Drama Marooned (1969)


Code Monkey
Staff member
This week I had a chance to watch Marooned from 1969, released just months before Buzz Aldrin's flight. The story revolves around three US astronauts aboard the Iron Man I capsule (think of the Apollo) capsule who, after spending 5 months in space in a test of isolation and endurance, find themselves stranded when their retro boosters won't ignite to allow them to return to Earth.

Immediately after the opening credits the movie starts with a gorgeous shot of the capsule rocket launching and then a quick fast forward of five months. The original mission was slated to be for seven months but the video being returned to Mission Control shows that the isolation, stress, and time has taken its toll on at least one of the men severely enough that his mental state is questioned while the other two men are showing signs of fatigue. The joy of going home early is short lived when the capsule's rockets refuse to fire.

What follows for the next two hours is a gritty look at what happens when three men are trapped in a small tin can in space and the decisions that have to be made not only by the apparently doomed men but also those on Earth including their wives. The cast of a virtual 'Who's Who' of 60's stars with Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, David Jannsen, Gene Hackman, and Mariette Hartley. Gene Hackman, as Buzz Lloyd, the overly stressed astronaut, gives a tense performance that makes the viewer unsure whether you should feel sorry for his character or whether you should begrudge him for cracking up under pressure. Back on Earth, Gregory Peck plays a NASA head honcho who has to make some hard choices regarding the lives of three men and his choices conflict directly with David Janssen who is the seasoned astronaut that puts the lives of those three men above anything else.

What happens when an astronaut loses it in space? How much is it worth spending to launch a rescue mission? How do you handle calculating that two men might have a chance of surviving with the oxygen that is left but not three men? Do calculated risks or public opinion form the basis for making decisions?

One of the things that, if you watch a lot of movies, you will notice is that there is no music soundtrack. There are no cascading sounds of an orchestra in the scenes where a man if facing his own death, no sappy romantic or sad music while a husband & wife have what might be their last conversation in life. It is actually a bit eery hearing the sound effects without that top layer of music playing like in most movies.

If you're looking for a space movie that glorifies the golden age of NASA with a big sweeping story then this is not the movie for you but if you like a very tense & straight-forward drama then track down a copy of Marooned. I'll give it a 3 out 5 stars rating but those three stars are quite gripping to watch.


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