hand for several of the screenings the opening weekend to answer audience questions.

Based on Paul Dickson's book "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century," the film covers the year between Sputnik's launch and the creation of NASA through archival film clips (many not seen before, and a few found through YouTube) and interviews, which include Homer Hickam of "Rocket Boys" fame and the son of Nikita Khruschev.

The film provides a fascinating snapshot of the real fear and apprehension Sputnik's launch delivered to the West, including claims that those evil communists would be able to transmit messages from Sputnik via radio and TV channels(!). As a counterpoint, Eisenhower appears unconcerned and dogged in his wish that a civilian, not military, rocket deliver America's first satellite. Of course, Vanguard fails and von Braun's team launches Explorer 1.

In the Q&A that followed the screening I attended, director Hoffman related the story of the secret launching of the SCORE satellite that carried a recorded message by President Eisenhower. It seems that Jay Barbree of NBC News was in a restroom when he overheard two officials discussing the pending launch; Barbree had just enough time to get to the cape to witness it.

The film does have its amusing moments, as in the sequence showing the flight of Laika in Sputnik 2. It erroneously shows Belka, Strelka and other space dogs while the narration complains of the cruelty suffered by the poor creature after it died in space.The segment ends with a vintage commercial in English for 'Laika cigarettes'. Some say the modern animal-rights movement was born at this time.

One of the producers of the film is Jay Walker, the founder of, and he brought his own Sputnik to the premiere; it was placed in a cafe next to the movie screen. One of only a few in private hands.

I am not sure if it was an engineering model or nonworking backup.

A showing on the History Channel is possible because History Films, a unit of the channel, is one of the co-producers. See the Sputnik Mania website for a preview clip and more information.


Posts: 3766
From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 01-05-2009 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For those who are interested, Sputnik Mania has just been released on DVD by the History Channel, in a two DVD set that also contains five shorter films.

I saw this program on the History Channel in November and was quite impressed with it. While I plead some ignorance about the Sputnik program, the film gave an interesting rundown of the year that followed the launch of Sputnik. While I wasn't alive at that time, it gave me some sense of just how stunned the world was following this Soviet success.


Posts: 641
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 01-05-2009 07:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I caught this film on the History Channel by accident one afternoon and was very pleasantly surprised. It had a few annoyances (I noted a few archival film mismatches, and I wished they'd potted the background music down in some places), but overall I was very impressed, and saw a lot of film I'd never seen before (including some great archival network stuff).

I'm very happy to know it's out on DVD. I must add it to the collection.

Richard Easton

Posts: 161
From: Winnetka, IL USA
Registered: Jun 2006

posted 01-05-2009 07:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Easton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I will get the DVD. I'm curious about how they treat Project Vanguard (my dad designed Vanguard 1 and Minitrack) since I was unhappy about some of the coverage in 2007.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 35839
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-13-2009 11:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A&E Home Video release
Sputnik Mania
Based on the Best-Seller "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century" and Narrated By Liev Schreiber, This 2-Disc Set Features the Award-Winning Documentary About America's Entry into the Space Race; Plus a Bonus Disc with Rare 1950's Short Films.

On October 4, 1957, the USSR announced to an unsuspecting world that it had launched the first man-made object ever to successfully orbit the earth. Americans were collectively stunned...then terrified. What had happened to our vaunted academic and technological superiority? Were the Soviets going to overtake us? Worst of all, could their satellites be used as weapons of mass destruction? With the use of rare, authentic archival footage mixed with provocative interviews, and poignantly narrated by Liev Schreiber, Paul Dickson's best selling book "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century" comes to rich, eye-opening life in Sputnik Mania, a 2-disc set available January 27 from A&E Home Video and HISTORY(TM).

The 1950s had been a heady time for Americans. Ours was the most powerful nation on earth, the leader of the free world. We were the best, the richest, the smartest - and we knew it down to our very core. Then came Sputnik. The launch of the orbiting satellite spurred the U.S. into an arms and space race leading to the development of NASA and massive reforms in our education system. In fact, many of today's consumer technologies - the Internet, cell phones and global positioning systems - were a by-product of the Sputnik influence. Sputnik's launch also led to immediate widespread panic - a majority of Americans believed that nuclear war was imminent and that a significant portion of the U.S. population would die. Vividly recalling the impact the satellite had on the American psyche, Sputnik Mania details how the shock catapulted the nation from complacency into action, focusing on a single critical goal: winning the Space Race.

Theatrically released in 2007 following Sputnik's 50-year anniversary, this provocative look at the launch that changed the world played in 25 cities across the nation and received outstanding reviews from the New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other leading national outlets. The film, from director David Hoffman, was also the recipient of the prestigious International Documentary Association 2007 ABC News VideoSource Award.

This must-have collector's set for anyone interested in history or the space race also features a bonus disc with 90 minutes of rare vintage films from the 1950's never-before-available on DVD.

Like today, 1957 was a time of fear. In place of Al Qaeda, dirty bombs, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were the Soviets, hydrogen bombs, and the Cold War. Leading us through the first year following the launch of Sputnik, paralleling the shocks felt in the aftermaths of Pearl Harbor and September 11th, this provocative documentary tells a story of great relevance to the issues of the 21st century. And as the film's epilogue asks: what will be our next "Sputnik moment?"

A&E Home Video, part of the Consumer Products Division of A&E Television Networks (AETN) is a video distributor of non-theatrical programming, featuring collectible DVD editions of the high quality programming from A&E Network and HISTORY, as well as acquired classic programming. A&E Home Video brings the best of critically acclaimed entertainment presented in award-winning packaging to the special interest category. For more information about ordering these and other titles from the A&E Home Video Collection, please call 1-800-423-1212 (A&E). In addition to placing orders by phone, A&E Home Video products may be purchased over the World Wide Web at


Posts: 669
From: Texas * Earth
Registered: Apr 2011

posted 11-16-2016 05:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A one hour version of this fine documentary is available by its author:
Please purchase my entire film here. I made the feature documentary, "Sputnik Mania." Critics and allies told me that I had to tell the story of what happened to American education during that period, how we changed ourselves so radically in science, engineering, and math — our complete education system really. With the help of one wonderful collector of old footage, I made this story for schools, teachers, educational leaders. It shows what happens, and the footage proves it.

All times are CT (US)

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