For All Mankind (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Revision date: April 08, 2022
  • Format: Blu-Ray disc

For All Mankind (4K UHD Review)


Al Reinert

Release date)

1989 (April 26, 2022)


Apollo Associates (Criterion – Spine #54)

  • Film/program category: A+
  • Video Note: A
  • Audio quality: B
  • Additional Rank: A



To date, many good documentaries have been made about NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among them are recent classics like the magnificent Apollo 11 (2019), the complete PBS television series chasing the moon (2019), and David Fairhead from Mission Control: Apollo’s Unsung Heroes (2017). Then there are the older classics, like this one by David Sington In the shadow of the moon (2007) and Mark Craig The last man on the moon (2014). All these films are worthy and indispensable. But none is more important, I believe, than the revolutionary and impressionistic work of Al Reinert For all mankind (1989), the documentary that truly inspired them all.

The beauty of Reinert’s work lies in its simplicity. As a brief title card at the start explains, For all mankind is composed almost entirely of footage taken by Apollo astronauts during the actual missions. The documentary is also narrated by the astronauts, in an ensemble commentary that creates a kind of first-person account of the experience – not of a single mission, but of the larger effort to travel to the Moon. in general. Add to that an ethereal score by composer Brain Eno, which itself heavily inspired Damien Chazelle’s excellent biopic Neil Armstrong. first man (2019) – and the result is a visceral, illusionary and sometimes even hypnotic cinematic experience, all the more stunning because everything you see is real.

As Reinert explains in the audio commentary he shares with astronaut Gene Cernan (who was the last human being to set foot on the Moon in 1972), virtually all of the footage was shot in 16mm format at using modified Mauer data acquisition cameras (with 10mm lenses). These cameras were designed to document the performance of spacecraft and crew for engineering purposes, so they were capable of shooting at 1, 6, 12, and 24 frames per second. And at the time For all mankind was released in 1989, much of this footage had never been seen in public before, aside from a few iconic shots. Reinert chose to combine footage from all lunar missions to create a single simulated spaceflight from start to finish. In the pre-digital era, the original camera negatives were obtained from the NASA archives and carefully blown down to 35mm. The footage was then cleaned up and stabilized, resulting in a breakthrough image quality at the time (although some of this stock footage is actually available in better quality today, as new 4K scans and digital restorations of the original 16mm negatives have recently been completed).

Criterion’s UHD release features both the original 1.33:1 presentation of the film, as well as a framed 1.85:1 version for widescreens. The 35mm enlargement negative (from the original 16mm source) has been scanned in native 4K resolution, digitally remastered and graded for HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included) based on restoration notes and previous endorsements of the late Reinert. The resulting picture quality is beautiful and certainly represents the best this film has ever seen. Again, keep in mind that the original 16mm NASA negatives have since been scanned and restored to higher quality. But Criterion’s restoration faithfully reflects the best original theatrical experience of For all mankind, and that is what matters here. Detail is good overall, although it does vary from shot to shot, and HDR quality is restrained, subtly improving highlight and shadow detail while allowing for more vivid and accurate colours.

The film’s soundtrack has been remastered to 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio from the original 35mm magnetic tracks, and it appears to be the exact same sound mix as the 2009 Blu-ray edition. (reviewed here). There’s no cheap surround thrills here – it’s largely an ambient experience, with the astronauts’ narration and Eno’s evocative score dominating the soundscape. Sometimes, like in launch and staging sequences, the back channels come into play more strongly, but they’re mostly used to create a light immersion feel. Two optional English subtitle tracks are included: one that identifies the astronauts and mission control specialists you see and hear, and a second that also does this while adding traditional SDH English subtitles.

The new 4K UHD version of Criterion For all mankind is a 2-disc set that includes the following features and options:

Disc One – For All Mankind (4K Ultra HD)

  • 1.85:1 Presentation (4K – 80:12)
  • 1.33:1 Presentation (4K – 80:12)
  • Audio commentary by Al Reinert and Eugene Cernan
  • Identifying subtitles
  • SDH English subtitles with identification

Disc Two – For All Mankind (Blu-ray Disc)

  • 1.33:1 Presentation (HD – 80:12)
  • Audio commentary by Al Reinert and Eugene Cernan
  • Identifying subtitles
  • SDH English subtitles with identification
  • An accidental gift (HD – 32:00)
  • On camera (HD – 20:35)
  • Moon Paintings: Al Bean Introduction (HD – 7:33)
  • moon paintings (HD – 37:53)
  • NASA Audio Highlights (HD – 21 audio extracts – in 6h45 in total)
  • 3, 2, 1… take off! (HD – 2:35)

Note that the Blu-ray in the package is the same disc Criterion released in 2009, including the movie in 1080p HD and all of its extras. All of the original bonus material from the DVD/LaserDisc was retained, including the audio commentary with Reinert and Cernan. The Blu-ray also includes launch footage from every major NASA booster used in the space program up to and including Apollo. But the best extra by far is the late astronaut-turned-artist Al Bean’s gallery of paintings. Bean was the fourth man to walk on the Moon and spent his post-NASA career documenting the experience on canvas. The gallery is in HD and features an introduction and commentary by Bean, in his friendly Texas drawl. Bean is a real character – sort of the regular man in the astronaut corps – and his thoughts and daydreams are always enjoyable. The Blu-ray further includes a 32-minute documentary on the making of the film in which Reinert visits the NASA archives in Houston and introduces the NASA image specialists who were involved in the process. There’s also a 20-minute video (mostly in HD, but with some SD footage) of additional interview clips with 15 of the Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong. And you get a selection of iconic audio highlights from various early NASA missions. Finally, the package includes an excellent booklet with photos, essays by author Terrence Rafferty and director Al Reinert, and the usual restoration notes and credits. Overall, it’s a great collection of special features.

For all mankind is among the best and most accessible documentaries ever made on the Apollo missions to the Moon. It’s also one of my favorite movies. Everyone who has seen it probably shares my enthusiasm, and if not, this record is simply a must-watch, worth watching not only for yourself, but also with your children. . I’m absolutely thrilled to have it in 4K Ultra HD. My thanks to everyone at Criterion (including Lee Kline, Abby Lustgarten, and Peter Becker, among others), for once again enhancing their already excellent Blu-ray work. This UHD version is highly recommended.

-Bill Hunt

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