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Countdown, an early directorial effort by the legendary Robert Altman, is a solid little adventure story that is much better than most critics would have you believe. Top billed Robert Duvall and James Caan are astronauts preparing for a flight to the moon. They must deal with intense training, the inherent hazards of the mission and the concerns of their families. The plot is a familiar one and the attendant melodrama is old hat, yet this film, by virtue of its visual appeal and deliberate pacing, manages to build quite a head of steam before the final fadeout. Altman uses the panavision screen effectively, and the special effects are good for their time. Look for many familiar faces in the cast, including Ted Knight and Charles Aidman.

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WAA14911 Countdown DVD (1967 Robert Altman) $19.95