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George At 

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Three years before he launched to fame by directing the anti-war classic comedy M*A*S*H, Robert Altman crafted his first studio film, COUNTDOWN.

A young James Caan stars as a solitary astronaut sent on the first mission to the moon. Too bad they didn't wait a couple more years to capture more of the actual technology and insight the real moon missions would deliver.

In an effort to beat the Russians, who have announced an imminent lunar mission, Caan is enlisted to get to the moon first and spend an entire year there in a shelter that will arrive before he does.

The heavy handed screenplay gives Caan only three weeks to train for the mission, which is just as silly as it sounds.

Caan is good, Robert Duvall is dependably very good and Ted Knight has a small serious role long before Ted Baxter would be unleashed on us.

When you think of the movies like M*A*S*H, Nashville and McCabe and Mrs. Miller that Altman would later create, this seems like a strange first studio film.

Countdown never quite creates the suspense it hopes to and other than an early glimpse of some actors who would emerge as a couple of the 70's best, it's a TV movie dressed up for the big screen. Never lifted off for me, I'll give it a C.

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