Space Movie, The: Director's Cut (1980) (NTSC)

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Released 6-Jul-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Interviews-Crew-Interview with Tony Palmer on the making of The Space Movie
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 79:13 (Case: 105)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tony Palmer
Ovation Starring Tony Palmer
Ed Bishop
John F. Kennedy
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $14.95 Music Mike Oldfield
John Beech
Graham Bunn

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

In 1969, man first landed on the moon.
This film is a celebration of that achievement; of the numerous missions which made it possible; and of the subsequent exploration which it inspired.

The statement above is the first bit of narration, in textual format, that the audience views when Tony Palmer's film starts. The film then shows images of nature before we are introduced to a voiceover of John F. Kennedy's famous speech given at Rice University in Houston, Texas on September the 12th, 1962. This speech, or certain parts of it, has been used many times in our popular culture as a reference for The United States' justification for sending man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. On July 20th, 1969, John F. Kennedy's promise, given seven years earlier, was famously fulfilled.

Director Tony Palmer was commissioned by NASA to make a film celebrating the landing on the moon in 1979 as a ten-year anniversary event. Director Tony Palmer was initially amazed when NASA came to him to make this film. The story goes that someone at NASA viewed his 1977 documentary for the BBC, All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music and was impressed. NASA, by 1979, had experienced a decline in social popularity since the late 1960s with the Apollo moon missions and needed an 'image-boost'. Palmer was told that there was 40 miles (or 65 kilometres) of 16, 35 and 70mm footage of space exploration available for his project which equates to at least 35 hours of film; Palmer whittled it down to approximately 90 minutes in the final cut. (If you wish to view this publicly available film footage of NASA's space exploration it is at the Space Movies Cinema site here)

That final cut is now 80 minutes after another 10 minutes of footage has been lost or damaged since its initial screening for television in 1979. The film was an opportunity, at the time, for the general public to view space exploration that had never been seen before. Even today, director Tony Palmer claims that half the film has never been seen outside of the contents of this movie.

The Space Movie does not use traditional voice-over narration to tell its story, rather it employs images of Saturn launch mission failures and footage from Apollo missions to tell the story of the courage required by NASA and its astronauts in embarking upon the space program. Radio transmissions of those missions are used frequently. Ed Bishop does do some voice-over narration during the film to point out the Soviet achievements in their space program in comparison to NASA's achievements.

This 80-minutes director's cut, released in 2007, is the first time that many people have had an opportunity to view the film since 1979. Mike Oldfield's score features distinctively. As Oldfield did not have time to write a new score for the film, arrangements were used from his orchestral scores for Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge. Mike Oldfield's score supports the film wonderfully. In fact, the official website for The Space Movie is hosted by Mike Oldfield himself at, with fans able to purchase the United Kingdom Region-free version of the film on DVD for 10 (GBP) plus shipping (approximately $AU17.50 at the time of writing this review).

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Transfer Quality


The Space Movie uses archival film footage from 50 cameraman from 1960 to 1978. The original film elements are in poor condition so the video transfer also has poor visual quality.

The aspect ratio of The Space Movie is 1:75:1. On this transfer it is 16x9 enhanced in a 1:78:1 widescreen ratio, with approximately 1.6% of the film cropped on the right-hand side of the image. Either that or the original film aspect ratio was 1:75:1 and it has been transferred to DVD with one black bar on the right-hand side instead of the traditional left and right-hand sides, such as in a 1:66:1 16x9 enhanced film for example.

The Space Movie is presented on a single-layered disc. The average bitrate is 5.6 m/b per sec. As the whole film uses archival footage the visual transfer is poor. The image lacks sharpness and contains film grain as it has been derived from an analogue video source.

Colour is muted as the original film elements have discoloured since the film's original presentation in 1979. Tony Palmer spent a bit of time restoring the image (and soundtrack) but he did have budgetary limitations. This film really needs a digital frame-by-frame restoration to do it justice.

There are many positive (black) and negative (white) film artefacts present. Other problems with the transfer include analogue tape tracking errors, chroma noise, colour bleeding, MPEG macro-blocking compression issues and over modulation. These transfer issues are all related to the poor quality of the analogue film source.

Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available for this film.

There is no RSDL change as the main presentation is contained on a single-layered DVD5 disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


Mike Oldfield's score sounds magnificent; it's a shame that the soundtrack has had a basic restoration only for the film's transfer to DVD.

The main soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 192 kbps.

Dialogue is not always clear in the archival radio transmissions used. Subtitles would have been a great help in this instance.

The music by Mike Oldfield comes from extracts from Orchestral Tubular Bells, Orchestral Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Incantations and Portsmouth. The music was written by Mike Oldfield except Portsmouth which is traditional. The score and the sound of Saturn rockets launching are the two main standout features of the audio transfer.

Tony Palmer did not have the budget to re-mix the original film score into a modern-day Dolby Digital 5.1 mix so surround channel usage is limited to the front two speakers only. The subwoofer is not utilised in this audio transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Interview with director Tony Palmer on the making of The Space Movie (26:36)

Tony Palmer gives an interview to Jon Kirkman from Voiceprint Web Radio about the making and restoration of the film. Palmer spends most of the interview discussing the involvement of Virgin Films (run by Richard Branson and his second cousin, Simon Draper) in producing the film for NASA. He then discusses the time-frame he had in editing the many hours of footage into a 90 minute feature. Because Mike Oldfield was contracted to Virgin Music at the time, he was used for the film's score. Unfortunately Oldfield could not write a new original score in time for the film's premiere, so Palmer used extracts from his released works up to 1978 (the refrains of Tubular Bells especially will be familiar with viewers). The interview then concludes on the theme of the film's release on DVD and the restoration needed to present the new 80-minute director's cut.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Space Movie was released in a Region-Free NTSC format in the United Kingdom in 2007 with the same video and audio specifications as the Region-free NTSC Australian release by Ovation. Both DVD releases also include the 26-minute interview with director Tony Palmer.


When NASA first viewed the film they were satisfied that Tony Palmer had captured the courage shown by NASA's astronauts in the missions in space. Palmer quotes that the film was indeed a 'brave' film. This release onto DVD has only a very basic video and audio transfer and it can still do with some further intensive digital restoration, but at least in the meantime the film is finally available on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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