Is it weird that I actually found this movie to be MORE bizarre than Derek’s other choice Mr. Nobody? In theory, this seems like a fairly straightforward 1970s-style paranoid thriller, but it gets pretty goofy, in ways that I didn’t expect but enjoyed.
The first manned mission to Mars is all set to blast off when the trio of astronauts is pulled from the ship and taken to a secret warehouse with a studio set up where they’re supposed to pretend they landed on Mars, since NASA wasn’t really ready for a manned mission to Mars but needs a major success to inspire Washington to keep funding them. All goes well with the faked Mars landing until the shuttle is on the way back to earth and, well, loses its heat shield and disintegrates, making the very much non-disintegrated astronauts a bit of an untidy loose end. Meanwhile, journalist Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould) smells a rat and investigates what’s going on from the outside.