Film: Capricorn One
Capricorn One is a 1978 film Inspired By the moon landing conspiracy theories. Astronauts Charles Brubaker, Peter Willis and John Walker are the crew for the first manned mission to Mars, Capricorn One. Except they're not. A poorly-made life-support system that would have killed the astronauts three weeks into their trip means they'll have to fake it, as Congress can't afford another screw up. The spacecraft is launched empty and the crew are taken to a remote Air Force base where they are forced to act out the Mars landing in a studio for the benefit of television cameras.Elliot Whitter, one of the technicians at mission control, notices something strange-that the television signals are being transmitted ahead of the telemetry-and tells his reporter friend Robert Caulfield. But Elliot is killed, and he's been made an Unperson. Then when Caulfield interviews Brubaker's wife, her reaction to something strange Brubaker said helps him realize there's some sort of Government Conspiracy at work.Then, when the empty space craft burns up on re-entry due to a defective heat shield — so NASA says — the astronauts realize they know too much and decide to make a run for it.
Tropes featured in the movie:
- Aerial Canyon Chase: A chase over the Sierras, rather distinctly using numerous shots from behind the plane in a chasing camera.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: The last surviving astronaut makes it to a memorial service for the crew, exposing the conspiracy.
- Black Dude Dies First: A variation. Of the three astronauts on the run, it's the black dude who gets recaptured first (although the audience may rightly assume that they subsequently killed him — he was supposed to have died during "re-entry", after all).
- Black Helicopter: A matched set of Army Loaches(LOH-6 Cayuses). OK, they're actually olive drab, but still they're used to highly ominous effect when the astronaut crew are trying to escape through the desert. You don't actually see much of the search other than the helicopters so they end up being an abstract representation of the conspiracy. They fly and maneuver in a way that makes them seem alive and predatorial (pointing and looking with their "noses") and at one point a delirious astronaut sees them as Circling Vultures.
- Circling Vultures: Subverted. One of the astronauts being hunted by government agents in the desert, delirious from heat and thirst, thinks he sees "birds" circling above him-and in the camera shot depicting his blurred vision, it does look like vultures circling. Turns out to be those Black Helicopters though.
- Conspiracy Thriller: Though it's also partly a Deconstructive Parody / Stealth Parody of theories about the supposed Apollo Moon landing hoax.
- Cutting Corners: Sometimes it doesn't pays to go for the lowest bidder on a space exploration mission, especially when they are so crooked that they give you back a faulty life-support system and re-entry heat shield.
- Deadpan Snarker: Willis.Oh, the marvels of American science. Here we are millions of miles from Earth, and we can still send out for pizza.
- Discussed Trope:Caulfield: Look, when a reporter tells his assignment editor that he thinks he may be on to something that could be really big, the assignment editor is supposed to say: "You've got forty eight hours, kids, and you better come up with something good or it's going to be your neck!" That's what he's supposed to say, I saw it in a movie.Loughlin: You're not crazy, I'm crazy. I'm crazy for listening and I'm crazy for saying what I'm about to say. I'll give you twenty four hours to come up with something. Not forty eight. I saw the movie too, it was twenty four.
- Faceless Goons: The relentless Army aviators. Even when they dismount to search on foot, they don't take off their helmets.
- I Have Your Wife: When the astronauts are first told about the set up, it's pointed out to them that their families are all on the same plane back from the launch and a "device" has been planted on the plane.
- Intrepid Reporter: Caulfield wants to be one of these (and gets his chance in the end). However his history of trying to find hot scoops lend to a long list of embarrassments which prevent his editor from taking him seriously.
- Moon Landing Hoax: The inspiration behind the film. A faked Mars landing has to be filmed due to failures in the life support system.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The film was made in the late 1970s and is seemingly supposed to take place in the first half of the 1980s.
- Out-of-Character Alert: Brubaker makes possibly the subtlest one in film history by getting the previous year's family holiday mixed up. This is just enough to draw attention to it and Caulfield spots that it has happened from the expression on Mrs. Brukbaker's face but when he finds out what it is, he at first thinks nothing of it then leaves. Later he comes back and finds out the key point-on the previous year's holiday, they had visited a film set.
- Stealth Parody: Of moon landing hoax theories-the film quietly showcases how incredibly unlikely it is that the truth of "astronauts never left the Earth" would remain secret even with the best cover-up in the business.
- Vehicular Sabotage: The bad guys not only cut Caufield's brake lines, they disable his parking brake, jam his gearshift lever in Drive, and somehow yank his accelerator pedal all the way down to the floor.
- Vice President Who: Instead of the President, the Vice President attends the historic launch. Doctor Kelloway notes this, and regards it as a sleight by the White House, a symbolic vote of no confidence in Kelloway's leadership at NASA.