Great footage with one major flaw
Mark Janovec | Hudson, WI United States | 04/05/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you're a rocket buff, this set is definitely for you. Visually, at least...
The two disc sets starts with four formerly classified Air Force documentaries about ballistic missile programs (one of which assumes the viewer is likely a high ranking officer!). Over an hour of historic footage of Robery Goddard's experiments from the 1920s-1930s are then shown...this turned out to be more fascinating than I expected. You witness the birth of liquid fueled rocketry and can't help but smile along with the infectious grin of Goddard and his team. V-1 and V-2 footage is then shown from Germany...a darker period of time, but it's humorous to see Himmler's personal plane destroyed by a failed V-2 launch. Disc one ends with the first failed US satellite launch attempt on a Vangaurd rocket. Commentary is provided in places where the footage is silent...which is a nice addition when there would otherwise be no sound at all.
Disc two is where the trouble begins. The disc covers launches of Juno, Atlas, Titan, Delta, Saturn, the Space Shuttle, and others. Successful (and many unsuccessful) launches are shown. This is what all rocket fans like to see. Also, by the time period of these launches, audio recordings are starting to appear with the launch films. The problem is that the original soundtracks to these launches, with the deep roar of the rocket engines, are ruined by a commentary track that cannot be turned off. It is especially maddening when the commentary on some of the early launches basically repeats itself as multiple angles of the same launch are shown. You just want the commentator to shut up for a launch so you can listen to the rocket in all it's glory. Instead, he just says "Well, here again you can see it ignite and here is where the trouble starts." I can't fault the commentator, since some of his insight is indeed interesting...especially in the later launches (like the Shuttle) in which he has greater knowledge. But like most DVDs with commentary, this narration should be included as an option that can be turned on and off. In this set, you are stuck listening to a monotone-voiced engineer (sorry Dave Mohr) talk over EVERY launch. This is NOT what rocket enthusiasts want to hear. It also is an unexpected trend from the otherwise unobtusive Spacecraft Films...who have earned a reputation for presenting material with as little editing as possible...so you can enjoy the footage without someone cutting it up or talking over it. Instead they virtually ruin this set by not letting the rockets speak for themselves.
Also, the methods for recording the commentary seem flawed, with a very hissy, wispy sound behind the voice. The microphone sounds as if it was placed very near the speaker's mouth, as you can hear every breath he draws. This is doubly maddending when you can hear his breathing better than you can hear the damn rocket!
I would have given this set five stars had the commentary been a seperate audio track. The imagery is great and is desearving of a high rating. The launch footage is spectacular is every regard and rocket fans will enjoy seeing it no matter what. But the overall enjoyment of the set is seriously marred by a major audio mistake...so the best I can give it is 3 stars overall. That might be a little harsh, but it was a mistake that didn't have to be made. It's akin to buying your favorite Hollywood movie on DVD and finding out you can't watch it without hearing the director's commentary over the actors dialogue.
In other words, Stage 1 of this set was successful, but Stage 2 failed to get it into orbit, ultimately making it just an interesting dud. Hopefully, Spacecraft Films will learn from this failed launch.
Note: The two Saturn DVD sets from Spacecraft Films are both 5-star keepers. Both sets avoid the audio mistake made in this set and instead present the hi-fidelity roar of each Saturn launch without audio molestation. I HIGHLY recommend those two sets...especially the Saturn V set."