America has launched an orbiting laboratory into space and three astronauts – Pruett (Richard Crenna), Stone (James Franciscus) and Lloyd (Gene Hackman) – are sent up to live and work in it for seven months.
However, Chief of Manned Space Charles Keith (Gregory Peck) is worried by the men’s growing fatigue and orders them back to earth after only five months.
But the retro rockets on the spaceship (“Ironman One”) fail to ignite and the astronauts are marooned.
The film then shows the extraordinary efforts made to rescue them, with Cape Kennedy and the spaceship linked by television and radio while the suspense mounts.
The wives, courageously glamorous to a woman, wait below; one sees on the television screen her space-bound husband losing his nerve; the others chat about insurance and the children’s teeth.
Oxygen is running out and Pruett cuts the umbilical cord that secures him to the ship, drifting off light and shiny into the nothingness of space.
Finally, the rescue of Stone and Lloyd is effected by a cheery little one-man American spaceship – crewed by David Janssen – and a sombre, antique-looking vehicle belonging to the Russians. There’s a moral here, of course, and a good one.
Cape Kennedy goes mad with joy and Gregory Peck smiles at last.
Although the glaringly non-CGI special effects – which looked great in 1970 – haven’t aged well, Marooned is a finely-tuned and detailed look into the American space program in its early era of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Despite the presence of three Oscar winners – Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, and Lee Grant – Marooned was a box office flop. An international re-edit of the film was retitled Space Travelers.