The Right Stuff

In 1969, Americans first went to the moon. The challenges were daunting, including finding and training the men who would make those early, dangerous, pioneering probes into near-earth space—men who had, in the words of the Thomas Wolfe book on which this 1983 movie was based, “the right stuff.”

This is the compelling story of those first Mercury astronauts, who paved the way for that “One giant leap for mankind” moment. It’s also the story of uber test pilot Chuck Yeager—never an astronaut but the first man to break the sound barrier. In perhaps the best of the film’s many gripping sequences, a reception at the Houston Astrodome for the astronauts is edited in counterpoint to Yeager’s attempt to set an altitude record in his F-104 jet fighter. The Mercury Seven had the right stuff, but they weren’t the only ones who did.

Apart from the liberally used archival footage, the video transfer here is a little soft in medium and long shots, with a flat, gauzy look to some of the early scenes. But these issues fade into the background as you get into the film. Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography, not to mention the often pre-CGI special effects, are eye-popping. Blu-ray release was announced as using Dolby’s new “TrueHD 96K Upsampling” for audio, but according to Warner Brothers, this was not activated on the initial release. It was corrected with a remastered version in early January; look for a “96K Upsampling” label on the packaging. In any event, both versions are compromised mainly by limitations common to early ’80s soundtracks: less deep bass than you’ll hear in newer films, an edgier balance, and a less than ideally smooth left-to-right spread in Bill Conti’s superb, Oscar-winning score. As with many great film scores, this one elevates The Right Stuff from a superb movie into a must-see (and -hear) classic. I did feel that the 96-kHz version sounded marginally better at matched levels (it’s mixed considerably louder), with a slightly more open, detailed sound. But this doesn’t always flatter dialogue or the more robust themes in the score, which can sound slightly (but not objectionably) lean and bright.

The printed packaging includes brief background information on the cast. The limited standard-definition video extras (echoing the 2003 DVD release) are on the second disc, including audio commentaries on selected scenes from the cast and filmmakers, brief making-of featurettes, and deleted scenes.

Studio: Warner Bros., 1983
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Length: 193 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Philip Kaufman
Starring: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris

vesh22's picture

Glad to see it on BR. One of my favorites. I have always found the picture quality less than great, even in theater. I do agree that it becomes less noticeable as you get into it. I always thought it was because the story pulled me in and I stopped noticing the issues. Great cast.