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.