Reviews

Movie Review: This Island Earth

By | Movies, Ramblings, Reviews, Science Fiction | No Comments

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The late Bill Warren (who I interviewed for my film) called This Island Earth “the best and most significant science fiction movie of 1955.”  I will defer to his judgment on that, but I will say that it’s probably the best movie ever to be spoofed by MST3K.  Here, you can see it in all its glory:

But why review this movie?  It’s not a Contactee film at all.

The last time I saw TIE, I took it for what it was probably intended to be: an entertaining sci-fi film capitalizing on the popularity of flying saucers.  Since working on my own film, I’ve noticed a few Contactee-eque elements in TIE that make me suspect the filmmakers had at least a passing familiarity with the stories of Adamski et al.  Or I would think that, were it not for one inconvenient fact: The story predates the Contactees.

Though the movie came out in 1955, well into the Contactee craze, it was based on a novel by Raymond F. Jones that was originally published in serial form in the late 1940s, only a couple years after the modern era of flying saucers began.  There are many differences between the novel and the finished film, so is this an example of life (being the Contactees) imitating art, or were the filmmakers perhaps influenced to adjust things from the source material to make it a little more similar to Contactee tales?

In the film, Dr. Cal Meachum (Rex Reason) is a renowned scientist with a square jaw and clearly overdubbed superhero voice.  He’s also an experienced pilot who casually flies jets like going for a Sunday stroll.  On one of his flights, when his instrumentation goes out, his jet is in the process of crashing, only to be saved by a mysterious green glow which gently sets his plane on the ground.

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Dr. Meachum is then given mysterious instructions for creating an “interociter”, which proves to be a fantastically powerful and rather nonspecific machine.  Is it a communications device or weapon or tractor beam or spy machine?  Or all of the above?  With the interociter, he makes contact with Exeter (Jeff Morrow), a friendly-faced and giant-foreheaded fellow who invites him to a scientific retreat called “The Club”.  Once there, Meachum finds himself surrounded by the best and brightest scientists of earth, and grows suspicious of Exeter’s motives.

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It turns out that — SPOILER — Exeter and his fellows are actually aliens from the planet Metaluna, involved in an interestellar war with the Zahgons.  Their planet is on the brink of destruction, and they need our nuclear technology to save themselves.  Exeter takes Meachum and another scientist named Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) to Metaluna, where he encounters a Mutant (pronounced “mute ant”), an insect-like being (“larger of course, with a higher degree of intelligence”) that acts as a security guard. Meachum discovers that the Metalunans intend to invade and take over the Earth, and it is only the intercession of Exeter and the timely explosion of the entire planet that stops them.  Meachum and Adams are returned to Earth, and Exeter dies a noble death as his flying saucer runs out of gas, becoming a fireball somewhere over the Pacific.

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While the Metalunans are far from the peace-loving Space Brothers (they do, after all, intend to conquer the Earth), the Space Brother “feeling” is personified in Exeter, who defies orders from his superiors in order to save two human beings.  His actions earlier in the film showed him to be a rather ineffective middle manager, but near the end, he is redeemed when he says “Our universe is vast–full of wonders.  I shall explore, perhaps find another Metaluna, a place inhabited by beings not unlike myself.”

There are a number of further correlations with Contactee lore.  Dr. Meachum wasn’t just some random Joe who got abducted; he was sought out by the aliens and given special access.  “I don’t remember applying for a job,” Meachum says to Exeter.  “You didn’t,” says Exeter, suggesting they’ve been watching him for some time.  “We’d like you to join our…team, you might say, at once.”  Being “chosen” is a core element of Contactee lore; the people chosen by the Space Brothers are chosen because, they’re told, they will be able to carry out a mission effectively.  (One could argue that the Space Brothers really need better sampling practices).

When they come to pick up Dr. Meachum, they do so by sending a self-flying airplane.  He is the only occupant, and it takes him to their secret hideout in the middle of nowhere.  This sequence echoes a scene described by Orfeo Angelucci, in which an egg-shaped craft descended in an empty field and shuttled him up to the mothership in orbit.

Once chosen, the Space Brothers give their contacts a mission; usually this means to spread the word of the Space Brothers, but in some cases, it means to build machines that will change our world.  Much like how the Metalunans gave Dr. Meachum instructions for building the interociter, which would potentially advance human technology immensely.  This is not unlike George Van Tassel constructing the Integratron at the bidding of the Space Brothers, and has the added bonus of having a similarly cool sounding name.

Dr. Meachum was taken aboard the Metalunan craft and given a brief tour, much like in many a Contactee tale.  The detail I found interesting is that Meachum and Adams had to enter “conversion tubes” that adjusted their physiology to withstand the Metalunan atmosphere.  In his book From Outer Space to You, Howard Menger describes an incident in which he was first invited into a flying saucer.  His guide fired a beam at him, which caused him to feel a warm tingling sensation over his entire body.

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When Howard asked what this was for, the man said:

“We projected the beam on you to condition and process your body quickly so you could enter the craft.  What actually happened was that the beam changed your body frequency to equal that of the craft.  Thus you felt entirely comfortable inside the craft and suffered no ill effects.”

Then This Island Earth puts a new twist on the typical Contactee tale:  it is the aliens who need help from the Earth, rather than the other way around.  Their planet is dying, not ours.  They are the ones who need nuclear energy to save their world.  The fact that nuclear energy enters into the equation and it is not something to be feared, but rather a savior technology is unique in many ways.   And how would it be a savior technology?  By creating an impenetrable shield that the cold, calculating Zahgons cannot pierce.  Could Metaluna be a symbolic version of peace-loving America, beset upon by monstrous Soviets, forced to use nuclear energy to save the planet?

Also worth mentioning is the Mutant: a lumbering insect-like being with an exposed cerebrum and giant, staring eyes.  It appears to be a brainless automaton slaved to the will of the humanoid Metalunans.  While its presence in the film is jarring, there is a cultural significance to it.  Most Contactees described only human-looking extraterrestrials; but later Experiencer tales feature alien crews composed of both the human-like and the more “alien” aliens, such as Grays, Reptilians, or Insectoids.  The Mutant is a nice blend of all three: the eyes and roboticism of the Grays, the bulk and power of the Reptilians, and the physical appearance of the Insectoids.

Whether the makers of This Island Earth had any familiarity with Contactee tales is unclear, and certainly the Metalunans are not Space Brothers.  The Contactees told of Space Brothers coming to Earth in friendship and with our best interests at heart.  But in the movies, as Bill Warren says in his book Keep Watching the Skies!:

Benign visitors from space are few in the 1950s; the best we can hope for is indifference (It Came from Outer Space) or well-intentioned but stern policemen (The Day the Earth Stood Still).  The choices we are presented with aren’t between invasion and friendship, but between invasion and exploitation, and invasion and indifference.  The wonders of the universe seem to be for those other than human beings.  This Island Earth reverses the message of the novel, which is that we must be admitted to the congress of the planets, and instead seems to be claiming that we should just be left alone.  Everyone out there is fighting, and too much intelligence isn’t good for you.

 

 

 

 

Carl Sagan and Contact

By | Contactees, Filmmaking, Movies, Religion, Reviews, Video | 5 Comments

Over the course of making They Rode the Flying Saucers, one movie has kept coming to mind: Contact.  I mean, duh.  It’s right there in the title.

The original novel on which the movie is based was written by one of the purest scientistic minds ever: Carl Sagan.  A brilliant astronomer, he was fascinated by the idea of alien life and alien civilizations.  He was a staunch advocate for SETI (The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence), a scientific effort to find alien civilizations elsewhere in the universe, and fought against its cancellation by Congress in the ’80s.  Despite this, he was highly skeptical of the UFO reports, on the basis that they did not have sufficient verifiable evidence to support them.  “Extraordinary claims”, he said, “require extraordinary evidence.”

In 1980, PBS aired Sagan’s series Cosmos.  In one episode, he directly addressed the idea of UFOs, and one gets the sense that he did it just to get it out of the way, because if he didn’t address it, people would ask annoying questions.  In this segment, he used what was at the time considered the case with the greatest verifiable evidence for its truth, the Betty and Barney Hill encounter.

As a scientist, he felt the only way to discuss the validity of this case was to look at the only evidence that could be verified, as opposed to the anecdotal reports and psychological tests.  This amounted to a star map drawn by Betty Hill, which she claimed she saw aboard the alien craft onto which she was taken.  This map included stars that were as yet undiscovered in the 1960s.  Sagan, in the clip above, describes exactly why this evidence is useless for verifying the Hill case–namely, the dots she drew could easily be a random pattern of dots that one could find in many areas of the sky if you looked long enough.  While he disregards many of the other compelling aspects of the Hill case, I give him credit for remaining open to the idea that her story is true:

For all I know, we might be visited by a different extraterrestrial civilization every second Tuesday.  But there is no support for this appealing idea.

But what of the classic Contactees? To many die-hard UFO believers, the Contactees were outcasts; to skeptics, they were absolute lunatics.  To them, Contactee stories were absurd, simplistic, and worst of all, absolutely devoid of supporting evidence.  Even Sagan seemed downright annoyed by them, as you can see by his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when he speaks of them in this clip:

 

 

So it appears that Sagan was open to the idea of aliens, and even to the idea of alien visitation.  In a book co-written with I.S. Shklovskii called Intelligent Life in the Universe, Sagan even addressed the possibility that aliens may have visited us in the ancient past–that’s right, Carl Sagan was an Ancient Astronaut Theorist.  Unlike the likes of Tsoukalos and Von Däniken, however, Sagan pointed out that this was entirely speculative, but not impossible.  But I think it’s notable that he did not automatically dismiss the idea.   Compare that to many of the (to paraphrase Greg Bishop) “evangelical skeptics” today, who have apparently re-defined skepticism to mean “if it can’t be proven true, it’s necessarily false.”

And this is what makes the film Contact so interesting.  I would say “spoiler alert,” but if you haven’t seen this movie by now, you need to get on the ball.  The story was presented in a dryly scientific way…the first hour of the film establishes Jodie Foster’s character Ellie Arroway, a brilliant astronomer fascinated by the idea of alien civilizations.  (Sound familiar?)  It establishes her conflict with her peers, personified in the character of David Drumlin (Tom Skerrit), who thinks she’s throwing away her talents on a hopeless quest like SETI.  But when Ellie actually discovers an alien transmission, Drumlin the skeptic becomes Drumlin the I-Knew-It-All-Along.

The alien transmission is written in mathematics, the only truly universal language, and includes instructions for creating a wormhole-generating device that will allow a single passenger to travel to the alien world and make face-to-face contact.  To not go into too much detail on the plot, suffice it to say that Ellie eventually does this and meets an alien being.  This being scans her mind and takes the form of Ellie’s deceased father, as a way of making it easier for Ellie to understand the being.  After a brief conversation, Ellie returns to Earth, where only a fraction of a second has passed, though eighteen hours has passed for her.

With no evidence other than her word, no one believes her.  But she has had an a-theistic religious experience, and will never be the same–not unlike a typical Contactee experience.  Perhaps Sagan was inspired by them, at least in part.  The Contactees were men and women who offered no evidence but told wild tales.  The beings they met were almost always human in appearance, and could read minds, and were kind and relatable–much like Ellie’s experience in the film.  The only thing missing in Sagan’s tale is a tour of the spaceship and a warning against nuclear weapons.  And yet that message is implicit in the story, from a scene earlier in the film in which Ellie says that the one question she would ask an alien being, if she was given the chance, was how they made it through their technological adolescence without destroying themselves.  (Ironically, she does not ask this question when given the chance.)

I think it’s surprising and yet somehow fitting that a towering figure of scientific rationality like Carl Sagan was willing to admit that not everything is scientifically verifiable.  That even though a story of alien contact may sound unbelievable, it is not necessarily untrue.  While this is a work of fiction, I would say that it has a scientifically sound grounding in reality and to some degree spoke of Carl Sagan’s beliefs.

Perhaps the Contactees were not so simplistic after all.  Perhaps their experiences were projections of a sort, much like in the movie.  Perhaps the beings they met took forms that would be easy for humans to relate to.  And the fact that they had no evidence does not mean that their experiences were necessarily false, no matter what the skeptics say.  Their experiences changed their lives in deep and profound ways, transcending concrete scientific fact to address human spirituality and potential.  In other words, the Contactees stories had an inner reality that science cannot discover or probe, yet is perhaps no less true.

 

Book Review: Communion

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Whitley Strieber’s Communion was, for me, my introduction to the bizarre world of alien contact.  I remember walking into a bookstore one day years ago and seeing this face staring back at me:

 
 
I found it profoundly unsettling.  Something about it was difficult for me to look at.  Then, when I saw “A True Story”, I was thoroughly confused.  How could anything involving that face be a true story?
 
On the surface, this book is about acclaimed sci-fi and horror writer Whitley Strieber’s experiences with what he called “the visitors.”  They are today known more popularly as the Grays.  This book, published in 1987, was largely responsible for propelling the notion of alien abduction, with its anal probes and bug-eyed doctors, into the mainstream.
 
I had heard of alien abduction before, via a movie called The UFO Incident, starring James Earl Jones as Barney Hill.  I was similarly disturbed by that film, but I set that one aside as just a movie.  But this book, with that face on the cover…
 
That face…
 
…I couldn’t ignore it.  I had to delve into this world.
 
Strieber eloquently describes how world-shaking his contact experience was, and makes it all vividly real and yet also dreamlike.  It’s like a David Lynch movie that makes little sense at first, but sticks with you all the same, and seems to have a simmering logic underneath the high strangeness.
 
It’s that aspect of the meaning being hidden underneath the surface instead of out in the open that led me to be initially disappointed with this book when I first read it all those years ago.  I greatly preferred books that were more descriptive of actual events, such as the Budd Hopkins offerings Missing Time and Intruders.
 
But now, I see that this book has a lot more to say than just descriptions of events.  Strieber admits his own confusion at the experience, and says that he is not certain who the “visitors”, as he calls them, are.  He acknowledges extraterrestrials as a possibility, but seems to favor the theory that they are some sort of earthly intelligence that changes form in order to communicate with us. 
 
I was struck upon rereading the book at how closely it parallels what I am attempting to do with They Rode the Flying Saucers…demonstrate that this phenomenon says more about us, culturally and psychologically, than the visitors ever say about themselves.  While this book gives some hints and ventures slightly into the events that transpired, it focuses much more on what it could possibly mean.
 
And that’s what makes this much more a story of contact–not abduction. The title of the book suggests communication, an attempt to join with humanity.  An attempt at contact could appear as abduction without cause if the message is not received.  The purpose of this book seems to be to make an attempt to determine what that message really is. 
 
Spoiler: He never figures it out.
 
Something seems to be going on, something that is tantalizingly just out of our grasp, and it changes with the ages, as if trying to adjust to our way of understanding.  In the middle ages, people spoke of being taken by fairies and goblins.  Before the turn of the 20th century, people described seeing airships dropping literal anchors.  After we became a more technical society, these morphed into flying saucers.  At first, these beings were beautiful humans from planets we knew.  Then they became more alien, in more ways than one.
 
This is a great simplification, but gets to what I mean when I say that this experience seems to be telling us something about ourselves, and whether that message originates from outer space, on this planet, or from within our own minds is irrelevant.  I think it is a valid point of study for any scientists or sociologists brave enough to take it on.
 
As for Strieber, while he seems to consider his story one of attempted contact, he would bristle at being called a Contactee:

There is no real intellectual difference between the haughty psychiatrist or physicist and his refusal to accept the truth, and the nervous “contactee” eager to see the phenomenon as a dimensionless cartoon of space friends.

 
I think his point is that there is a happy middle ground in which the truth lies.  I would argue, however, that to ignore the haughty psychiatrist OR the nervous contactee is to ignore portions of the truth as well, because we have met the truth and it is us (to paraphrase Walt Kelly).  Whether or not you accept Whitley Strieber’s stories, or those of the Contactees, I think they tell us something interesting and profound about ourselves.
 


 

Book Review: Gray Barker’s Book of Adamski

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New Saucerian Books is doing a very exciting thing these days: re-publishing classic Contactee and UFO books that are hard to find these days. And even if you do track them down, they often fetch several hundred dollars on eBay.  It’s one thing if you’re a collector, but what if you’re just curious to read the books?  And that’s why I’m a fan of New Saucerian.  (Though the web design could use some work…just sayin’.)

To that end, I picked up a copy of “The Book of Adamski”, edited by Gray Barker, republished by New Saucerian in 2014.  For those who don’t know, Gray Barker was a renowned writer and researcher of UFO and paranormal phenomena, including Men in Black, Mothman, and the Contactees.  He, along with John Keel, were the biggest names in the ’50s and ’60s, and into the ’70s in the field of paranormal writing.

So I was excited to delve into this book.  It’s a loosely structured collection of essays by several people, including Gray Barker, Desmond Leslie, and Adamski himself.  It covers the many sides of Adamski’s life–personal, public, and cosmic.  What emerges is a very interesting portrait of a notoriously enigmatic man.  

Desmond Leslie, Adamski’s co-author of Flying Saucers Have Landed, wrote of the multiple aspects of his friend George:

Then there was another George, beautifully spoken, wise, kind, and deeply aware of the importance of his task.  Through this George, I several times glimpsed the presence of a Master, and I was always sorry when the curtain came down again and the worldly mask obscured him.

And also on the controversy that surrounded him always:

Of all the people in the flying saucer world, George Adamski stands alone as its most controversial character. Many others have claimed contacts and been treated with tolerance, belief, or amused contempt, but George had only to open his mouth to bring down a storm of abuse, praise and wonderment.

 This is something I’ve noticed while researching my film…for some reason, Adamski gets people’s goat.  No one gets upset talking about Truman Bethurum, but mention Adamski, and they go all red in the face.  Perhaps it was because he was the most visible of the Contactees.  Perhaps it was his somewhat distant, professorial manner.  The controversy continues to this day, and many people consider him to be nothing more than a charlatan and con-man.  

However, this book paints a different portrait, in the first-hand accounts by the many authors, and from the words from his own mouth.  And this kinder, gentler portrait is congruent with the image I’ve gotten of him from people who were acquainted with him.

Even Gray Barker, who considered Adamski’s account “impossible”, says that he got the impression of a “tone of great honesty” in Adamski’s tale:

For George charmed his critics wherever he roamed.  No matter how vitriolic his adversaries, he maintained a pleasant attitude which challenged their negativity.  

When reading George’s own essays, combined with the above-mentioned accolades, one definitely gets a sense that George was, at the very least, a kind and spiritually generous man.  Though his philosophy of Universal Law was nothing earth-shatteringly original (he himself admitted that he was just extolling the virtues central to all major religions), he manages to parse it in a way that makes it feel inspirational.  He sums it up thusly:

To be plain, all forms must serve the purpose for which they were created if they are to continue. 

Whether you believe him or not, Adamski was determined to serve what he saw as his purpose: that of spreading the message of peace and love.  The more you read of his works in such books as Inside the Space Ships, the more you realize that outer space was only tangentially interesting to him.  He was truly brought to life by the idea of Universal Law and cosmic order.

But the most exciting part of the book comes at the end, with a lengthy bit about the famous Straith letter, in which Adamski received an apparently real letter from a State Department official claiming to know the truth about the space brothers, and encouraged George to continue his message.  It’s a fascinating story, and what makes it more interesting is that this book was published long before the full story was made public. I’m not about to spoil it if you’re not familiar with the story, but stay tuned to this documentary for more information.

The Stranger in the Pentagon

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The other night, I was fortunate enough to score a ticket to a sold-out screening of two classic-UFO-inspired short films at the Burbank Film Festival.  The first was The Maury Island Incident, which tells the allegedly true story behind the long-dismissed UFO case from 1947.  It was an entertaining film, though one more relevant to this blog was the second in the screening,  Stranger at the Pentagon, directed by Craig Campobasso.  A complete story in its own right, it’s also a sales piece for the eventual feature, and is based on the book of the same name by one of the classic Contactees, Dr. Frank E. Stranges.

Dr. Frank to his friends.

Stranges, who passed away in 2008, was an evangelical minister who claimed to have met a man named Valiant Thor in 1959.  Val, as he was commonly called, was from the interior of Venus and was a VIP guest of the US Government while he tried to offer assistance (in the form of new technologies to eliminate death and aging, among other things) to the people of Earth.  This assistance was rejected by the President at the time, Dwight D. Eisenhower, on the grounds that it would destroy the economy.

Being that this was a short film, it necessarily breezed over many of the details of Dr. Frank’s story, but still managed to be thoroughly enjoyable.  Both the narrative and visual styles were reminiscent of the ’60s, in all its Technicolor-hued, brightly lit glory.  They visual effects were very advanced for a short film, capturing a happy place between a ’60s aesthetic and a modern, iPod-influenced high tech.

If you get the opportunity to see this film, or donate to its completion, please do so.  But beyond the scope of the film (at least the short version) is what I find very interesting about this story…that of religion and the Contactees.

Many, such as Carl Sagan, have decried the Contactees as fanatics more akin to religious sects than to a scientific-minded group, despite their many scientific claims.  And though it’s often relegated to the background of the Contactee stories, religion is an integral part of those same stories.

Much like the rest of the world when it comes to religion, however, there was a fair amount of dissent amongst the Contactees.  The questions that come up are endless…how does salvation work on a universal scale?  Is heaven peopled with nonhuman aliens?  Did Buddha reincarnate on another planet?  Are there other religions in space that we don’t have here?  Was Ganesha’s odd appearance due to him being an alien? Did Jesus save the souls of the denizens of other planets?

To many of the Contactees, though not Dr. Stranges, the answer to that last question was yes.  Val Thor spoke of how while the Space Brothers were not actually Christian, (as they were perfect beings unspoiled by sin and therefore found religion unnecessary), they were aware of Christianity, and even introduced himself as being from the planet “your Bible refers to as the morning and the evening star.”    I think it’s interesting that a being from a society advanced enough to travel across millions of miles of empty space would describe his homeworld in poetic, rather than scientific terms.  (Such as how Orthon told Adamski that he was from the second planet from the sun.)

One of a handful of photos of Valiant Thor

That, to me, is the poetry of the Contactee stories.  The most intriguing of the stories weren’t just straightforward, technical tales.  In addition to being scientifically advanced, the Space Brothers were also spiritually advanced.  Their art, philosophy, and religion was of a higher order.  Perhaps their manner of thinking would be to put things in terms that we might understand.  As Val was speaking to an evangelical minister, perhaps he deliberately chose to speak in theological terms.

As with any discussion of religion, this is filled with controversy.  Some have criticized the idea of Christian aliens as being awfully convenient for the Christians.  One wonders how a Contactee claiming Allah as the deity of choice on Venus would have fared.

Other Contactees were somewhat more pragmatic in their approach to organized religions and Space Brothers, choosing to say that religion actually originated from outer space.  George King of the Aetherius Society, for example, claimed that Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were all beings from other worlds who came down to earth to teach us the cosmic laws of outer space.  Perhaps more controversially, he claimed that Krishna was the most advanced of them all, even more than Jesus.  I suspect Dr. Frank would take objection to this characterization.

Still other Contactees took a broader perspective on the idea of religion.  George Adamski promoted the principles of “Universal Law”, which were the guiding rules that govern all citizens of other planets.  Most of these principles are fully compatible with Christianity, as well as with Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, as they are the core principles of all major religions.  Compatible, that is, provided one dispenses with the organizational and narrative structures of religion and focus instead on the messages being conveyed.  Adamski advocated for the abolition of organized religion in favor of supporting the universal principles that they all shared, because those divisions only caused strife.

And then there are those who claim, even today, that any beings from outer space are damned, because they have not received the Gospels.  Some go so far as to say that what we call extraterrestrials are in fact demons in disguise.  Obviously, this subject is too big to tackle in any single blog post, so I may return to it at a later point.  Or, you can stay tuned and watch the documentary They Rode the Flying Saucers.

Farewell Good Brothers

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In the early 90s, before the days when reality TV “documentaries” took over, I was an avid watcher of the Discovery Channel.  One day, I saw a promo for this film:

At the time, I was somewhat obsessed with stories of alien abduction tales as told by Whitley Strieber, Betty and Barney Hill, and Budd Hopkins.  Which is to say, stories in which people were taken out of their cars or their homes late at night in the middle of nowhere and subjected to inhumane experiments by ugly, bug-eyed aliens.  Then I saw this movie, which told the tales of the Contactees, who turned the notion of “aliens” into “space brothers.”  Beautiful, angelic humans here to save us from our own excesses.  Here is the description of the film, from the production company’s website:

Farewell Good Brothers is an off-beat, irreverent and often hilarious portrait of a few people who, back in the 1950′s, claimed to have been contacted friendly visitors from the planet Venus. Theirs is a world of mysterious government conspiracies, strange religious rites and unbelievable close encounters; a world inhabited by an assortment of charlatans, true believers, Christian fundamentalists, and messianic cults. Through contemporary interviews and a wide assortment of unusual archival imagery, the film examines the role of these so-called ‘Contactees’ in pioneering much of contemporary Flying Saucer mythology. With it’s emphasis on the political and religious motivations of these people and it’s visual depiction of their beliefs, FAREWELL, GOOD BROTHERS is unique in both style and content.

I missed the movie on Discovery, but tracked down a VHS copy (Ah, VHS, remember those days?) and wore it out watching it over and over.

Farewell, Good Brothers is definitely “off-beat”, as it says. The interviews are golden, and well worth a watch.  Howard Menger’s story, specifically, is what drew me into this subject.  In his interviews, he comes off as a cantankerous, rebellious old man who spouts his message of peace and love in the same tone he’d tell them kids to get off his yard.  If you read his book, From Outer Space to You, you’ll see the young version of that same disconnect: a humble and meek narrator that nevertheless manages to brag about his war heroism and inventiveness.

Peace and love in action.

Also worth watching are Dan Fry almost literally telling the director to get off his lawn and leave him alone.

For all its merit, this film never quite satisfied me.  The tone of the film is lightly comedic, which is perfect for what it is–an introduction to a subject most people these days have never heard of.  It never quite mocks the Contactees, but it never quite takes them seriously, either.  It’s sort of a “submitted for your approval” with a cocked eyebrow.  While I appreciate that tone, the content of the film made me want to know more.

And so down the rabbit hole I went.  And while down there, I discovered some further things about FGB that make it incomplete.  Robert Stone, the director, focused on living Contactees (Robert Short, Daniel Fry, George King, Howard Menger, and a few others) and their stories.  And these stories are fascinating and wonderful.  But in doing so, he missed out on George Van Tassel and George Adamski, two of the biggest names in Contacteedom.

To me, that is like making a movie about the history of rock and roll and not mentioning Elvis or the Beatles.  Sure, you can still get a sense of the subject, but the picture is incomplete.  Mr. Stone had an advantage on me in the form of a 23 year head start; of the original Contactees he interviewed, only Robert Short is still with us.  (I also was able to interview Mr. Short, and it was an amazing experience, to say the least).  Howard Menger died only weeks before I embarked on this project.

So in making this film, I decided to turn what could easily be a weakness–the lack of first-hand interviews–into a strength.  Because I’m not relying solely on those interviews, I am free to examine the accounts of Adamski and Van Tassel, among others.  In using original audio from these people, as well as animation and visual effects, I can tell their stories to fill in the blanks left by Farewell, Good Brothers.

If you get a chance, see this film. (And mine, too, when it gets finished).  There is an updated version available, with new music and remastered in HD.  For your consideration, however, here is the original version as presented on Youtube.