Apollo 8 – Leaving the Cradle continues the high standard that Spacecraft Films have set for themselves with their previous NASA-themed releases. While earlier titles examined the early role that rockets played in the ultimate goal of manned space flight, Apollo 8 sees that dream come to fruition.
This three-disc set is an amazing record of that famed mission, and literally all of the footage available in the NASA archives is included here, much of it coming complete with bonus audio. The foot…ge runs the gamut, from dull, to mildly interesting, to flat-out spectacular.
While there is a ton of information included here, my personal favorite section is the launch coverage. This section has three different programs; Static Launch Views, Tracking Launch Views, and Pad Camera Views. All sections are available in multi-angle format, and all feature Dolby Surround! The sound of a rocket lifting off from my living room was absolutely thrilling. I rattled things in my home that I didn’t even know I had!
This is a fascinating and important look into the early days of manned space flight, and an invaluable historical record for generations to come.
Audio quality is a mixed bag on this release. Some footage is presented with no audio at all, some has non-congruent audio from press briefings, and some includes actual event audio. There are even some sections that have audio, but no video. The majority of the footage was originally shot without audio, and Spacecraft Films has done there best to fill in the gaps. The inclusion of press briefing audio over some of the footage without existing audio was a wonderful touch, and it adds immensely to the experience. While sections without audio of any kind are often times difficult to watch, the utilization of press briefing audio makes the footage much more palatable.
Having said that, the majority of the audio available is not of the best quality. Much of it was recorded with handheld devices, and it is muddy and hard to decipher. Adding to the sonic difficulties is the fact that much of what the astronauts say is communicated using acronyms, which are not explained. I would have liked to have seen some on-screen explanations of the acronyms used during these discussions. This would have drastically improved the overall experience of this set.
The one glaring exception to this muddy and confusing audio track is the aforementioned Dolby Surround launch footage. This is a truly spectacular display of power that I am sure is second only to being there in person. Words cannot accurately describe this experience; viewers must see, and hear, this launch for themselves.
This is not a title that you watch because if it’s superb video quality. On the contrary, you watch it because there is video to watch at all. The mere fact that this footage exists and is available for public viewing is enough to satisfy me.
Having said that, the majority of the footage is surprisingly clear. There are blemishes throughout the film, which is to be expected, given the age of the film stock. Grain is present throughout, and there are some major film defects from time to time. While this would normally distract me, the blemishes here actually add a certain charm to the title, subconsciously reminding the viewer just how lucky we are to have this video record at all.
There really aren’t any special features on this set as such. Given the unique nature of this collection, there is no distinction between a feature and extras. All the footage (and much of the audio) that is available is included on this set. The entire box is a special feature.
This is an amazing document of triumph in the face of seemingly-impossible odds. While all of the titles in this set are fantastic, the manned missions add a whole new dimension to the drama. This is an invaluable record of the triumph of space flight, and it is guarantee to thrill space enthusiasts everywhere.