The Most Expensive Movie Ever Made

I'm really looking forward to this new movie Titanic. In 1972, when I was nine, I saw, and thoroughly enjoyed, a movie called The Poseidon Adventure. My fascination with this film bloomed into a preoccupation with shipwrecks involving passenger liners, which of course lead to a full blown obsession with the wreck of the Titanic. I was so into it that around age 12, I made a Titanic movie of my own: a 3 minute epic, shot on 8mm, with a cast of stuffed toys and using a two and a half foot model I'd built (and which I still have).

So the idea of a Titanic movie made with an almost actual-size model of the great ship, built to tilt like the real thing did when it sank, and on a budget that's broken all the records... all of this really revives my ancient, little-kid fascination with the Titanic. I'm sure I'll love it, if for no other reason than getting to see that ship sink with all the detailed special effects that $200 million dollars can buy.

At that price, Titanic has earned the distinction of being "the Most Expensive Movie Ever Made", but this is a claim that my lovely wife Kristin disagrees with. She contends that this distinction should really go to For All Mankind, her favorite movie, which was shot between 1968 and 1972 and finally released in 1989.

There've been many films made about our travels into space and to the moon; most of them use some combination of actors and models merged with newsreel and stock footage from NASA. The most successful of these is the Best Picture nominee from 1995, Apollo 13. This film is a masterpiece of Hollywood magic, made without the use of any NASA footage. Everything was re-created with models and computers... with stunningly realistic results. This film is so realistic that even the weightlessness is real. Having the actors hold up their arms as if they were weightless wasn't good enough for director Ron Howard... he had to film his actors in actual weightless conditions.

Apollo 13 presents the story of a moon shot in an amazingly realistic, you-are-there kind of way... and yet, at the same time, you know it's all a fake. It's Hollywood. It's not real life.

For All Mankind, on the other hand, consists entirely of footage taken during NASA's nine missions to the moon. Six million feet of archival film was shot during those missions, and director Al Reinert culled it all down to the best images he could fit into an hour and 20 minutes. The narration consists entirely of running commentary by the astronauts themselves, taken from over 80 hours of interviews.

The film tells the story of our trips to the moon more beautifully, and more genuinely, than any other film on the subject that I've seen. Instead of telling the story documentary-style, with a breakdown on what mission occurred when and accomplished what, the film instead just presents an impression of a trip to the moon. The missions are blurred together as one, and the astronauts talk more about what the experience was like than about the details of how it was accomplished.

Seeing this movie is like spending the evening with a couple of guys who went to the moon, watching their home movies and listening to them reminisce. In all the history of mankind, of all the billions of people who've walked this earth, only 12 have walked on the moon. This is the film they made while the did this totally amazing thing. As one of the astronauts says himself, it's like these guys were the representatives of all of mankind on this adventure.

One could argue that the whole reason we sent astronauts to the moon was to make this movie - to bring back a record of what the trip was like for all the rest of us who didn't get to go, but wished we could have. And when you think about it that way, For All Mankind is the most expensive movie ever made. It was filmed entirely on location, in outer space, at a cost of billions of dollars.

For more information on this outstanding film, including links to sites where you can purchase your own copy, visit the Internet Movie Database.


Copyright © 1997 by Andrew Looney.