Salvage came towards the end of the Apollo Moon space program, where the initial vision created by John F. Kennedy had petered out amid funding cutbacks and an lack of public enthusiasm, and where general interest in space had swung more towards the new advent of the Space Shuttle. Consummate with the sense of disillusionment, around the same time as Salvage aired, there was also Capricorn One (1978), a film that lamented the end of the Space Mission and rewrote it by way of a post-Watergate cover-up. Elsewhere, the rivalry with the Soviet Union that had been a major driving force in the Space Race was thawing towards entente and a few years later perestroika in perhaps the last grasp of this, Salvage has a scene where Andy Griffith blackmails FBI agent Richard Jaeckel into cooperating with the threat of selling the salvaged NASA equipment to the Russians.
In recent years, there have been a number of films that have taken up the idea of private citizens conducting their own ventures into space with the likes of The Mercury Project/Rockets Red Glare (2000) and The Astronaut Farmer (2006), even Clint Eastwoods Space Cowboys (2000) about a group of old-timers hijacking a shuttle mission for one rip-roaring adventure back up into orbit. Being the first of these, Salvages use of the idea was original back in its day. The script makes a point of giving the science a seeming authenticity that might almost work one scene offers the appealing idea of a trip to The Moon as demonstrated by a car driving around a racetrack. Indeed, the film even offers a very early demonstration of an internet connection with Joel Higgins conducting a hack-in via a phone-line to get coordinates from NASAs computer.
Salvage is clearly enamoured of the entrepreneurial hucksterism of Andy Griffiths character in the opening scenes, we see him buying up a biplane and selling it to a restaurant owner who wants it as a gimmick (even faking an authentic bullet hole in the undercarriage), while at the same time gutting the engine to sell off to a plane restorer. (These scenes also show Andy Griffith using a very early car phone). Salvage is very much a film fired up by belief in the great American spirit of bolder-than-life salesmanship where a blurred adherence to telling the truth or faking things is seen as something admirable. Like most of the abovementioned films about private citizens venturing into space, the film creates stock villains out of the FBI and NASA, seeing them tightass and ineffectual bureaucrats wishing to clamp down on independent adventuring under the nebulous excuse of the public good.
On the minus side, the film has only been granted the medium budget typical of tv shows of the era. There is only a modest number of special effects we never see any of the space junk on The Moon or the crew loading it into the ship. There is little shown of The Moons environment beyond a single partial set of the Lunar surface. Lee Philips direction is relatively nondescript, although he makes the film move well and does generate some tension during the re-entry scenes.
Full film available online here:-