The Right Stuff Movie Needle Question

In the movie, “The Right Stuff”, there is a scene where Alan Shepard (played by Scott Glenn) is being tested along with the other astronaut hopefuls, wherein a needle is injected into the meaty part of his hand between his thumb and forefinger. Said needle is apparently attached to some kind of electrical device. Presently, his forearm begins to twitch uncontrollably. Shepard says to the technician, “why are you doing this?” The technician replies along the lines of, “it would be too difficult to explain”.

What was going on here?

Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff describes the various test scientists performing every conceivable physical and medical test on the Mercury Seven, some of which were painful and incomprehensible. From Chapter Four (“The Lab Rat”):

In the book, the scene is pretty much the same as described (except that it’s his hand that balls up into a fist off and on rapidly).
No explanation is given.
The book also describes how a stool specimen is turned in full of jalapeno pepper seeds–very funny!

I doubt if they knew what they were testing with that needle other than speed/durability of reflexes.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe is an excellent read, even for folks who don’t like “history”. Wolfe’s narrative style and attention to little things make the book read like a work of fiction. Deeply absorbing, and highly recommended.

At least the movie used a fellow Navy aviator for the electrode story. I mean, barely 5 of the Mercury 7 had any lines; dwelling on the guys who didn’t make the first cut would’ve been demanding too much.

(Save that for the sequel, “Almost the Right Stuff.”)

“The Penultimate Stuff”

TRS is a great book, and the movie is just as good. Neither work gets nearly as much respect among critics as they should.

Roger Ebert just named “The Right Stuff” as one of the “Great Movies”. Here’s his review.

My favorite movie of all time. I think Siskel and Ebert both picked it as the best movie of its year. I know they did a show where they picked the best movies of the 80s, one of them had it second and the other third. It’s not like Rog has just discovered it.

Apart from that you’re right, it’s never gotten the acclaim it deserved. And I didn’t care very much for Ebert’s re-review of it, but it is going to be included in his overlooked film festival this spring. I’d love to see it on a big screen again.

One of the best things about the movie was the insect sound of cameras that arose everytime the press hounds were shown.

My favorite movie and I enjoyed the book as well. However, the Mercury astronauts themselves have made no secret of the fact that they hated Wolfe’s novel and therefore didn’t like the movie much either.

Yeah, but Chuck Yeager didn’t seem to mind it much. He plays the bartender at Pancho’s Happy Bottom Riding Club in the movie. That’s him grinning in the background of all the Pancho’s scenes.

When I watched “Monsters Inc” I started laughing and my fiancee didn’t know why I was laughing. They had appropriated the scene of all the astronauts walking together and used it in the movie…

Why would Chuck Yeager mind the movie? The whole damn thing is about him. His presence permeates the entire film and he comes out of it looking the best of anybody in it. That film (along with his autobio released around the same time) led to a mini-revival of Yeager worship. Not undeserved, of course.

Anyone else notice the interesting mistake Ebert makes (twice) in his re-review, in referencing the Challenger disaster when he clearly means Columbia? I’m pretty sure that’s a straight up mistake, not a chronology/continuity problem, because the review is dated and he references recent Hubble discoveries.

The review is also interesting for focusing on the astronaut = monkey theme in the movie. The debate over whether men and women needed to be in the spacecraft at all seems to be as relevant today as it was during the Mercury program.

The movie Armageddon also used that scene. Cool in the Right Stuff, funny in Monsters, Inc., and doofy in Armageddon - if you ask me…, which you didn’t.