Criterion’s original DVD of For All Mankind included a small collection of supplements that I was more than happy with at the time of its original release.
First is an audio commentary by director Al Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan (the last man to walk on the moon.) The film is only 80-minutes long so it’s a very brief track but no less interesting. The two have been thankfully recorded together and give each other an equal amount of time. Reinert comments mostly on why he made the film (to put the NASA footage taken from the missions on the big screen), putting the film together, which includes the long process of gathering footage and cutting it together, the decision on editing footage from multiple missions together to make it feel like one mission with an “anonymous three man crew.” He also covers the process of blowing up 16mm film and getting around some of the inherent problems in the footage he was dealing with.
Cernan on the other hand talks specifically about the missions, his in particular, and also serves to put the film in context, also pointing out on occasion what mission certain clips are from, or even pointing out some of his fellow astronauts. He gets into the spiritual aspects of flying to the moon and shares his fond memories. Altogether the two provide a quick moving, informative track.
Next on the list of supplements is Astronaut Identification, which is a subtitle feature. The film, as mentioned before, is comprised of footage from an assortment of missions and then edited together to create a single narrative giving the illusion of one lone mission so there’s no mention of who is who throughout the documentary. Criterion has included these subtitles to aid viewers in identifying each individual that shows up on screen. While this does sort of ruin the effect of the film and is not one I recommend using if it’s your first time with the film I still did appreciate its inclusion. One annoyance I had with this feature was you could not view them all at once but instead had to go through them one by one in the index. The new DVD fixes this by adding a “Play All” option.
Paintings From the Moon presents a gallery of paintings by former astronaut Alan Bean, who was the fourth man on the moon. There is a 4-minute audio introduction by Bean, which plays over stills of his paintings. In it he discusses how he went from astronaut to artist and explains how his intentions for his work to capture the spirit of the moon missions as only an astronaut could probably do. You can then go through an index of 32 paintings and view them with an audio description by Bean. In total the audio runs about 48-minutes (give or take.) The paintings are pretty good, though I guess Bean is rather literal. As you go through the paintings you do start to see Bean take more artistic liberties (and newer work displayed on a similar supplement found on the new DVD and Blu-ray show he’s advanced even more.) One thing that should be noted is that while there are a lot of paintings that are the same between the two DVD releases Criterion, for whatever reason, didn’t include all of the ones found on here on the new release instead replacing some with newer works by the artist. I found this odd and suspect maybe Bean requested this but this may be of concern for a few people who are fond of this film and maybe Bean’s work.
NASA Audio Highlights presents 21 clips totaling maybe 7-minutes. These are recordings from transmissions made during the moon missions. There’s a lot of good ones here and there are some famous ones like “one small step…” and “Houston, we have a problem.” A nice little addition worth going through.
Closing off the disc supplements is 3...2…1…Blast off!, a collection of five clips showcasing the various types of rockets launched. These have been divided into 5 chapters and cannot be viewed all at once. In total they run under 2-minutes.
And finally we get an insert with an essay by Reinert further explains the process of making the film, his intentions and the reception of it by astronauts. It’s short but a decent read.
It’s a nice collection of supplements that satisfied a little space geek like me but Criterion’s new DVD carries over just about everything to the new DVD and Blu-ray releases (though not all of Bean’s paintings) and have added a couple of new supplements such as a documentary on the making of the film and a collection of interviews with the astronauts that flew on the missions. 7/10