Friday, April 18, 2014

Physicist Disturbed by Movie


Somewhere along this very long cinematic journey, we mentioned that a rare copy of the Great Britain press book for "U.F.O." dropped into our hands (well, that is, after I paid handsomely for it many years ago), and its appearance surpassed the more readily available American version.  In fact, we were able to extract and scan a considerable amount of information for this blog from the English press book.

Because the two press books evidenced subtle differences, maybe audience reactions reported by the press in each country could be expected to differ as well -- and, at least in this instance, one did.  Having had an opportunity to read numerous reviews, particularly from the USA, regarding the film's 1956 premiere, I noticed that some were polite, others relentlessly negative and still others showered praise upon the new movie in town.

However, I don't recall an American review quite like that offered by England's New Scientist of November 22, 1956, in which a staff physicist for the publication admits being (with my apologies to James Bond fans) shaken more than stirred following a session at a London movie theater.  Like every good skeptical scientist, the unnamed physicist found reasons to attack the film's uninspiring "blah" aspect (read as:  the acting and progression sucked) in depth -- but then, as imparted by the writer quoting his impression:  "And yet it is uncomfortably convincing."

Apparently drawing upon press book material, as the review briefly spreads out details about the famous 1952 Washington, D.C. UFO pursuit and the Montana and Utah UFO films, the New Scientist article also manages to throw in a little commentary disparaging the British Air Ministry's negative attitude about the UFO phenomenon.  The B.A.M. may not be impressed publicly with UFOs in the fifties, "however," states the writer, "Unidentified Flying Objects revives doubts."

The very existence of this little piece from a scientific publication which dares to admit a staff physicist's mental shape-shift regarding UFOs -- in the 1950s yet, when the mere thought of a scientist taking "flying saucers" seriously could elicit potential career-killing ridicule -- causes us to wonder how many other scientists throughout the world were impressed by Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse's movie -- though remaining so in utter silence.  Forever.

(Author Barry Greenwood, recent contributor to the monumentally documented and impressive volume, UFOs and Government:  A Historical Inquiry, kindly passed the New Scientist gem along for today's entry.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

On Their Own


A reader (whom I'll be happy to identify by name in this space, should he wish to grant permission) recently questioned me about something indirectly related to a substantial issue -- the use of stock film footage in motion pictures.  Stock films and photos are generally in the public domain or available to a production staff from some source for a fee, or simply for a mention in the end credits.  The inclusion of stock images can greatly enhance a motion picture's message when alternative sources are just not available or beyond the director's reach for legal reasons, or merely because the ownership contact at a location where one wishes to film refuses to cooperate for any variety of reasons.

Of course, the use of stock music in movies is also well known.  The creepy background music for the original George Romero film, Night of the Living Dead, depended greatly upon stock music as a mood enhancer and scare tactic, and the implementation of stock music is noted in the original soundtrack (LP)album.

As the motion picture, U.F.O." was being developed and eventually produced between 1954 and 1956, a major obstacle became clear:  There would be no official government cooperation for producers Clarence Greene or Russell Rouse. 

To the current day, it's widely common for U.S. government officials to go "all out" to provide locations and in-your-face production values for movies intended to put the government or military in a "good light" -- but woe, unspoken brickbats and denials to scripts taking an opposite view.  In fact, this acknowledged practice has been and is still being discussed by Robbie Graham (of the Web site Silver Screen Saucers) and his colleagues in the film industry.

But -- a major motion picture about UFOs and recognition that in the early fifties some higher-ups believed the U.S. government should be on the verge of 'fessing up about "saucers" representing an extraterrestrial source?  Government cooperation?  Fat chance!

Indeed, the reader's query sent me back to my old faded and submarginal (especially for handwritten notes) photocopy of Tom Towers' script, and as I flipped through more than 100 pages from beginning to end, every spot where fresh filming would have been ideal was sacrificed instead for the use of stock film footage.  This was no accident or oversight.

Long after the movie's release, Air Force documents surfaced indicating official fears about "U.F.O." and the negative publicity it was expected to generate regarding the government's position on the phenomenon.  As it turned out, Clarence Greene's documentary pretty much bombed at the box office and any potential public uproar of consequence did not materialize -- as the government continued to dismiss and deny, as per Robertson Panel (1953) protocol, by the time the early fifties' frank official honesty had all but disappeared.

Greene realized from the outset, even after enlisting the help of notables Edward Ruppelt, Dewey Fournet, Al Chop and others with previous government UFO investigation experience, that official cooperation would not be forthcoming.  As a result,, other than the weekend that Tom Towers spent filming exterior "walking around" scenes in Washington, D.C., stock film footage fills a lot of production nooks and crannies.  Such file footage in "U.F.O." includes exterior Pentagon scenes, Wright-Patterson AFB, runway shots, Air Materiel Command, miscellaneous Washington scenes, F-51 aircraft and other military planes, views of military pilots (!), plus a laboratory and work table.  In addition, scenes involving a darkroom (I'm not sure that some of these made it into the movie's final cut), projection room, Washington Airport and the White House were file footage, as were scenes showing a busy Pentagon switchboard.

Topping off this mosaic of old footage was obvious newsreel material of General John A. Samford and others.

The funny thing is, were Clarence Greene alive today (and it is my understanding that he died in a nursing home years ago, virtually broke financially, and perhaps a broken man in other Hollywood ways), attempting to remake "U.F.O." nearly 60 years later -- this time, armed with awesome computerized special effects and digital cinematography unimaginable in the fifties -- the government would still slam the door of cooperation.  What's changed since 1956?  Well, with the addition of the TSA, DARPA, NSA steroid-level spy abilities and all manner of who-knows-what -- I think you can guess.

Friday, November 22, 2013

MONTANA UFOS AND EXTRATERRESTRIALS includes Mariana and the Movie


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 





Note:  I haven't written a book review in years, having put myself "out to pasture" in that area, but this book deserves attention because the author's references to the Montana UFO film -- and the movie upon which this blog is based -- fit right in.

 



MONTANA UFOS AND EXTRATERRESTRIALS, by Joan Bird, Riverbend Publishing, P.O. Box 5833, Helena, MT  59604 (Tel. 1-866-787-2363), 230 pages, publ. date 2013, $14.95 (Autographed copies are available from the author for $18.95, shipping included, inquire via joanbird@mt.net.  The book may also be purchased through Amazon.com for $10.97, and of course can be ordered at list price through your local independent bookstore, through Barnes & Noble or from the publisher, where shipping charges may apply.  Many Montana bookstores currently have it in stock.).

 
Oh, Montana -- oh, world -- what a gift this author has left at the doorstep of inquiring minds.

 The decades have produced a number of regional UFO-related books, some worthwhile and some not.  But Joan Bird's extensively researched volume, taking on the history of UFOs in Montana, ranks among the best area-specific trade books I've encountered, superbly footnoted with an illustration sprinkled here and there.  Bonus:  A mini-journey through the earliest years of UFO history in the U.S., ranging from the Air Force investigation to the Condon Report disaster and beyond is well-accomplished, and certainly important for those unfamiliar with the historical progression of research into the phenomenon.

Truth in reviewing dictates that I tell you right up front that Ms. Bird generously quotes and credits me in the first chapter and, indeed, that leads to my reason for featuring her book on this blog, intended. as you know, only for connections to the movie, "U.F.O."  It turns out, as anybody remotely familiar with UFO history knows, that Montana was the home of Nick Mariana, whose brief fifties film of two UFOs traversing the sky and disappearing behind a water tower remains unexplained, even after in-depth analysis by government photo experts (with most credit going to the Navy's labs).  The kicker here is that Mariana's film was prominently featured in Clarence Greene's documentary, and of course we've mentioned this in previous blog entries.

 For this reason alone, Joan Bird's work has a home on this blog, all the more because the first chapter (of 76 pages) is consumed by a fascinating account of the late Nick Mariana's life before, during and after his famous UFO photography incident and, as we indicated, among all of this is the author's exploration of the United Artists documentary motion picture as it relates to the Mariana film.

Of special interest, though Ms. Bird accumulates a significant amount of information about Mariana from publications, studies and other sources from the past, to her credit she also wisely went to the trouble of contacting and interviewing the son and daughter of Nicholas Mariana, thereby updating and personalizing our knowledge about the man and his established integrity and veracity.  Mariana passed on many years ago, but one wonders what additional gems Bird would have discovered, were he still available for questions.

The problems of time's passage in the book reminded me of a fleeting moment a few years ago, when a member of Canadian documentary film-maker David Cherniack's All in One Films contacted me prior to their visit to the United States, where they intended to conduct interviews and research all over the country regarding UFOs.  Somehow, I think in relation to Greene's documentary, the name of  former Navy chief warrant officer Delbert Newhouse came up.  Newhouse, of course, was the other UFO photography "star" of Greene's 1956 documentary, because Newhouse, accompanied by his family on a trip, filmed a cluster of strange objects moving across the skies over Tremonton, Utah in the fifties.  Like Mariana's film, Newhouse's offering confounded government film analysts -- and realize, too, that both Mariana and Newhouse complained that the best frames of their films were "missing" when returned by government officials, though this was not mentioned in Greene's "U.F.O."

But skip ahead from the fifties to the summer of 2006, when Cherniack and crew visited the U.S.  Newhouse's name had come up during my phone conversation with an associate and we wondered where he might reside after all these years.  By pure luck in the days after that call, I discovered a location for what might be a Newhouse family member, and when the Canadian folk checked further they were delighted to learn that Delbert Newhouse was alive and residing in an Oregon nursing home.  They even established phone contact with Newhouse, getting his enthusiastic permission to come and interview him.  Joking, he informed them that he was 93 years of age, so they had better hurry!

Unfortunately, Newhouse's humor proved strangely prophetic, for as Cherniack and his crew were rushing to Oregon, Delbert died suddenly, to everyone's surprise and sorrow.

I mention the Newhouse incident in detail here because, ultimately, David Cherniack's staff would end up speaking with and interviewing Newhouse's son, just as the Mariana incident needed to be explored by Joan Bird with family members after a witness's death.  In Newhouse's case his son, a very young child in the fifties, clearly remembered the Utah filming incident.

Thus, the importance of Joan Bird's book to the movie for which this blog exists.

Beyond the Mariana expedition, the author confronts another dramatically important issue -- that of alleged UFO visitations to nuclear missile bases located in Montana, and for this she relies upon the work of Robert Hastings, Robert Salas and her own extensive research into these incidents -- and this is deadly serious stuff, apparently recognized and hushed up by our government on multiple occasions (Note:  Salas recently revealed a personal UFO abduction incident, and there are allegations that other officers associated with UFO-nuke incidents may have experienced similar events.  I mention this only as an update here, mostly about which I am uninformed - r.b.).

Other chapters discuss Montana crop circle evidence, alleged abductions and "contactee" stories from the state's past -- about which Bird effectively strives to remain factual, critical, and even dismissive where necessary.  The super touch is Bird's extensive footnoting, a nice index and a lengthy list of acknowledgments in which she kindly attempts to leave no source out in the cold.  Additionally, Bird appears intent upon continuing her research project, so perhaps there's a book or more in her future.

Yes, inclusion of  MONTANA UFOS AND EXTRATERRESTRIALS fits into this blog nicely, a book composed with great documentary-style storytelling. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

UFO: The Permanent Marker

The UFO mystery endures, but this 1956 documentary motion picture reposes in relative obscurity as its existence and historical importance go mostly unnoticed by a world in pursuit of routine matters and, all too often now, danger or frivolity.  Should this be your first visit here, welcome aboard -- and be sure to start way, way back at the beginning to gain a full and consistent appreciation for the movie.  Because nearly 60 years have elapsed since the film’s release, I guess you could consider this a museum, but always keep in mind that antiquities sometimes shine a beacon on the future.  Along the way you will find letters from major participants with whom I communicated, in addition to photos, posters, lobby cards and press book material.  If the U.S. government's own investigation in the late forties and early fifties demonstrated that UFOs are real -- and these were refreshing times when officials were briefly forthright and honest about the evidence, unlike later on -- what are we to think?  UFOs were a mystery then, and remain so.  -- Robert Barrow

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tom Towers: Beyond the Movie


On previous occasions we've mentioned that Tom Towers not only assumed the role of Al Chop for the film, but also juggled other interests during his career.

From Jack Lait Jr's "Hollywood" column as it appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle (NY) of November 24, 1950:  "There's a young reporter named Tom Towers on the Los Angeles Examiner, as handsome a lad as any movie star you could name. . .regarded as one of the best reporters on the staff. . .

"Two years ago a studio exec spotted Towers and asked him if he'd like to be a Western star, at a salary several times the size of his newspaper wage.  To his astonishment, Towers said no thanks.  'I've already got a job.’ "

Weeks later, the studio executive, Ralph Pollock, offered Towers the starring role in a movie whose intended title at that time was "Deep is the Well," about a childhood tragedy.  Towers finally gave in and agreed to do the movie -- but his city editor refused to allow him even a brief leave of absence because an American Legion convention was coming to town and Towers' assets as a reporter were required.

And there is this earlier report from the St. Petersburg Times of April 12, 1950:  Towers was sent to cover an elite fashion show in Beverly Hills for the Los Angeles Times, and after judges chose the best female dressers, they diverted their attention to the men present and Towers was named "the top male fashion plate."

Grumbled an unnamed city desk reporter, "That is what happens when a newspaperman gets a college education."

It seems there was far more to Towers’ legacy than we may ever know.  Learning the details about his work as a military intelligence officer during WW II would probably offer considerably more substance to his life’s journey than noted so far. 

(Thank you to researcher and author Barry Greenwood for unearthing more newspaper gems.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spanish Interview

For those fluent in Spanish, researcher Alan Brain has just posted an interview with me on his Web site.  Some pertains to the movie, and the rest is a discussion about the status of UFO research in general.  The visuals are great and I did a double-take when I found my photo and name time-warped onto a "UFO" lobby card image!  Thanks to Alan for providing Spanish-speaking people a window into UFO history from this American researcher's perspective, and I am humbled by his efforts.  The link is here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Unfamiliar Face with a Familiar Name


This little photo (bordered here in yelllow)) has made the rounds for years and is said to show, from left to right, Dewey Fournet, Al Chop and Edward Ruppelt.  Trouble is, the man on the left is not Fournet.  I've never seen a larger, better quality print of this picture, so in the past I just assumed the accompanying photo captions were correct and posted it as is.

But thanks to the continuing eagle-eye research of Barry Greenwood, we now learn that the man striking a pose on the left is actually "U.F.O." screenwriter Francis Martin, and a comparison to a photo of Martin from 1937, shown here, appears to confirm this.

(Promotional photo of Francis Martin courtesy of Paramount Pictures, 1937, per B. Greenwood)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spanish Language Web Site Features Movie Info

Thanks to Alan Brain for alerting me to his Spanish-language Web pages regarding UFOs and -- particularly -- his interest in informing Spanish-speaking people about the 1956 movie.  That page may be accessed here:

http://losdivulgadores.com/2012/04/los-intentos-de-revelacion-sobre-el-contacto-extraterrestre-i/




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Harry Morgan ("Red Dog One") Dies



Actor Harry Morgan died a few days ago, relevant here because his was the voice of "Red Dog One" (the pilot surrounded by UFOs over Washington, D.C.) in the movie. Morgan's distinctive voice and face graced numerous motion pictures and TV shows over the years, and he was perhaps best remembered for his role as Col. Sherman Potter in TV's "M*A*S*H," and as police officer Joe Friday's (Jack Webb) partner in later episodes of "Dragnet." Of minor interest to those intrigued by such patterns, it may be noted that veteran actor Morgan performed in a movie about UFOs, while Webb later created a TV series based upon Project Bluebook's files ("Project UFO").

I made an attempt to get a few answers from Mr. Morgan back in the seventies about his role in the UFO documentary, but received no response.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Movie Search Continues



Despite the lack of recent blog entries, I still look for updates, and continue to expect some rather interesting news about the motion picture when it develops -- so please check in now and then.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Posters: Dazed and Amused




Good grief. Okay, this blog deals exclusively with the 1956 documentary, "UFO: The True Story of Flying Saucers." In 1970, British TV produced a sci-fi series entitled, "UFO." Soon, in 2012, a big-screen aliens-on-the-attack film also called "UFO" will appear. As long as blog visitors realize we are neither the 1970s or 2012 offspring of this much-used term, we'll survive the latest cinematic title confusion. One wishes public UFO research was as popular as science fiction movie posters and productions.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Andrew Gold 1951-2011




You knew Andrew Gold as a popular recording artist, most familiar for his songs, "Lonely Boy" and"Thank You for Being a Friend." I knew him -- for one brief e-mail moment during the summer of 2001 -- as the son of Ernest Gold, the award-winning composer who developed musical scores for such movies as "Exodus" and, of particular interest to me, for United Artists' 1956 documentary motion picture, "UFO: The True Story of Flying Saucers."

Andrew died last week following lingering health issues. Drawing upon messages saved 10 years ago, I decided to post his one e-mail message and my two, keeping in mind how rare and appreciated it can be when a celebrity spares a minute or two to answer questions from inquiring minds. Frankly, I was a little surprised that he shared his and his grandparents' thoughts about UFOs in an e-mail to a stranger such as I, but including those few words of a personal nature really did speak kindly about the writer.

(Recently, I discovered that the soundtrack music for "UFO" is missing no longer, and I hope to offer further details later this year.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

2011 Movie Update




We may have a very interesting update regarding "U.F.O." later this year. If you have an appreciation for the motion picture's production values, please be sure to check this blog now and then.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Towers on the Newspaper Beat, 1958 & 1959



We've noted that Tom Towers never shied away from reporting about UFOs as aviation editor of the (defunct) Los Angeles Examiner. These gems from his newspaper career reflect upon some intriguing UFO history, including a serious meeting about the subject hosted and attended by Disney personnel in the company of scientists and engineers. Some Walt Disney personnel and factions appear, at least in the past, to have entertained a curious interest in things far more "out there" than The Mouse and flying elephants.

Towers had little tolerance for UFO-related hoaxes and frauds, though he apparently enjoyed directing his readers' attention to the absurd and controversial. The heated dismissal by NICAP director Donald E. Keyhoe and NICAP's Los Angeles subcommittee of a conference focusing upon "contactees" was hardly unusual, as NICAP had been critical (generally for good reason) from its inception of people claiming outrageous stories of meetings and good times with space aliens. However, when the Barney and Betty Hill UFO abduction story emerged publicly in the sixties, followed by other seemingly credible accounts offered up by terrified witnesses, NICAP and serious researchers began to make a sharp and characteristically viable distinction between contactees' tall tales and disturbing abduction reports.

(Thanks to researcher and author Barry Greenwood for these clippings.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Movie's Music Revisited



Researcher and co-author of the book, Clear Intent, Barry Greenwood continues to discover interesting pieces of history surrounding both "U.F.O." and the people involved with its production, and I'm grateful that he shares his work with us. Today, he contributes another gem I knew nothing about when exploring the 1956 motion picture's background in the seventies.

I've long wondered, attempting even to prod recorded music companies on the issue, why the admirable musical soundtrack for "U.F.O." was never released in an LP or CD anthology. If showbiz folks can get away with consuming an entire disc with music from the movie, "Night of the Living Dead," is it so much more to ask that the beautifully multifaceted composition for an obscure film scored by the accomplished Ernest Gold be re-released or newly performed for commercial sale?

A few years ago, recording artist Andrew Gold -- son of Ernest -- recalled for me that he vaguely remembered his father working on the music for "U.F.O." but he was a very young child at that time and was unable to offer any information. All I knew, even after consultation with a music publishing company, was that the score for the movie was also called "U.F.O."

However, I never dreamed that the score's various movements and cues, both short and long, each had a name. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Greenwood, the pages shown here -- for some reason, these items of United Artists publicity material are stored among a collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society -- allow more of the story to be told.

Immediately apparent on the first page, beyond attributions to the cataloging organization B.M.I., is a reference to Ivar Productions. "U.F.O." was a Greene-Rouse production released through United Artists, but during my earliest inquiries decades ago, the only time I encountered this production co. name arose when I discovered there was a very early videotape (commercially released, I assume) of the movie, and a printed description in some obscure page (not in my collection) listed Ivar Productions. As I recall, and I'm stretching what I think I remember, Ivar had some connection to Ricou Browning of the "Creature From the Black Lagoon" movies. Whatever relationship any of this had with the UFO documentary (I suspect none), I simply do not know.

But aside from that -- how wonderful and logical that key portions of Clarence Greene's "U.F.O." music were marked off with titled orchestral segments. From Capt. Thomas Mantell's death ("Col. Hicks" and "The Wreckage") to the important introduction of Al Chop ("Al Chop") and an eventual historic UFO chase over Washington, D.C., coupled with subsequent official government concern, the cue sheets designate how Ernest Gold's composition (conducted for the film by Emil Newman), created a dramatic mood and musical intrigue for a 1956 documentary motion picture requiring and enhanced by both. Even standing alone, had there been no movie, Gold's work remains a treasure -- yet, curiously undiscovered by the musical soundtrack industry.