Wednesday, August 5, 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 14)

UFOs move into Washington's summer skies for the first time . The script sets the stage for Al Chop's most hectic moments with the press so far, but he's fast asleep at home. The scene: "Chop, breathing deeply, is sound asleep. There are twin beds; one is nearly made up. In the other, with the bedclothes twisted around him and the pillow rolled into a small ball, is Chop." As this sight hits the movie screen, narration by Chop (Towers) explains that the Newhouse film was only the "overture," and that a few minutes before 1:00 a.m. on July 20, 1952, unknowns moved in for the first time over the nation's capitol. Unlike the movie, the script depicts Chop's wife bringing a UFO-headlined newspaper to her sleeping husband in the company of their son and daughter, who are noticeably absent as this brief dramatic scene plays out.

Once Chop leaps out of bed, dresses and reaches his office in the public information area, Francis Martin's script conveys a far more chaotic scene than the audience observes. Indeed, as a mob of inquisitive reporters begs for answers, a throng of military officers shuffle in and out of Maj. Fournet's office in the back. Telephones ring non-stop, mailbags are brought in and piled behind Chop's desk, and all of this happens as he attempts to deal with an untidy stack of telegrams, made even more unmanageable as Western Union messengers arrive intermittently with more telegrams demanding answers.

Sometime after the script's initial draft, reference to the Washington Daily News interview with the Civil Aeronautics Administration 's senior air traffic controller, Harry G. Barnes, was included with a fascinating quote from Barnes himself regarding ten objects moving above Washington that "were not ordinary aircraft."

A week later, UFOs return to D.C., and Chop frantically races to his office again on the evening of July 26. Since the previous week's excitement, script and movie generally agree, but one significant change occurs during Chop's encounter with a LIFE Magazine reporter and photographer. When one announces in the movie that they're going over his head, Chop tells them to call Col. Searles at "Metropolitan eight, nine-eight, nine-eight." However, the script, perhaps allowing us a genuine phone number, depicts Chop responding, "Colonel Dick Searles. You can reach him at Plaza five-two-seven-oh-two."

Chop reaches the radar room and joins a half dozen other officials. The radar scope appears a little different in the script, where 14 plastic markers with question marks on them are placed behind each "blip," and when a blip moves the marker is likewise placed in a new position. An aircraft designated Flight 316 has its own marker, and it's obvious that markers identifying unknown blips are being moved around much faster than the marker for Flight 316. In the movie, there are no question marks, nor references to them.