Monday, November 24, 2008

In Celebration of. . .Nothing

Well-intentioned though I remain, my promises to start dealing with the "U.F.O." script itself have not materialized. With winter's approach hovering nearby, along with other consuming matters, I might not get into the script for some time. Nevertheless, know that all the "good stuff" from my collection about the movie and its participants is in this blog. Or, to quote a legendary broadcaster (so legendary that I can't remember his name) of years gone by, unsuccessfully trying to put in a good word for some program -- "Don't miss it if you can."

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Movie is Available

The motion picture, "U.F.O." is a rarity even on cable TV anymore. The VHS version was pulled from the commercial market after a brief appearance a few years ago and wasn't around long enough to merit a DVD version. For all intents and purposes, it appears that "U.F.O." is forgotten and relegated to the celluloid junkyard. In recent years, as in past years, I've written the studios about their interest and the movie's status, and utter silence was consistently my response.

For these reasons, watching this now 52-year-old film dwell in obscurity, I think it's fair and a real service to the public that a DVD of the movie is offered at, the official tribute site for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, once the USA's leading civilian UFO organization.

The disc is more than reasonably priced for your donation (apparently, it currently accompanies a second disc which reproduces my original magazine article about the movie, originally published in the seventies) and it must absolutely be noted that all funds received for the DVD are plowed back into NICAP's educational not-for-profit Web site.

You can learn more simply by going to and on the first page click on the tab near the top center that reads "Books and videos for sale" Then scroll down and amongst numerous other offerings the "U.F.O." DVD is featured. The page also provides an e-mail address and a mailing address. PayPal and money orders seem to be the preferred modes of payment.

Original color films of the famous and still unexplained Utah and Montana UFOs featured in this otherwise black-and-white motion picture may alone be worth the small donation requested. Both the movie and the impressive accumulation of UFO evidence documented by Francis Ridge and other dedicated researchers at the historic NICAP site are highly recommended.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Intermission Without Popcorn

No, I haven't added to this movie tribute site yet, but I still wish to remind new readers that I've posted some very interesting letters and documents I received from and about the people involved with the movie. Start at the beginning and read the words of former military and government personnel who worked with the official UFO investigation in the 1950s -- people who saw the evidence personally and realized that UFOs are real. Read the account of a former American Airlines pilot who experienced an incredible UFO sighting. Eventually, I hope to write about script changes, because the completed production featured significant variations that contrast with writer Francis Martin's original story.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Movie Article Chronology

Four articles written by me have been published about "U.F.O." The first appeared in 1977 and the last in 2006. In one form or another, the contents of all articles are based upon information entered into this blog. The four issue covers are displayed here and pertinent details are as follows:

1. " 'UFO' Revisited" was printed in the February, 1977 issue of Official UFO, published by Countrywide Publications, NY, NY, sold at the nation's newsstands and book stores and available also via magazine subscription. Currently, it can be read in its entirety at (recommended because the original photos were eventually included, and two articles can be accessed on one Web page simply by clicking on either magazine cover) or at (no photos, but offers both an English and French language version). See links in the margin to access these Web sites. As mentioned previously, the cover is an abomination because the story about a daughter's abduction by a UFO is total fiction, included by the publisher to raise magazine circulation. Official UFO's early and enviable reputation as a reliable source for UFO information was well on its journey to oblivion by this time.

2. "Review of a Most Remarkable UFO Documentary Film" was printed in the Winter 1977-78 issue of Argosy UFO, published by Popular Publications (parent company of Argosy Magazine), NY, NY, sold at newsstands, book stores and through subscription. This article may also be read in its entirety via the NICAP link. I don't know why the editors settled upon this long and rambling title, for it wasn't my original choice. This issue of Argosy UFO was also its last, following a successful run of several years, because a foreign company purchased Popular Publications and immediately took a hatchet to several companion magazines. Editor Audrey Hunter, truly a gem to work with, had tipped me off about the pending sale, but had no idea what magazines would be cut. Nevertheless, I remain grateful that she published not one, but actually three of my articles in this final issue, each headlined on the cover (re the movie, Presidents & UFOs and the UFO course I taught at a college).

3. " 'Unidentified Flying Objects,' Accidental Epic" appeared in the January, 2006 (Vol. 30, No. 2) edition of the International UFO Reporter, journal of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (Chicago, IL), and I'm eternally grateful to esteemed researchers and editors Jerome Clark and Dr. Mark Rodeghier for the opportunity to present the background of this important motion picture to members of the scientific, professional and curious CUFOS community. My original title for the piece was "Epic Reluctant," which I still prefer, but the stone-cold fact since time began dictates that writers don't make the editorial decisions!

4. "Tom Towers: The Other Al Chop" was published in the August, 2006 (Vol. 30, No. 4) edition of the International UFO Reporter, journal of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (Chicago, IL). Editors Clark and Rodeghier brightened my life by accepting this article, for this was basically the one "lost in the mail" when I sent it and rare visuals (including a great passport photo of Towers as he looked in the mid 1970s) to Saga Magazine's UFO Report some 30 years previously. Space considerations caused Official UFO to cut most of my information about Towers' life when the first article was printed in 1977. Saga wanted to see the piece and the visuals and though I mailed them off in a large and secure package, the parcel seemingly never made it to Saga, and editors declared it must be lost in the mail. I would sooner believe it became lost in the mail room, or at the least absconded with at some point between here and there. Obviously, I was absolutely devastated about the irreplaceable visuals, though Towers was very understanding about the passport photo's loss, and fortunately it wasn't really one of his prized possessions (unlike the KRIM Theater photo, which he worried about persistently until its return).

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Visual Newspaper Ad Layouts

Yesterday's Newspaper

Is a picture worth a thousand. . .moviegoers? Studio publicity agents could write all the advance newspaper articles about "U.F.O." they desired, but there was always a firm realization in the film industry that the movie poster was king. Then, as now, nothing could beat an enticing visual effect. Today, we attract a movie audience in large part with televised commercials, TV reviews and Internet presentations. In 1956, however, despite the availability of TV, radio and magazines, newspaper entertainment pages were an important asset for interesting the public in new motion pictures coming to town. Posted today are samples of the layouts available for newspaper ads regarding the Greene-Rouse movie.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Other Publicity Articles

From the movie press book, these are the remaining articles prepared by the promotions staff at United Artists, all of them intended for newspapers. Remember, in 1956 newspapers reigned supreme from coast to coast. By 2008, many of the nation's largest and most respected newspapers have lost considerable clout, thanks to the Internet and the reluctance of younger readers accustomed to the Web's fast track and brief TV/radio blurbs to spend time wading through newsprint. A shame, really.

The Billing, The Story, The Staff

I found it rather peculiar that the United States press book for "U.F.O." displayed only this brief synopsis of the story (despite other promotional information), while the British press book provided far more detail in its synopsis section; its length, in fact, gave me the opportunity to use and augment it lightly for my second magazine article on the film (printed in Argosy UFO -- see note in margin for my two early articles available for viewing via one link, which takes you to the Web site).

Then again, maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Researcher Gary Mangiacopra, exceptionally knowledgeable about movies and the technical processing of film itself, recently astonished me with a revelation that the British version of the 1953 science fiction movie, "Invaders From Mars," contained something the U.S. version lacked. There's a scene in this fictional movie, one of the better sci-fi films of the 1950s, where a scientist actually discusses with other characters the leading United States UFO incidents of the day, including Capt. Mantell's death, and photos of the famous "Lubbock Lights" and other supposedly real UFOs are prominently posted on the wall. In the version released to American theaters, all of this is missing! Now that both versions are available on DVD, the amazing comparison can easily be made.

For all the freedoms enjoyed by Americans, it's disturbing how many are apparently not. Who's in charge here? Or maybe, as per the original story title upon which the movie, "The Thing" was based, we should ask: "Who Goes There?"

Show and Tell

Another page of the "U.F.O." press book featured this blurb for audiovisual ads. While my meager collection regarding the film lacks numerous items, I always particularly regretted my inability to locate the 78 r.p.m. record, the radio spots and the slides and telops mentioned. Unlike posters, lobby cards and 8" x 10" photos, I suspect those audiovisual items weren't considered "keepers" in their time and, at any rate, most of them probably fell victim to continuous play (worn out), return to and destruction by distributors, and TV/radio station management and employees who believed in discarding promotional material once it became irrelevant and a storage nuisance.

Other Attempts to Promote the Film

The press book offered theaters a variety of promotional material. The displays shown here on one scan include both a montage of UFO-related newspaper articles and studio artwork suggesting (in the most dramatic and ultimately irresponsible way possible) what may have caused the tragic death of Captain Thomas Mantell during a UFO pursuit. As I've tried to make clear throughout our cinematic journey, the motion picture's minimal implementation of dramatic effect and complete absence of visualized "saucers" (except for the objects seen briefly in the Utah and Montana films) simply didn't stand up to the assumptions and promises distributed via United Artists' promotional items. We should sparingly use the word, "lackluster" but, unfortunately, Clarence Greene's almost one-track-mind obsession with truth and documentation over publicly implied sensationalism doomed the motion picture's opportunity for widespread audience appeal. It's truly a shame that the film's stature as an historical masterpiece has gone unappreciated by nearly everybody except the UFO researchers who instantly comprehended its importance.

A hasty relegation of "U.F.O." to the trash heap of fifties science fiction film canisters and TV channels interested only in filling time between commercials was an injustice still unrealized by motion picture critics and historians -- primarily because they know little or nothing about the incredible events which actually transpired during the U.S. government's early years of UFO investigations. The Library of Congress and the American Film Institute, in my opinion, really should embrace and honor this movie as it has few others.

The Early Word

Advance screenings of "U.F.O." provided a few news clippings with titles appropriate for the movie press book.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Attention Theater Owners

Well, I do give United Artists credit for setting up a poll with the reasonable yes-or-no statement, "I believe flying saucers actually exist," instead of using the absurdly gut-wrenching version, do you believe in flying saucers? I do wonder how well the poll gimmick worked around the country, but I've no information on the results.

With those innocent years of the fifties long gone, can you imagine in 2008 trying to get away with the "paper glider" stunt? Attempting to distribute anything near playgrounds and schools would probably get you interrogated or arrested, and if you dared to put a glider inside a parked car, chances are so-so that the driver returning to his vehicle would be packing heat and you'd be shot down on the street. And to think some of you anticipated (sigh. . .) that we'd all be part of one world, civilized and living peaceably on Mars by now. Dream the dream. . .

The Publicity Grinders

Motion picture publicity kits invariably contain whatever informative tidbits the studios feel will draw that elusive audience into theaters. Here are several other "pre-fab" newspaper articles from the "U.F.O." press book, highlighting Tom Towers, director Winson Jones and other participants.

For Newspaper Entertainment Editors

The "U.F.O." press book (pressbook as one word is preferable, but spell-checking software routinely rejects the term) offered a number of articles already printed in newspaper format for entertainment editors to feature in advance of the film's first showing. Additionally, it wasn't unreasonable to expect that nobody from local newspapers would actually be dispatched to see the movie, so numerous other formatted articles were available. All the editors needed to do was apply the desired articles to the daily printing process and -- Voila! -- instant reviews and fact pieces appeared that seemed to be generated locally. Here's one pre-fabricated "feature article" all dressed up with no place to go, except anywhere and everywhere in America, per any editor's whim.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brief Appearance

Here's a better view of the "U.F.O." video box, this time including its reverse side. As mentioned previously, the videotape from MGM Home Video hit the market in 2000, but disappeared from the shelves about two years later. It was never offered in DVD format. The box hype surpassed some of the original publicity for pure absurdity: "The film the government doesn't want you to see" turned out to be the film a potential audience didn't rush to see. In 1956, they just didn't get it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not Not Not!

Good grief, even the United Artists press book asserts that Capt. Ruppelt (see color photo) played his own part in "U.F.O." Despite my ultimate error in stating that Ruppelt played himself, even I knew back in the sixties that the actor depicted in this black and white photo wasn't Ruppelt. As you've seen in a recent blog entry, Ruppelt was played by actor Robert Phillips (see previous photo), and this man is definitely neither Ruppelt nor Phillips. Confused?

The Main Attraction: Actual UFO Films

If movie posters showing the frightened face of a pilot didn't draw viewers into the theater, the proclamation that two previously unseen color films of UFOs, deemed unexplained by government authorities, had been made public certainly worked the magic.

Today's visuals include two articles about the Montana (Nicholas Mariana) and Utah (Delbert C. Newhouse) films, acquired directly from the "U.F.O." press book. Color pictures from lobby card number one depict Newhouse in his Navy uniform and businessman Mariana. The black and white photo is an 8" x 10" promotional glossy print showing Mariana himself as he is questioned about his UFO film by an actor portraying an Air Force officer. The "articles" are standard items issued by movie studios, intended to be printed directly on newspaper entertainment pages once theater names, locations, etc. are added on a local basis.

One small detail not disclosed in either the movie or its publicity efforts was the admission by both Newhouse and Mariana that the best frames of their films were missing when returned by the government, and this has been discussed in UFO literature of later years. Perhaps this isn't surprising, for UFO history is sprinkled with instances of witnesses with UFO films and photos making similar claims. A significant number involve military personnel.
Additional Note: While making a UFO documentary for Canada's History Channel a few months ago, Canadian producer David Cherniack visited the United States and was intent upon interviewing Delbert Newhouse, who was then of an advanced age and confined to a nursing home. Unfortunately, incredibly, Mr. Newhouse died just hours before the production crew arrived.

The Credits Sheet

This little notepad-size sheet was affixed with tape to the back of an 8" x 10" glossy photo from the movie. Removing it would probably damage the photo, so it remains in place. Its only apparent purpose was to list major motion picture credits, and I assume many hundreds or thousands were created to augment other publicity items -- such as miscellaneous glossy photos distributed to the media.

Greene's Green Glitter

Mediocre scanning capabilities prevent me from offering this document in two scans instead of four, but it's all here. I simply emphasized "UFO Means Business" in a fifth scan to highlight the question asked on the first page: What Does UFO Mean?

Look at the artwork and behold the text. Would you expect a war with aliens in deep space, or a UFO documentary? Yes, I know what the words say, but these outrageous illustrations were the catalyst inviting the (particularly) theater owners and audience to anticipate considerably more spine-tingling entertainment than they received. The trouble with movies in those years was that people wanted films to make them laugh, cry, be scared and/or just take their minds off their own lives for a while -- but in a post World War II era, still on edge with hostilities in Korea, moviegoers weren't ready for a celluloid think tank exemplified by emotionless characters mouthing words and demonstrating very little action.

In my opinion, if not for two factors -- the impressive Montana and Utah UFO films, and Ernest Gold's captivating musical score, conducted by Emil Newman -- "U.F.O." would have sunk like a rock, its chances for reincarnation even on late-night television questionable. Don't get me wrong, I love the film, absolutely, and most UFO researchers familiar with history feel much the same, but when you consider the audience and its unfamiliarity with the subject, it isn't hard to figure out why the movie lost big at the box office, and those all-important return visits via word-of-mouth recommendations weren't happening.

We might speculate, considering all the additional information coming to light over the decades about the importance of UFO incidents in the forties and fifties, what a new production crew could do with a remake of "U.F.O." Tom Towers, however, would surely wish to remind the producers -- keep the facts, but don't forget to add a little "hokum."

The Affidavit

United Artists' publicity department must have worked overtime to get the word out about "U.F.O." In April of 1956, a scant month before the movie's release, producers Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse signed a sworn statement affirming the movie's authenticity, and the resulting affidavit was rushed into advertisement format (see).

Maybe it's worth noting at this point that Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse produced some well-received movies during their career, listed prominently via Internet movie sites. If you ever saw the (original) movie, "D.O.A." starring Edmund O'Brien, another black and white fifties release, maybe you noticed that the screen writers were Greene and Rouse, probably just on the verge of forming their own production company. Greene's former association with the industry included working with Popkin Productions, which produced the important movie, "The Well" in 1951 (Greene had told Tom Towers he would have been perfect for the key role of sheriff in this film about racial tensions in a small town).

It's rather obvious that the extraordinary publicity campaign preceding the motion picture's national opening reflected far more excitement and glare than "U.F.O." itself, and that tremendous build-up seemed almost guaranteed to precipitate a huge yawn from members of the audience who anticipated more. Documentary or not, Greene and his director could logically have bent a little more toward the dramatic effect that Al Chop and Tom Towers craved from the start. But Greene wouldn't budge. The affidavit and other publicity vehicles subsequently failed to impress audience members who expected aliens and saucers, not merely huffy historical recreations, to leap threateningly from the screen and into their popcorn bags.

Nevertheless, one can't help thinking simultaneously of William Castle and the fifties gimmicks he employed to attract audiences into the theater to see his own scary movies, features such as "The House on Haunted Hill" (a fake skeleton suspended in the air would fly over the audience), "Macabre" (the promise of a life insurance benefit paid to the family if anybody died of cardiac stress while watching) and "The Tingler" (some theater seats were equipped to give miscellaneous audience members a mild electrical sensation during frightening scenes). I've gathered these tidbits about Castle from memory, so if any film buffs are in a mood to correct me, please feel free.

While the affidavit looked great, this wasn't the only version. When I was seeking and purchasing publicity material in the sixties, one seller somewhere in the country kindly threw in an unexpected brochure, a four-page movie ad printed in green and black that I never saw anywhere else. It boasted not only the affidavit, but also played up the artwork and movie to the point that one would almost expect a fifties sci-fi flick instead of the documentary Clarence Greene painstakingly wished to portray. The routine movie posters were suggestive and over-hyped enough, but this additional item pushed the sensationalism envelope to the max -- and we'll feature it in the next blog entry.

The Scientist's Advice

Albert M. Chop (originally, so it seems, Mathew Albert Chop, according to Richard Hall and obituary information that emerged after Mr. Chop's death) started out as a confirmed skeptic when first exposed to UFO cases in his government position. However, over time the evidence "crystalized" (the word used in "U.F.O." narration) until he could only conclude that UFOs were real with intelligence behind their identity.

UFO incidents alone weren't the impetus for his change of mind. He also met military people and members of the scientific community on a regular basis who influenced his thinking significantly. In this scene from the movie, based upon a true event, a highly skeptical Chop (Tom Towers) is asked by a top scientist what is new regarding "flying saucers." When Chop dismisses the question, he is advised, if not chided, by the scientist (portrayed by William Solomon) that we must keep our minds open to all possibilities.

Robert Phillips: The Ruppelt Factor

In the mid-seventies, I came to the very wrong conclusion that Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt played his own role in "U.F.O." In fact, until I recently found a 30-year-old letter from Al Chop, I had forgotten that Al's erroneous confirmation that Ruppelt played himself weighed heavily on my assertion that this was the case. In recent years, thanks to the tireless work of researchers such as Wendy Connors (Faded Discs) and the availability of the Internet, it became apparent that Ruppelt was portrayed by another. Unfortunately, my early magazine article put the false information into print for all time.

Researcher Barry Greenwood has kindly provided information about Ed Ruppelt's "double." His role was filled by actor Robert Phillips (see photo, said to be either from CBS-TV or Paramount Pictures, depicting him in Star Trek's "The Menagerie" episode), and Greenwood recently updated Phillips's site at It is interesting to note that, unlike most of the "actors" in the movie, who were actually off-duty Los Angeles law enforcement personnel, Phillips was a professional actor as well as an L.A. policeman. Significant details: Phillips was born on April 10, 1925 in Chicago, was six feet in height and played pro football for both the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears. As a Marine, he taught swimming and self-defense.

Phillips served as bodyguard for Adlai Stevenson when he was governor, and worked undercover for the L.A.P.D. And who would have guessed that his experience as a cop (lieutenant) provided the framework for "Tightrope," the popular TV show starring Mike Connors? Phillips also put out a book during his career, entitled Sixty-One Ways to End an Argument.

One glaring discrepancy, by the way, in "U.F.O." occurs as Ruppelt (Phillips) explains to Al Chop (Towers) how a planet shining brightly in the sky was responsible for a UFO sighting. The Ruppelt character states the incident happened on December 1, 1952 -- but that date would actually be far in the future, because not even the July, 1952 UFO events over Washington, D.C. had occurred at this point in the motion picture script. Just another one of those things. . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tom Towers: The Final Note

The motion picture, "U.F.O." apparently didn't significantly advance for Tom Towers the prominence already demonstrated in his long career as a journalist and champion for noise abatement at California airports, but the kind of fame that surrounded him didn't create a pompous celebrity, either. From everything I learned, Towers was liked and respected by his associates, and evidently not forgotten at the L.A. Dept. of Airports. When I sent a spur-of-the-moment e-mail to LAX about three years ago, inquiring of his whereabouts after so many years, I actually received a prompt response from a representative who informed me not only that Tom was deceased, but who also included an approximate year of death.

Frankly, I was both surprised and gratified that Tom would continue to correspond with me on occasion for over two years, months after the Official UFO and Argosy UFO articles on the film had been published.

His brief note (see) of April 28, 1978, to my knowledge, was the last I ever received from him. The "new UFO pix" to which he refers was NBC-TV's debut of producer/actor Jack Webb's series, "Project UFO," based (more or less) on Project Blue Book files. If you've never seen this short-lived (put out of its and our misery during its second season, as I recall) dramatic series, simply picture in your mind Jack Webb's TV show, "Dragnet" and then transpose Joe Friday and his partner Frank into a time warp, where they wear Air Force blues as members of Project Blue Book -- and instead of questioning victims and chasing criminals, they search fruitlessly for elusive UFOs based mostly upon the least appealing UFO cases on record.

Anyway, "Project UFO" was the subject of Towers' note. From the start, he realized the value in adding "hokum" to make the show "interesting" -- a direct comment in reference to the spice and drama he believed Clarence Greene should have injected into his movie.

I answered Tom's note on May 18, 1978, offered a few comments about Jack Webb's new series and jokingly suggested that he approach the producers about recreating his role as Al Chop for the show.

By coincidence, this was also a time when Central New York was experiencing an impressive wave of UFO sightings involving witnesses of reputable caliber, and I was investigating many of them for various UFO organizations (I covered this more thoroughly in my main UFO blog, see link in the margin). I enclosed a newspaper clipping for Tom regarding the situation, and also mentioned a profound lack of cooperation from local government and law enforcement officials in getting the facts. Even the National Enquirer had sent reporters to Syracuse because the UFO reports provided highly interesting aspects, including apparent electrical interference and close encounters.

Nevertheless, this final letter to Los Angeles remained unanswered for reasons unknown, as my correspondence with Tom Towers had at last reached the end of a long and fondly appreciated trail.