2016 November

In Memoriam: Bill Warren

By | Filmmaking, Interviews, Movies, Science Fiction | No Comments

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Early on in the production of They Rode the Flying Saucers, I knew that I wanted to address the idea of science fiction films as it related to popular culture.  I approached legendary film director and 1950s sci fi expert Joe Dante about doing an interview, and he told me that the real expert was a guy named Bill Warren.  So I approached Bill, and he kindly agreed to speak with me.

Joe was right.

Bill literally wrote the book on 1950s science fiction films, pictured here.  Actually, that’s only Volume 1.  Volume 2 is even thicker.  Turns out that Bill Warren was something of science fiction royalty, having apprenticed under the legendary Forrest J Ackerman, the man who created science fiction fandom.  Without Forey, there would be no Trekkies.

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During our interview, I was struck by the sheer depth of Bill’s knowledge.  He told me that when he was a kid, he literally read every sci fi book at the library.  His recall of those books and the movies made from them was tack-sharp.  He organized conventions and festivals, and knew many of the people who’d actually made the movies I wished to discuss in my film, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Bill and his wife Beverly were very kind, and we chatted for quite a while after we turned the cameras off.  I told Bill that I’d had a great time, which I had.  Sometimes, these interviews are things to get through, sometimes you realize that you can’t use most of what the person is saying.  Talking with Bill, however, felt like I was talking to an old friend about our favorite movies.  His enthusiasm was infectious and his insights were impeccable.  We discussed the shift from 1950s sci fi films to modern films, which really boils down to a growing cultural cynicism.  That is changing, he thought, as more and more movies were embracing the honesty of the 1950s.  From the preface to Keep Watching the Skies!:

Alien is similar to a 1950s movie in many ways.  Star Wars reflects certain elements of those films.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind faintly echoes It Came From Outer Space.  Some films have actually been remade, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and remakes of others have been announced.  Maybe the 1950s science fiction movie hadn’t really died; it was just sleeping in the minds of those, like me, who loved them.

I could do a whole film on flying saucer movies of the 1950s, using just that interview.  I’m glad that I get the chance to use portions of it in my film.

Bill passed away after a long illness on October 7.  My condolences go out to Beverly and his family and friends.  I hope that he’s on a flying saucer in the sky somewhere, having drinks with Ray Harryhausen and Forey Ackerman.

 

 

Hanging out at Area 51

By | Filmmaking, Government, UFO | No Comments

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to doing the one thing that all UFO-interested folks must, at some point, do: make the pilgrimage to Area 51.

As this film is about the Contactees, Area 51 doesn’t factor directly into the main storyline, so it has always been a low priority for me.  And, honestly, I’m much less interested in top secret military aircraft than in silver flying discs bearing beautiful Venusians.  That said, this was a surprisingly fun trip.  Since you’re reading this blog, I will assume you already know what Area 51 is, and what it’s all about and won’t bore you with explanation.

Personally, I was excited to see the infamous “Black Mailbox”, despite knowing that it was only the mailbox for a nearby ranch, and was saddened to hear that it had been removed.  But lo and behold, some intrepid someone put up a replacement…this one being actually black. (The removed one was not).  I was somewhat surprised by the sheer amount of detritus left there; some of it was just trash, but most were offerings, turning this into a shrine: pleas for the aliens to abduct them and take them to a better planet, “Jack was here” along with drawings of aliens, pleas for the ETs to give their souls to Jesus, etc.

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I didn’t know what to do next, really.  There’s not exactly a tourist center.  Well, OK, there is, and I went there, but I didn’t ask specific directions, because I thought it would be fairly obvious.  Turns out that when there’s only one road that dwindles into nothing on the horizon and you’re on a half tank of gas, complete knowledge of a situation is comforting.  Fortunately, that lone road was the right one.  And so, we plunged onward through a surprisingly dense Joshua Tree forest, dodging the occasional free-roaming cow.

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And then we saw the sign, with the accompanying white pickup on top of the hill.  To this point, the trip was scenic, but uneventful.  Something about seeing that sign, with its dire warnings and legends of authorized lethal force, exhilarated me with the overall sense of menace.  Which was made more pointed by the imposing and silently watching pickup on the nearby hill.

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I know, I’m a nerd.  But I love it.

There was no real danger, other than an uncomfortable talking to and hefty fine.  But the sheer drama of the signs and the razor wire and the hours of driving through nowhere to get to this point were exciting enough; it conjured a story in my head, full of aliens and spaceships.  Often, in the Mojave Desert, I’d felt a sense of magic laying just under the surface, a sense that anything could happen.  Here, in Groom Lake, I felt a similar sense of endless potential, but this time at the hands of dark but human forces.

And maybe that’s why people are endlessly fascinated with Area 51.  In a time when people are losing all sense of control over their daily lives, perhaps traveling to this zone of strangeness (to borrow Peter McCue’s phrase) and looking that lack of control in the face gives us comfort.  In that way, looking for secrets at Area 51 reflects our modern fears and concerns.  Much like how meeting beautiful Venusians reflected our fears and gave us hope in the mid-century.

Who Would the Space Brothers Vote For?

By | Contactees, Religion | 3 Comments

Today, I want to talk about exopolitics.  Literally.  Who would the Space Brothers–the beautiful denizens of Venus and beyond–have voted for in the US presidential election?

I suppose the answer to the question of who the Space Brothers would vote for, were they eligible to vote (which they wouldn’t be, unless they chose to become naturalized citizens) really depends on which of the Contactees you were to ask.  And unless Valiant Thor or one of his crew comes forward to endorse a particular person, we have to go on what the Contactees said.

Though the Space Brothers are often depicted monolithically, always in perfect agreement with each other, the stories of them as told by the Contactees tend to lack smaller details of the individuals.  We don’t know if Orthon liked his coffee black while Firkon preferred a little cream and sugar, and that sort of thing.  They are depicted in these stories as angelic–often literally–and as such, they are shown to be kind and enlightened beings with no flaws to speak of.  If we knew who they’d vote for, then you can assume that person would be the only correct choice.

However, depending on who’s telling the story, the details of those Space Brotherian societies differ wildly, and therefore, their presumed voting preferences.  A good place to start to determine this would be to examine the issues that are important to them.

First, the Space Brothers typically advocate fervently for nuclear disarmament, and seek to minimize conflict and strife on this planet, eliminating war and disease.  They want to help us toward a glorious future in which we bond with our planet and take steps toward what today we would call green energy and environmentalism.  All of these things would indicate that the Space Brothers would lean to the Democratic/Green Party/Socialist side of things.

On the other hand, many of the Space Brothers extolled the virtues of a traditional life, and a return to simpler times as the way forward.  This included religion, generally Christianity, as well as dispensing with laws (to be fair, they were only able to do this because they were enlightened as individuals, and therefore needed no laws.)  Both of these things tend to lean more Republican/Libertarian.

But that’s where the waters get more muddy.  While some of the Space Brothers spoke a traditional Christian message, not all of them seemed to agree completely.  Take Valiant Thor, as recounted by Reverend Frank Stranges in “Stranger at the Pentagon.”

“He told me that his purpose in coming was to help mankind return to the Lord.  He spoke in positive terms…always with a smile on his face. He said that man was further away from God than ever before, but there was still a good chance if man looks in the right place…he told me that Jesus Christ would not force men to be saved from their mistakes, even though He had already made a way for mankind to be redeemed through His shed blood.”

Compare that very Christian message to the more Eastern religion-flavored tone of George King:

“A time of change is now upon us. The Age of Aquarius, which will start to dawn in the new millennium, will be an Age of Science, but a science tempered by love. The barriers between different religions will gradually be broken down and there will be a return to oneness which is the very essence of Spiritual expression.”

from Contact with the Gods from Space by George King, D.D., Th.D.

This more inclusive philosophy sounds similar to the philosophy of another famous George, Adamski, who recorded the following meeting with a being called “The Master” in “Inside the Space Ships.”

“And no man lives who has never once dreamed of what you call Utopia, or the nearly perfect world.  There is nothing which man has ever imagined which is not, somewhere, a reality. And, therefore, nothing that is not possible of achievement.  For you too, on Earth, that is possible.  For us on the other planets of our galaxy, it is so now.”

But Adamski opposed organized religion, saying it only caused division amongst humanity.  “The Master” goes on:

“There is nothing wrong with your Earth, nor with its people, except that in their lack of understanding they are young children in the universal life of the One Supreme Being.  You have been told that in our worlds we live the creator’s laws, while as yet on Earth you only talk of them.”

So what are these “creator’s laws”?  According to Adamski, they provide for everyone, they care for the entire planet, they are concerned for the environment, and so on.  In fact, Adamski is reported once to have said that communism was the way of the future.  You can’t go much left-er than that.  To the Aetherius Society, the planet is itself a living being, and so the safety of the environment is of utmost importance to them, another left-leaning concern.  Then again, Woody Derenberger’s Lanulosians seemed to feel that “separate but equal” wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  And to Stranges and many others, it was our straying from traditional values that was causing all the problems in the world.

Whether this variation in opinions comes from the Space Brothers or the Contactees talking to them, I leave you to be the judge.  While it’s fairly certain the Space Brothers would have little tolerance for border walls, they would have also had problems with a willingness to use military force.  And while they perhaps would agree with much of socialist philosophy, they would recoil at the idea of passing laws and regulations forcing people to comply.

Who would the Space Brothers vote for?  Do Angels vote for God?  How would they vote when the idea of government is unnecessary?  This also doesn’t take into account the idea of country–why would beings who see the world from a global scale concern themselves with the petty meanderings of country politics?

So I’m at a loss.  What do you think?