Guiltiest Proto-'X-Files': 'Capricorn One'
When it premiered in 1978, Capricorn One seemed to be just another product of post-Watergate wariness and skepticism. Shortly before the first manned landing on Mars, NASA uncovers a life-threatening glitch and, rather than suffer embarrassment, films the astronauts on a soundstage using a fake Martian surface. Played by James Brolin (pre-Streisand), Sam Waterston (pre-Law & Order), and O.J. Simpson (pre-slaughter), the astronauts become pawns of government officials eager to disguise the truth at any cost. The reporter who unravels the cover-up is a rumpled counterculture hero played by none other than rumpled movie-counterculture hero Elliott Gould.
Though Capricorn One will never make one of those stuffy AFI movie lists, the plot vrooms like a jettisoned space capsule, the dialogue is action-flick punchy, and Telly Savalas, of all people, comes to the rescue. And viewing it two decades later, you realize the movie unwittingly set the scene for a much broader cultural scenario. We now live in the age of fake: politicians who blatantly lie, MTV VJs who claim to be stoners yet are educated pros, and a TV series that’s turned the idea of distrusting government into a cottage industry. Few of us are shocked, since we accept that fabrications surround us and little in the world is real or authentic; even the spin has spin. For pointing the way to such a cynical sensibility, we must partly thank a movie costarring the Juice, who has done well himself by fudging the truth. Whether we like it or not, we are all the children of the ‘Corn.
GUILT WRITTEN We’ve divulged our guilty pleasures — now it’s your turn. E-mail us your deepest, darkest pop-culture addictions (our address is firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll publish the most humiliating ones on EW’s website. Go ahead, you know you wanna.