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The Right Stuff - 30th Anniversary Edition

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Nov 5, 2013
The Right Stuff - 30th Anniversary Edition

The 30th Anniversary edition of "The Right Stuff" looks terrific on Blu-ray, taking viewers back to the excitement of the space program's earliest days and the Mercury 7 program. Test pilot Chuck Yeager looms large here, as an unofficial member of this elite band of brothers; portrayed by Sam Shepard, Yeager -- the first man to break the sound barrier -- was excluded from the program because he didn't have a college degree.

What Yeager did have -- as did all of the Mercury 7 astronauts (played here by Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Lance Henriksen, Ed Harris, Scott Paulin, Charles Frank, and Scott Glenn) -- was "the right stuff," a rare combination of courage, self-possession, reflex, and adventurous curiosity that far outweighed the very real concern that any given test flight or space launch might be one's last. Or, as Tom Wolfe puts it in one featurette, "The willingness to risk death on a daily basis."

Tom Wolfe's book provided the basis for this sweeping film (which clocks in at over three hours), but director Philip Kaufman was determined to give the movie a populist sheen of entertainment, humanizing the heroes even as he celebrated their accomplishments. Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer show up in comic scenes, and commedia dell'arte troupe The Bologna Brothers boil up with antic energy in scenes calling for the presence of the press corps.

Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, and Mary Jo Deschanel are among the cast as well, playing the wives of the astronauts, whose fortitude the movie also celebrates.

The 30th Anniversary Edition comes complete with a booklet built into the packaging (lots of full-color photos, as well as bios and a time line of space expiration), and a raft of extras:

  • The Journey and the Mission: Audio Commentary for Selected Scenes with the Cast and the Filmmakers (and, one might note, with Chuck Yeager himself, who has a cameo in the film and served as technical director).

  • Documentaries:
    - Realizing the Right Stuff
    - T-20 Years and Counting
    - The Real Men with the Right Stuff
    (These were imported from the 20th Anniversary release, but are still worth watching)

  • Additional and Alternate Scenes

  • Interactive Timeline to Space

  • John Glenn: American Hero (a 90-minute PBS production from 1998, chronicling Glenn's return to orbit on a space shuttle mission).

  • Theatrical Trailer

    Though the visual effects are somewhat dated (the model work and editing give a sense of velocity, but some of the space scenes rely on weird, almost psychedelic light tricks that could have come from a movie made in the 1960s), the story itself is timeless, and essentially American. The hi-def transfer looks crisp and new, also, making this a move that defies that hated, "dated" look. Movie lovers, space geeks, aficionados of military history -- this one has something for all of you.

    "The Right Stuff"

  • Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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