Capricorn One

  • Directors: Peter Hyams
  • Producers: Paul N Lazarus III
  • Writers: Peter Hyams
  • Genres: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O J Simpson, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, Telly Savalas, David Huddleston, David Doyle, James Karen

The setting is the late 1970s, and the first manned mission to Mars is on the launch pad. NASA authorities including Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) realize that a faulty life support system has doomed any chance of a successful flight, so for political and financial purposes they decide to fake the landing rather than cancel the mission.

Minutes before launch, the bewildered crew of Col. Brubaker (James Brolin), Lt. Col. Willis (Sam Waterston), and Cmdr. Walker (O. J. Simpson) are removed from the capsule and flown to an old abandoned United States Army Air Corps base deep within the desert. The televised launch proceeds on schedule, but the public is unaware that the spacecraft (Capricorn One) does not have a crew.

At the remote base, the astronauts are informed they will fake the television footage from Mars and it is their patriotic duty to participate. Initially they refuse, but authorities imply their careers and the lives of their families are at stake if they do not cooperate.

The astronauts remain in captivity for a period of several months and are filmed landing on Mars within a studio located at the base. The conspiracy is known to only a select few NASA officials, until alert technician Elliot Whittier (Robert Walden) stumbles across a bizarre technical anomaly i.e. television transmissions from Mars made by the crew are being received by ground control before the spacecraft telemetry arrives. He is confused by the anomaly and wishes to investigate further, but is told not to worry about it by his employer. Even so, Whittier feels sufficiently uneasy to share his concerns with journalist friend Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould) at a local bar, but before Whittier can fully set out his concerns, he mysteriously disappears.

The film ends with Caulfield bringing Brubaker to the astronauts’ memorial service, exposing the conspiracy in dramatic fashion in front of dozens of witnesses and live national television.

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