Capricorn One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the transfer faltered at times, it usually looked pretty good.
Most of the erratic elements stemmed from sharpness. At times, wide shots tended to be a little soft. However, the majority of the flick demonstrated positive delineation and seemed positive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, but I did see some mild edge enhancement.
Source flaws never became a concern. Grain remained within acceptable limits for a movie of this one’s vintage. Print defects remained minimal. I saw a handful of specks and marks, but nothing more substantial materialized.
Colors appeared fine. The movie went with a generally natural palette that looked decent. At times the hues appeared a little heavy, but they usually remained within appropriate levels, and they often looked quite good. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed nice clarity. At no point did the transfer excel, but it was good enough for a “B”.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Capricorn One, it provided a mixed bag. The soundfield itself demonstrated ups and downs. While the mix showed a broad spectrum, it could be too active at times. For instance, music often cropped up from the surrounds as well as from the front, and stereo delineation seemed erratic. Sometimes the score showed nice imaging, but other times the use of all five speakers made the stereo presence tentative and without great definition.
Effects were more accurate. They showed up in the correct spots and blended together pretty well. My only complaint there also stemmed from overactivity. The surround usage tended to be too strong, and this became a bit of a distraction. The elements add some life to the affair but they didn’t feel terribly natural at times. Still, a lot of the track showed good imaging, so the positives outweighed the negatives.
Audio quality also came with its share of issues. Speech varied from reasonably natural to hollow and edgy. Most of the dialogue seemed fine, and the lines remained intelligible, but they could be rather rough at times.
Music lacked distortion but seemed a bit too bass-heavy. That wasn’t a major concern, but I thought the score could’ve been brighter and more dynamic. Effects showed decent range along with some flaws. Louder elements suffered from moderate distortion, but most of those elements appeared pretty clean and clear. The problems were enough to knock down my grade to a “B-“, but I thought the track was relatively good given its age.
Unfortunately, I was unable to compare the picture and audio quality of this 2008 Special Edition with the original DVD from 1999. I watched the old disc many years ago, and I was unable to locate a copy so I could do a new comparison. I’d be shocked if the 2008 DVD didn’t offer significant improvements over the old one, at least in terms of visual quality. The 1999 disc was non-anamorphic, and based on my review, it sounded considerably messier than this one. I wish I could’ve made a direct comparison between the two, but even without an update to the old review, I’m still pretty sure that the 2008 disc offers the superior presentation of the film.
A few extras complete the set. The primary attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Peter Hyams. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion that looks at music and effects, script and story, the film’s origins and development, cast and performances, attempts at authenticity, sets and locations, and the movie’s reception.
Though Hyams tells us he hadn’t seen the movie since its initial release, he manages to cover Capricorn pretty well. Hyams occasionally sags, but he usually remains informative and interesting. Heck, he even addresses the elephant in the room: OJ Simpson’s presence in the movie. This is a consistently positive track.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we find a featurette called Flights of Fancy: The Politics and Paranoia of Capricorn One. The 17-minute and 15-second show features remarks from Hyams, USC History Department chair Dr. Steven J. Ross, and Skeptic Magazine publisher Dr. Michael Shermer. “Fancy” examines the “space race”, the cynical climate of the early-mid 1970s, beliefs that no one ever landed on the Moon, how Capricorn reflected its era and its reception.
“Fancy” gives us a pretty nice look at the factors that influenced Capricorn. Of course, it rips through the historical issues in a superficial manner, but it still manages to cover things in a reasonably satisfying manner. It provides a solid little examination of the social elements of the film.
Capricorn One offers a moderately compelling thriller that fits well in the mildly paranoid tenor of its times. Other than its terrific premise, nothing about the film stands out in a positive way, but nothing seems especially weak, either, and the entire piece appears acceptably entertaining. The DVD provides erratic but generally positive picture and audio as well as some useful supplements. Nothing here excels, but this is a pretty good package.