Release Date(s)1969 (March 30, 2022)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Imprint Films/Via Vision)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B
[Editor’s Note: This is an Australian import Blu-ray release but is coded for ALL REGIONS, so it will work on US Blu-ray players. Portions of the film commentary are by Barrie Maxwell, adapted and expanded from his review of the original 2003 DVD release.]
Based on the novel of the same name by Martin Caidin, Marooned covers ground that’s not unlike Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, telling the story of a doomed Apollo space mission that requires help from Earth to get home. It too has a high-powered cast that includes Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, and James Franciscus as the “Ironman One” astronauts, along with Gregory Peck as the chief of NASA on the ground, David Janssen as the senior astronaut to the rescue, and Lee Grant and Mariette Hartley as two of the astronauts’ wives. It also has John Sturges at the helm—a director whose other work (including The Magnificent Seven, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Great Escape, Ice Station Zebra, and The Eagle Has Landed) demonstrated how able he was at orchestrating effective action. Marooned, however, is a departure from that sort of film, though it does generate considerable suspense. Here though, Sturges takes a slower and more deliberate approach, as if drawing inspiration from the actual pace and challenge of working under weightless conditions.
Aside from occasional outbursts from the characters played by Janssen and Hackman, everyone acts calmly to address the problems, and each event in the plot is methodically presented. Viewers with short attention spans may have little patience for it, but those who persevere will be rewarded by an intelligent experience with a few extraordinary moments (for example, the scene in which the three astronauts discuss sacrificing one of their lives). The film’s special visual effects aren’t particularly impressive by today’s standards, but they did win an Academy Award, are well integrated into the story, and—for the most part—are sufficiently realistic-looking to remain fairly credible, apart from the occasional bit of awkward “wire” work used to simulate microgravity. And the film certainly inspired many a young viewer in its day, including Alfonso Cuarón, who would one day make Gravity (and include a clip of this film in Roma).
Imprint’s Blu-ray features the film in 1080p HD, presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It appears to be a more recent 2K film scan done by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (who own the rights to the title), though not much in the way of digital clean-up has been done. That means you will occasionally see dust and dirt in the image, along with the odd scratch, nick, or bit of film damage. Still, none of that should be considered a deal-breaker—on the whole, this is a solid HD image. Contrast is pleasing, with deep blacks and nice shadow detail. Colors are lovely and natural, while overall image detail is pleasing. There’s a light wash of organic film grain that the disc’s encoding handles with aplomb.
Audio is available in the original English in LPCM 2.0 mono, as was originally experienced in theaters in 35 mm presentations. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. The film eschews a traditional score, choosing instead to feature its sound effects and an atmospheric tapestry of ethereal electronic tones. Optional English captions are also available.
Imprint Films has made a few nice extras available on their Blu-ray release, including the following:
- Audio Commentary by Bryan Reesman
- Isolated Music and Sound Effects Track*
- Kim Newman on Marooned (HD – 20:22)
- The Troubled Master: Inside the Final Films of John Sturges (HD – 12:36)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 2:24)
*Not listed on the packaging or in the disc menus.
The commentary by pop culture journalist Bryan Reesman is interesting, offering plenty of trivia and anecdotes. Likewise, in his own featurette, the ever-insightful critic Kim Newman provides some good retrospective thoughts on the film and its period context, as well as its legacy in spaceflight cinema in general. There’s a nice, if brief, piece by Daniel Griffith on the director’s late-period work too, featuring film historian C. Courtney Joyner. A welcome surprise is that the disc also includes an isolated music and sound effects track that’s not listed on the packaging. (Nor does it appear in the disc’s menus—you have to access it by using your player remote’s audio selection button.) Finally, you get a trailer for the film (in SD only). All of these extras (save the trailer) are newly-created for this release. And it must also be noted that both the Amaray case and the slipcase in which it arrives (available with the first 2,000 copies only) make good use of the film’s original poster artwork, which is attractive indeed.
If Marooned feels a bit dated by contemporary standards, and is far from Sturges’s best work, it remains a solid and worthy film experience that pushes into some interesting psychological (and dramatic) territory. It’s no wonder then that when real NASA astronaut Jim Lovell took his wife to see the film prior to his own harrowing Apollo mission, she broke down in tears (a story recounted on his audio commentary for Apollo 13). Imprint’s new Blu-ray release is a fine way to experience the film and is recommended for fans and space history buffs alike.
- Bill Hunt with Barrie Maxwell