Vintage Movies “Apollo 13”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.


Apollo 13 (1995, 140 minutes)

Numerology fanatics might have warned NASA (and probably did in large numbers) against using the unlucky designation of “Apollo 13” for its flight scheduled to put two of a three-man crew on the moon for the third time. By comparison, the true story of the major problems of Apollo 13 makes the fictional account of Sandra Bullock in Gravity seem like just another bad day at the office.

The Houston home of astronaut Jim Lovell is throwing a huge party tonight for family and friends to watch CBS News’ Walter Cronkite describe the July 20, 1969 landing of Apollo 11 with the first men to set foot on the moon. Cronkite dabs at a tear as Neil Armstrong proclaims, “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,” before planting the American flag in the lunar surface.

“Neil Armstrong,” smiles Lovell (Tom Hanks), shaking his head in disbelief as he and his wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan) stack up the dirty dishes, afterwards. “Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindberg and Neil Armstrong. From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the moon,” marvels Lovell. “I’ll bet Sandy Armstrong doesn’t get a wink of sleep tonight,” she commiserates.

A few months later, Lovell is ushering a party of congressional big-wigs around Florida’s space center as one of them asks, “When are you going up again, Jim?” He answers, “I’m slated to command Apollo 14, sometime late next year.” “If there is an Apollo 14,” pointedly replies another of the congressmen. “People in my state are asking why we continue to fund this program now that we’ve beaten Russia to the moon.” Lovell bristles at an argument he’s heard all too often and replies: “Imagine if Christopher Columbus had returned from the New World, and no one followed in his foot-steps!” Suddenly, Lovell’s boss, former astronaut Deke Slayton, takes Lovell aside to give him an update on Apollo 13.

The astronaut hurries home to share the good news with Marilyn by warning her they will have to cancel that Caribbean holiday they’d planned for Easter. “Allen Shepherd’s ear infection has flared up again, and we’ve been bumped up as the prime crew for Apollo 13,” he tells his wife. Three weeks before the April, 1970 mission, Marilyn dreams that Jim and his crew have all perished on the upcoming flight. She awakes to find her husband talking with their young son. “Did you know the astronauts in the fire?” the boy asks, referring to the tragic 1967 blaze that killed all three Apollo 1 astronauts as they were strapped into their module. “Oh yes, I knew them all. Their door, the hatch, wouldn’t open,” he explains, matter-of-factly. “Did they fix it?” the boy asks his dad. “Oh, yes, we fixed it,” he reassures his son.