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Trivia question for sci-fi fans: name the 1956 film that featured the talents of Les Tremayne (the general in `War of the Worlds' and the opening narrator of `Forbidden Planet'), Marvin Miller (the voice of Robby the Robot in `Forbidden Planet'), Olan Soule (who had a supporting role in `The Day the Earth Stood Still' and `Captain Midnight'), and Harry Morgan (Colonel Porter of `M.A.S.H.'). Here's a hint: Harry Morgan plays an Air Force pilot whose plane is surrounded by six flying saucers above the Washington, D.C. If all this sounds too good to be true, take a peak at this drama-documentary, based on the experiences of Al Chop, a reporter who served as press liaison for the Pentagon during its investigation of UFO's from 1947 to the early 1950s. Miller, Soule, and Tremayne provide the voices for the narrated portions of the film. Although the movie contains only two brief film clips to serve as photographic evidence of UFO's, the producers build a good case based on the credibility of certain UFO witnesses (airline pilots, military personnel, radar operators, etc.). On a more subtle level, director Winston Jones pulls off a clever trick; he begins the film as a pure documentary, but he gradually modifies this approach and focuses on reporter Al Chop's personal involvement in the UFO investigation. Chop slowly changes from UFO skeptic to UFO believer (and so will you). The climax is a gripping reenactment of a true incident which occurred in 1950, when a group of UFO's cruised above Washington DC for several hours. The voice of Harry Morgan is heard over the radio as an Air Force pilot whose plane is literally surrounded by UFO's, during which Al Chop and a group of bewildered military men cluster around the radar scope, watching in wide-eyed wonder. Dramatically speaking, this scene is far superior to its counterpart in `Close Encounters of the Third Kind'. The most amazing thing about this film is the fact that it was made with the full cooperation of the United States government, and every scrap of evidence it presents was made available to any and all scientific agency who wanted to examine it. Watch it and make up your own mind about UFO's -- but you'll loose some sleep over it before you do. Note: Some reviews mistakenly identify the star of `Unidentified Flying Objects' as Tom Powers, a co-star of `Destination Moon' (1950). The star of `UFO' is actually a Los Angles newspaper reporter (not a professional actor) named Tom Powers, who portrays the real-life reporter Al Chop.
This documentary features, among several incidents, the re-enactment of the 1950's flying saucer encounters over Washington DC and recordings from the Mantell crash. Very scary stuff at the time. I saw this on television when I was around 10 years old. It gave me quite a few sleepless nights thereafter. My father, who was a radar expert with the Army at the time, confirmed to me that everyone in the Signal Corps was well aware of the Washington incident. Further, he described to me their "hunting" UFO's with radar in the White Sands, New Mexico desert. He was there frequently in the 1950's. They were launching captured German V-2 rockets, doing above-ground A bomb tests, sending men into the stratosphere with ballons. THERE CERTAINLY WERE ALL KINDS OF WIERD STUFF GOING ON WITH THE ARMY IN THE SOUTHWEST DESERT. To me, at age 10, this seemed to be proof that the flying saucers were real. I spent much of my teenage years searching for the truth - What were the UFO's? Why were they here? As an adult, I've finally accepted that the aliens are NOT here, no Roswell crash, no attack on DC, no death ray shot at Mantell. I sometimes wonder WHY they're not here. In the 1950's and 60's, flying saucers were not the silly stuff of abductions and other talk show nonsense. No, in the 50's and 60's the military feared that there really was something beyond our own technology in the skys. I guess that our more mudane modern reality disappoints me. I recently captured this movie on tape. I had not seen it in 40 years. The production was certainly made on a shoestring. Still, the DC incident is gripping. It captures beautifully an important chapter in our history. one characterized by cold war paranoia, fear, but also a sense wonder and mystery. I miss it.
I ordered a prerecorded tape of this movie based on the recommendation
provided by other viewers, and I was extremely impressed by the movie. The
tape is great, and the movie is very impressive.
Get this one if you have the slightest interest in sci-fi movies of the 1950s. This is a factual treatment of the very concepts which the films from that magical decade dabbled in so imaginatively.
Plan on watching it as a double feature with `Earth vs. the Flying Saucers'. You won't be disappointed . . .
It would seem that hardly anybody has seen this remarkable film: those who
have seen it don't soon forget it. It's kind of like a 1950's science FACT
film that tops most of the 1950's science FICTION films which thrilled so
many young viewers during that magic decade.
The movie begins and ends by naming a daunting number of professional and government agencies who authenticate the claims which UFO makes. If the viewer keeps in mind the strict accountability this motion picture holds itself to, the remarkable events the film documents are impossible to doubt. There is absolutely no attempt at sensationalism. These are the facts about unidentified flying objects -- and the facts are very disturbing.
I recognized several familiar voices among the narrators, people whose talents were closely associated with the sci-fi movies of the 1950s. In terms of my enjoyment of the film, this proved to be some very sweet icing on the cake. It was a fond tie-in to great movies like `Forbidden Planet', `War of the Worlds', and other classics from that Great Age of Curiosity -- the 1950s.
A prerecorded tape is available through Amazon.com. I'm going to get it. So should you.
The movie stands now mainly as an artifact of its time since the UFO
fascination of the 1940's and 50's has largely faded away. In fact,
younger folks may not be aware of how widespread the post-war
fascination with the skies was. Viewers looking to the movie for
entertainment should probably look elsewhere, such as the many
entertaining space alien features of the time. Instead, the production
takes pains to use only non-actors and documented content,
concentrating on the genuinely puzzling instances of UFO's without
The highpoint, I expect, are the two actual films of unsolved UFO's. They're put into slow motion at the end for more careful study, but remain even then little more than moving points of light. The overall result requires some patience since the narrative sometimes lags. Nonetheless, anyone interested in the UFO phenomenon should not pass up this 1956, 90-minute review.
Fascinating documentary on UFOs made just shy of a decade after the first flying saucer sighting by Kenneth Arnold. The age of this and its matter-of-fact approach is what makes it so interesting. I've seen countless documentaries and television programs on UFOs. They are a staple of cable and satellite television these days. This stands as one of the best I've seen. It's just a lot of fun to watch and compare to the docs made about the subject today. It's interesting how some things have changed and others haven't, even after half a century. The presentation of facts, as well as the dramatic reenactments, are a little dry by today's standards. But keep in mind that the intention here was to handle the subject matter like a serious news story, which is kind of refreshing. Unlike most approaches to the subject today, it tries to stay unbiased and just report the cases of UFO phenomena without leading the viewer to a specific conclusion. The approach is to put the evidence forth and let the audience make up their own minds about it. This will probably be pretty shocking to those used to being spoon-fed their opinions by comedians and pundits.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This documentary-style film follows reporter Al Chop as he begins his
minor job for the U. S. Air Force around 1950 and gradually works his
way up the Civil Service scale, changing along the way from UFO skeptic
to -- not UFO "believer", but let's say "open-minded everyman." He has
no idea what they are but he's now convinced that something is up.
The acting is so poor that I thought the performers had been hired from the ranks of Hollywood extras or had simply been brought in off the streets. At times they seem to be reading directly from cue cards off camera. I recognized only one actor, and only by his voice. It was Henry (Harry) Morgan, or Harry (Henry) Morgan, or Edward Teach, or whatever his name is, who played Jack Webb's sidekick and the Commanding Officer on "Mash." Maybe he can't make up his mind about his name but he's the only performer involved who is able to inject a note of drama into the proceedings, even if only audio. "I see 'em now. They're closin' in on me."
The principal figure is that of Al Chop. He looks rather blandly middle class, a bit like Kent Smith, if Kent Smith were a little pinched, maybe suffering from a severe case of Calvinism. There is a bit of his home life but it's restricted to a few scenes of his wife telling him worriedly that he looks piqued. He tosses her matter-of-fact orders like, "Get my car keys." The direction is full of clichés and the dialog is clipped and unconvincingly stylized, as if gotten from "Dragnet." The editing is clumsy. We're given mere second-long glimpses of the two color films that the script describes as awesomely important. And the data are dated. This was released forty-five years ago and a lot has happened since then. The population of the United States alone has grown by more than a third, with every person a potential observer. The global population has more than doubled from about 3 billion to 7 billion. I can't estimate the growth of video cameras because their number was zero in 1956 and any percentage of zero is still zero.
It's a hastily organized, poorly performed, amateurish documentary. That aside, the subject is one of monumental importance. And for reasons we can only guess at, the subject has been officially disregarded by the government. A reasonable guess would be that no official agency, especially a military one, is eager to admit that they know nothing about what's up, and in any case are unwilling to display their ignorance because of a possible panic.
Of course there have been crazes and fads before, lots of them. The phantom gasser of Mattoon, Illinois, is one of my favorites. And many of the UFO sightings reported are illusions or misidentified airplanes or other ordinary phenomena. But a few of them are incredible tales told by credible observers. (Karl Popper would have loved this.) All it takes is one, after all. And what does a UFO have to do to be a convincing UFO -- land on the White House lawn? The phenomena dealt with in this film differ from other familiar crazes. It refuses to go away, whether it gets publicity or not, whether the Air Force has decided it's unworthy of further investigation or not. The sightings keep cropping up. The interested viewer is invited to check out the many recent and archival reports at NUFORC.
The lack of official and public interest in the subject is understandable from a psychological point of view. These are what Leo Strauss and others called "known unknowns." We know they're there but we don't know what they are. Two responses are expectable: we should fear it because it's unknown, and we should joke about it because there is nothing else we can do to allay our fear. On the streets, this is known as whistling in the dark.
I have this movie on Video, tped in VHS in 1994 from broadcast from Atlanta (hint.) I picked it up from a man running a little memorabilia shop / museum in downtown Roswell0. That Roswell! Other Sci-Fi movies I like include these: Every time I drive by an old Drive-In Movie site or an old Theater, I am reminded of the many "B" movies that played during my childhood. found a liking for sci-fi. Early in the 20th century, Jules Verne stirred the imagination with books about fantastic adventures. Some of those books spoke of the Earth, the Moon and creatures from outer space. When I started watching this new and most often scary stuff, the Sci-Fi craze was barely upon us. The very first film I saw was "The Thing,"starring James Arness (Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke fame) as a gigantic cabbage man who had crashed his flying saucer in the Arctic, and the Army Air Force found him in a large block of ice. When the Thing thawed out he ravaged the polar post, killing sled dogs and any other creature in his path. It was the trip home after the movie that literally scared me to death. When I walked home, all the shadows were concealing the huge green man. As I sprinted home up Ninth Street, I ran from light post to light post on alternate sides of the street, to keep out of the dark shadows. Boy, how I wished mom or dad would come along to snatch me into the car and deliver me from this evil.
This is a One of Kind Documentary (with a dramatization thread) using
Non-Actors and Real-Life Flying Saucer Stories from the Late Forties
and Early Fifties. It is a Matter-of-Fact Investigatory Film and
doesn't even Try to be Entertaining. It just lays out the Facts and
Presents the Phenomenon as it Occurred.
Ufologists of Today can have a "gold mine" of a Time going Back in Time to get a Glimpse of what the First Wave of Sightings Looked Like. Nothing is Embellished or Sensationalized. It is Dry and not Distilled. It is Bare Bones and brought to You as Unfettered and Untainted as Possible.
It Capsulized the Early Days of the Flying Saucer Flap and Touches Upon the Mantel Crash, the Two-Time Fly-Over of Washington D.C. in 1952 and Screens the Montana and Utah Amateur Movie Footage in Detail, Slow Motion, and Close Up at the end of the Movie. It also includes the General Stanton Press Conference Highlights. There are Multiple Interviews with Pilots and other Professional Observers.
These are All still with Investigators Today and have Never been Explained. It is a Fascinating Time Capsule. An Historical Expose and a Commendable Effort to Make Sense of the Situation when No One could Then or Even Now make any Sense of it. There is just too much Evidence ("credible people reporting incredible things") to Ignore, yet Not Enough Evidence to make a Conclusive Explanation.
For the Non-Ufologist and Casual Inquisitor of the Subject this may be much too Academic to set through as Entertainment, but as an Educational Tool it still Holds Up quite well and is an indispensable Artifact of its Time and has Importance to this Day.
Highly Recommended for Ufologists and Mainstream Historians, Educators and Skeptics.
If you have the slightest interest in the UFO phenomenon then this is a
must see. In many ways the word 'fiction' in relation to this movie
does it a disservice. Sure everything is re-staged and re-enacted but
only to highlight what Press Officer Albert Chop insists really did
happen. From a social history point of view it's a little goldmine too.
There appears to have been so much respect in American society
throughout the 1950's and it oozes through here.
For the serious UFO enthusiast the inclusion of the original Tremonton and Grand Falls UFO footage makes it an invaluable movie from a research point of view.
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