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(aka "Intrigues en Orient" )

 

directed by Robert Altman
USA 19
67

Improvisational director Robert Altman hadn't yet found his cinematic "voice" when he helmed the conformist, stick-to-the-script Countdown. James Caan is top-billed as a scientist who is chosen over astronaut Robert Duvall for the upcoming NASA moon shot. In their haste to beat the Russians to the moon, the NASA folks have tried to sidestep several safety measures, but doctor Charles Aidman sees to it that every possible precaution is taken. When Caan makes it to the lunar surface, he stumbles upon gruesome evidence that the Russians had sent up a secret expedition themselves--and had fatally ignored all those extra security precautions which he's been subject to. Ted Knight, who received some of his best pre-Mary Tyler Moore roles in Altman's TV work, co-stars in Countdown.

***

Made before MASH (and subjected to re-editing by the studio), Altman's drama about American astronauts being rushed to the moon in an attempt to beat the Russians is a surprisingly human affair, concentrating less on sci-fi hardware than on the emotional crises affecting the men and their families. Slightly soapy in parts, but overall it's an intelligent and taut little film, interesting for the way it foreshadows not only the actual look of the Apollo capsules but also Altman's later style: the lack of interest in 'plot', the overlapping dialogue, and the imaginative use of the 'scope frame are all there, if in embryonic form.

Excerpt of review from Timeout Film Guide located HERE

Posters

   

Theatrical Release: February 1968

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:41:27
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.14 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (1:46)

DVD Release Date: June 22nd, 2009
Keep Case

Chapters 11

 

Comments

I bought this for Altman, but while there is little of the director's style - it is still a decent science-fiction film that doesn't rely on effects over substance. It has strong performances and the story is realized well by strong cinematic storyteller.

It's standard single-layered but unfortunately interlaced (see last capture) and in the original 2.35:1 aspect. This DVD-R is labeled under the Warner's "Archive Collection" and the SD image is nothing special. Black levels are strong and detail are acceptable and colors decent. The disc supports the film with a reasonable DVD transfer without many speckles or any damage.

The mono sound is decent but the score by Leonard Rosenman (Rebel Without a Cause, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, Fantastic Voyage and A Man Called Horse) sounds less-unremarkable . There are no subtitles offered. The only supplement is the film's trailer - looking rough.

While I wouldn't expect any Altman-esque subtleties flourishes, film fans may still enjoy Countdown - which has some substantial positives going for it.   

  - Gary Tooze

 



 

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  Interlacing

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

 




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