Countdown (1968): Altman’s Sci-Fi, Starring James Caan and Robert Duvall

Early on in his screen career, Robert Altman directed Countdown, a dramatic sci-fi thrller, starring two actors who would become icons of their generation, James Caan and Robert Duvall.

James Caan plays Lee, a scientist who is chosen over the astronaut Chiz (Robert Duvall) for the upcoming NASA moon shot.

In their haste to beat the Russians to the moon, the NASA folks have tried to sidestep safety measures, and the doctor (Charles Aidman) makes sure that every possible precaution is taken

When Lee makes it to the lunar surface, he stumbles upon gruesome evidence that the Russians had sent up a secret expedition themselves, and had fatally ignored all those security precautions which he’s been subject to.

In many ways, Countdown was prophetic, and it’s noteworthy that Altman’s feature preceded Kubrick’s seminal feature, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which was released later that year.


Running time: 101 minutes.

Directed By: Robert Altman

Released: February 1, 1968 Wide

DVD: Mar 23, 2009