More so than any other medium, cinema has shaped our expectations of potential alien life and visitation. From The Day the Earth Stood Still and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to Battleship, Prometheus, and beyond, our hopes and fears of alien contact have been fuelled by the silver screen. But what messages does Hollywood impart to us about our possible otherworldly neighbours, from where do UFO movies draw their inspiration, and what other factors – cultural or conspiratorial – might influence their production and content? Silver Screen Saucers is a timely and revealing examination of the interplay between Hollywood’s UFO movies and the UFO phenomenon itself, from 1950 to present day.
The book grants the reader a rare, close-up examination of the DNA that builds our perceptions of the UFO mystery. One strand of this DNA weaves real events, stories, and people from the historical record of UFOlogy, while the other spins and twists with the film and TV products they have inspired. With our alien dreams and nightmares now more fully visualized onscreen than ever before, Silver Screen Saucers asks the question: what does it all mean? Are all UFO stories just fever dreams from LA screenwriters, or are they sprung from something more tangible?
From interviews with screenwriters and directors whose visions have been shaped by their lifelong UFO obsessions; to Presidents talking UFOs with Hollywood heavyweights; to CIA and Pentagon manipulation of UFO-themed productions; to movie stars and producers being stalked by real Men in Black, Silver Screen Saucers provides fresh perspective on the frequently debated but little understood subject of UFOs & Hollywood.
FOREWORD BY BRYCE ZABEL
CHAPTER ONE: SETTING THE SCENE
CHAPTER TWO: A HOLLYWOOD UFO CONSPIRACY?
CHAPTER THREE: DIE. DIE.
CHAPTER FOUR: WE COME IN PEACE
CHAPTER FIVE: BREAKING THROUGH
CHAPTER SIX: WHEN GODS WALKED AMONG US
CHAPTER SEVEN: NEED TO KNOW
CONCLUSION: UFOS AND HYPERREALITY
About the author
Robbie Graham has been interviewed about UFOs and the politics of Hollywood for BBC Radio, Coast to Coast AM, Canal+ TV and Vanity Fair, among others. His articles have appeared in a variety of publications including The Guardian, New Statesman, Filmfax, Fortean Times, and the peer-reviewed journal of North American Studies, 49th Parallel. He holds an MA with Distinction in Cinema Studies from the University of Bristol. As a professional educator, Robbie has designed and delivered Film and Media courses at multiple learning levels at Stafford College and the University of Bristol.
Robbie is the editor of http://www.silverscreensaucers.uk
SETTING THE SCENE
“Hollywood fills the gaps in our knowledge of the world”
– Ken Russell
~ THE SILVER SCREEN ~
In the years 1895 and 1896, crowds in several French cities gathered to witness a new technological marvel. Unsure of what was about unfold, they were startled by the sudden appearance of a hulking, steam-spewing locomotive hurtling directly toward them. Fearing for their lives, men, women, and children scrambled desperately for safety, their screams piercing the air. So goes the popular accounting of what transpired at the earliest screenings of one of history’s first motion pictures: Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat. This primitive movie –comprised of one fifty-second static shot– showed the arrival of a train at a station. Nothing more. The crowds, of course, were cinemagoers, and the technological marvel was cinema itself – the miracle of moving pictures. The directors of this terrifying movie, the legendary Lumière brothers, had placed their camera on the platform at such an angle as to create the illusion that the train was on a collision course with the viewer. It was simple, but effective.
Fast-forward some eleven decades to 2009 when, following the release of James Cameron’s epic 3D adventure Avatar, many cinemagoers became afflicted with a cinematically induced melancholy that cultural commentators have since referred to as “post-Avatar depression.” Cameron’s special effects extravaganza was so immersive, its lush alien world of Pandora so vividly detailed and appealing, that men and women from all walks of life spiralled into a state of despair within days or even hours after having watched the movie. Real life, it seemed, could not hold a candle to Cameron’s extraterrestrial fantasy.
Within a month of Avatar’s theatrical release a fan site dedicated to the movie, ‘Avatar Forums,’ had generated more than 1,000 posts under a topic thread titled “Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible.” The topic became so popular that the forum’s administrator was forced to create a second thread so people could continue to share their feelings about the movie in what became a sort of virtual group therapy. One forum member named ‘Mike’ posted:
Ever since I went to see Avatar I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi [the movie’s aliens] made me want to be one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it… I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and that everything is the same as in Avatar.
Mike’s reaction to Avatar was extreme, but it was not unique. A post by forum user Ivar Hill also expressed an obsessive relationship with the movie: “When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed… gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning. It just seems so… meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep… doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”
The movie’s 3-D performance capture and CGI effects were so lifelike that, for the 162 minutes of its running time, viewers became virtual inhabitants of Pandora. When the credits rolled, separation anxiety kicked in.
Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat and Avatar are testaments, past and present, to the tangible power of cinema. Even in today’s world of iPads and TV on demand, cinema remains a wondrous –almost magical– medium. Its continued popularity after over a century should come as little surprise, however, because what cinema offers that our PCs, Macs, tablet devices, and even our televisions do not is an expansive communal experience – the chance to gather in a public space with dozens or sometimes hundreds of other human beings, all of whom are strangers to one another, but who, for ninety minutes at least, are united on an emotional journey.
There is something undeniably special about sitting in a darkened cinema and being able to hear a pin drop as ‘they’ finally kiss in a romance, as a mystery finally unravels in a crime thriller, or as that breathless yet inevitable decision is made in an action movie: red wire or blue wire? The silence that falls over a movie theatre like a blanket in these moments is confirmation to all of us present that we are not so dissimilar after all; that we all experience love, fear, and hope, and that we all share a desire to experience these emotions in a communal environment, to reach out to our brothers and sisters, albeit from the confines of our cinema seats, enveloped in darkness, and say: “I feel it, too.”
A magic window
In his book In the Blink of An Eye, Oscar-winning sound-designer and editor Walter Murch (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) likens the act of cinemagoing to passing though a magic window: “With a theatrical film, particularly one in which the audience is fully engaged, the screen is not a surface, it is a magic window, sort of a looking glass through which your whole body passes and becomes engaged in the action with the characters on the screen. If you really like a film, you’re not aware that you are sitting in a cinema watching a movie. Your responses are very different than they would be with television. Television is a ‘look-at’ medium, while cinema is a ‘look-into’ medium.”
Philosophy professor Colin McGinn of the University of Miami is similarly intrigued by the enduring appeal of cinema, so much so that he has written an entire book on the subject. The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact poses hundreds of questions about the essence of the spell movies cast upon us, but ultimately fails in its quest to provide a single satisfactory answer – which isn’t to say it doesn’t come close and provide much food for thought.
Like Walter Murch, McGinn considers cinema a ‘look-into’ medium, referring to the movie screen as a window-like structure: “It appears as a bright window on a dark wall, and through it we can be the spectators of an entire new world. Yet, it is a one-way window, since no one on the other side can see us as we drink them in with our eyes.”
McGinn also observes that movie-watching and TV-watching are less alike than one might assume: “There remains a significant point of difference between the two types of screen [cinema and TV], arising simply from the physical nature of the TV screen. For the TV itself –a piece of rectangular glass sitting in front of the viewer– is an object that can all too easily become a visual surface in its own right, as when light from the window or a lamp falls across its glassy face… We can never quite make a TV screen go away. We are always looking at a bulky piece of hardware that is on the brink of gaining our attention. The TV set is uncomfortably close to being a piece of furniture – not an impalpable window onto another world.”
Television, then, despite its ability to ‘beam’ directly into our homes twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, cannot match the immersive power of cinema. And, despite having tremendous reach, in terms of its physical dimensions TV is dwarfed by the cinema screen. This gargantuan cinematic ‘window’ swallows our immediate physical environment and invites us –indeed, pulls us– into another world. It is only as the credits finally role and the houselights fade-up that our own world floods back to us. This is not to say that TV is not a remarkably powerful medium, but merely that it lacks cinema’s essential mystical ability to completely detach us from our physical environment.
Still, regardless of the medium through which it is screened, a movie is a movie, and movies are imbued with the power to impact our reality and transport us to other realms of perception. Perhaps I am over-complicating the matter. Perhaps the appeal of movies is simpler and more primal. Perhaps, as the great director Martin Scorsese has suggested, it stems from our subconscious desire “to share a common memory.” Memory, as it happens, is of particular interest to the author of this book – what we remember about the movies we see, where and how dominantly those memories reside in the collective experience of our lives, and, crucially, how easily we’re able to separate our cinematic memories from our everyday reality.
~ THE SAUCERS ~
Of course, this book is also about UFOs. One of the most compelling mysteries of all time, Unidentified Flying Objects have been reported in Earth’s skies dating back to the biblical age (see Chapter Six). Even before written records began, prehistoric cave paintings and petroglyphs from every continent were depicting strange disc-shaped objects and beings with bulbous heads and large black eyes. Some of these beings appear to be wearing clothing resembling our astronauts’ space suits, complete with helmets and antennae.
The first sightings in the modern era of what we now refer to as “UFOs” were reported by Air Force pilots during the Second World War when anomalous balls of light and disc and cigar-shaped objects were sighted so frequently keeping pace with planes that the US military even coined a name for the phenomena: “Foo Fighters.” It was not until after the war had ended, however, that UFOs lodged themselves firmly and forever into the popular consciousness and that UFO secrecy began to metastasize behind the most impenetrable layers of America’s national security state.
The US government’s interest in UFOs dates back to the summer of 1947 when America’s national security apparatus was besieged by hundreds of reports from concerned citizens and military personnel of what appeared to be metallic disc-shaped objects traversing the nation’s skies, sometimes in formation and often at impossible speeds. On June 24, private aviator and businessman Kenneth Arnold reported seeing a chain of nine unusual objects over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. He described the objects’ movement as being “like a saucer if you skip it across the water,” inspiring the press to dub the mystery objects “flying saucers.” Many hundreds of saucer sightings were reported worldwide in the months to follow.
In 1948 the US Air Force produced its Top Secret and highly controversial “Estimate of the Situation,” an official report concluding flying saucers to be “interplanetary” in origin. Other factions within the Air Force, however, favoured the more palatable idea that the saucers were the product of technological innovations in the Soviet Union. Either way, secrecy regarding the issue was of paramount importance as the question of whether the objects were physically real had already been affirmatively answered in the minds of America’s military leaders. In a once secret letter to Air Force Headquarters dated 23 September 1947, General Nathan Twining, head of Air Materiel Command (AMC), stated that flying saucers were “real and not visionary or fictitious,” that they had “metallic or light reflecting surface[s],” were “circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top,” and were sometimes sighted in “well-kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects.” In a previously Top Secret Canadian government document dating from 1950, Wilbert Smith –head of the Canadian government’s UFO research project, Magnet– noted of UFOs that “The matter is the most highly classified subject in the United States government, rating higher even than the H-bomb.”
Today, numerous governments worldwide maintain dedicated and costly UFO study projects – collating and often investigating what collectively amount to thousands of UFO sighting reports made annually to authorities. In South America alone, the governments of Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Chile, and Brazil either operate UFO investigations units or actively collect UFO sighting reports through their militaries. Other governments, including those of France, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada, and Russia, have in recent years released to the public thousands of pages of previously classified UFO files.
The UK government has engaged with its citizenry through a process which has seen the release of thousands of previously classified UFO files through the National Archives. According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), UFOs (or UAPs –Unidentified Aerial Phenomena– as the MoD refers to them) “certainly exist,” but are “still barely understood.” In a formerly secret 400-page assessment of the UFO phenomenon released in 2006 under the Freedom of Information Act, the UK Defence Intelligence Staff acknowledged that: “The phenomena occur on a daily, world-wide basis… That UAP exist is indisputable. Credited with the ability to hover, land, take-off, accelerate to exceptional velocities and vanish, they can reportedly alter their direction of flight suddenly and clearly can exhibit aerodynamic characteristics well beyond those of any known aircraft or missile – either manned or unmanned.” The report also notes that “attempts by other nations to intercept the unexplained objects, which can clearly change position faster than an aircraft, have reportedly already caused fatalities,” and warns that, with the increasing density of UAP reports in the UK air defence region, “a small possibility may exist… of a head-on encounter with a UAP.”
There appears, then, to be a broad consensus among the governments cited above: UFOs are objectively real, albeit currently not fully understood by science. They are worthy, at best, of focused study, and, at the very least, of sustained monitoring in the interests of aviation safety and national security.
This book takes its cue from officialdom: that UFOs –regardless of their precise nature and origin– are objectively real. Moreover, it works from the logic that at least some UFOs are the product of non-terrestrial intelligences and that various governments –or unaccountable military and intelligence groups within them– are well aware of this fact. Let us address this preceding sentence in two parts. First, why should we assume some UFOs are otherworldly in nature?
We are not alone
In April 2015, NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan announced her conviction that signs of primitive alien life will be discovered within just ten years from now. “We know where to look. We know how to look,” she said while speaking at a panel discussion broadcast on Nasa TV. “In most cases we have the technology and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”
Stofan was discussing the discovery of rudimentary alien lifeforms. But renowned theoretical physicist Professor Mickio Kaku goes considerably further in his suggestion that alien life may already be visiting us and that some UFOs could indeed be extraterrestrial spacecraft. According to Kaku, considering the age of the universe (13.75 billion years), many if not most extraterrestrial civilizations will be technologically thousands or even millions of years more advanced than our own (ours is so young it barely registers on the cosmic timeline). If such civilizations exist, certain physicists, including Kaku, consider it likely that they will have developed hyperspatial technologies that enable their spacecraft to circumvent the light speed barrier, thereby opening the gates for interstellar travel.
The popular assumption in the UFO community is that true UFOs are extraterrestrial vehicles – an assumption undoubtedly reinforced by Hollywood, which prefers a simplistic approach. However, while the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) is appealing on many levels, some have argued that it fails to account for all aspects of UFO phenomena as reported by witnesses. Certainly it has been my own experience that, the closer one looks at UFOs, the harder it becomes to reconcile the phenomenon solely with visits from outer space. Indeed, in puzzling amount of cases, the phenomenon seems to tailor its manifestations to the expectations of the individual perceiver based on spiritual or ideological values. Extraterrestrial intelligences may very play some role in all of this, but it would be a mistake to consider ETs as a definitive solution to the UFO riddle.
Still, the ETH has considerable merit on the face of it. Extraterrestrial life in primitive forms almost certainly exists. If it exists, then the laws of evolution dictate that extraterrestrial intelligences far in advance of our own probably exist. As will be shown in this book, UFOs in the form of structured craft exhibiting performance characteristics well beyond Earth’s most advanced technologies definitely exist and have been studied and (reluctantly) acknowledged by governments around the world. It seems not unreasonable, then, to suggest that at least some UFOs may be of extraterrestrial origin, despite official assertions to the contrary.
As for my suggestion that various governments or ‘rogue’ military and intelligence groups within them are quietly aware of the non-human nature of UFOs, this is a logic based not on Hollywood movies or TV shows such as Men In Black or The X-Files, but on tens-of-thousands of pages of declassified government documentation which, collectively, paints a surprisingly clear (though certainly not explicit) picture of a decidedly unearthly phenomenon that for over six decades has held, vice-like, the attention of the powers that be – not only in the United States, but around the world.
The real X-Files: UFOs and officialdom
On 31 January, 1949, the FBI issued a memo on UFOs entitled “Protection of Vital Installations.” The classified document was sent to the Army’s G-2, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The memo reveals that a meeting between these authorities had recently taken place concerning UFOs, and states that “the matter of ‘Unidentified Aircraft’ or ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,’ otherwise known as ‘Flying Discs,’ ‘Flying Saucers,’ and ‘Balls of Fire,’ is considered top secret by intelligence officers of both the Army and the Air Forces.” The FBI document catalogues a list of incursions by unknown objects into restricted airspace surrounding the Atomic Energy Commission’s highly sensitive research installation at Los Alamos, New Mexico, throughout December 1948 and into early 1949.
The memo goes on to explain that “the unidentified phenomena travel at the rate of speed estimated at a minimum of three miles per second and a maximum of twelve miles per second, or a mean calculated speed of seven and one-half miles per second, or 27,000 miles per hour.” Needless to say, such speeds are well beyond the capacity of any terrestrial aircraft of the 21st Century, never mind the 20th. Even more eye-popping are the memo’s statements that “on two separate occasions a definite vertical change in path was indicated,” and that the appearance of the objects was “round in a point of light with a definite area to the light’s source.” Some of the lights were “a diamond shape,” while others were “elongated.”
It should noted that this memo came at a time when the US government was insisting to the public that flying saucers were of no defence significance – that all UFOs could be explained away either as conventional aircraft, hallucinations, misidentifications of natural phenomena, or outright hoaxes. And yet, as the document makes clear, behind the scenes, the phenomenon was deemed to be of extreme defence significance and considered “top secret.”
Almost four years later, on 2 December, 1952, another jaw-dropping UFO-related document was produced, not by the FBI, but the by CIA. In a secret memo to CIA Director General Walter Bedell Smith, the Agency’s Director of Scientific Intelligence, H. Marshall Chadwell, wrote of UFOs: “At this time, the reports of incidents convince us that there is something going on that must have immediate attention…. Sightings of unexplained objects at great altitudes and travelling at high speeds in the vicinity of major U.S. defense installations are of such nature that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or known types of aerial vehicles.”
In other words, in the absence of other satisfactory explanations, these objects were, in all likelihood, intelligently controlled craft not belonging to the United States government, nor, presumably, to any other terrestrial power. Reading between the lines, it seems that Chadwell was seriously considering the possibility that these objects were of non-terrestrial origin, but knew better than to state so explicitly in official documentation. Such discussions are better held in a quiet office, face-to-face.
To this day – for reasons outlined below and in the chapters to follow– the United States government remains reluctant to publicly state the obvious where UFOs are concerned. Other governments, however, have been relatively vocal about the phenomenon, and are becoming more so with each passing year.
South American officials in particular have been especially forthright regarding military encounters with UFOs. Speaking on the direct authority of the President of Equador Rafael Correa, Colonel Wilson Salgado of the Ecuadorian Air Force stated in an interview for the 2010 documentary UFOs in South America: Disclosure Has Begun: “The information we have available – not just our information, but also that coming from abroad, in particular the United States – makes me confident that we are dealing with… Unidentified Flying Objects. In real terms, these are extraterrestrial objects, and I’m sure of it. We share the universe with other beings.”
More recently, In February 2012, Colonel Ariel Sanchez, head of the Uruguayan Air Force’s Commission for the Reception and Investigation of UFO Reports (known as “Cridovni”), told American journalist Billy Cox of the Sarasota Herald Tribune: I believe that Uruguay, as well as Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and, of course, Brazil, all have declassified only the smallest part of their files.” Sanchez said that the UFO information thus far released by these governments is but “the tip of a huge iceberg.”
Some of the most remarkable statements from military officers on UFOs have come from France – a country in which these phenomena been actively investigated at an official level since 1977. In 1999, the Institute of Higher Studies for National Defence –a military think tank– prepared a ninety-page report detailing the results of an independent study on UFOs. The white paper, now commonly referred to as The COMETA Report, was compiled by a group of thirteen retired top-tier generals, admirals, and government scientists (including the former head of the French Tactical Air Force, General Bernard Norlain, and the former head of CNES [the French equivalent of NASA]), Andre Lebeau. The report documented the existence of unidentified flying objects and their implications for national security. Copies were received by President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. The report concluded that for a small percentage of UFO sightings the extraterrestrial hypothesis was valid. It stated that some UFOs represent “completely unknown flying machines with exceptional performances that are guided by natural or artificial intelligence” and noted that, although the extraterrestrial hypothesis “has not been categorically proven… strong presumptions exist in its favour.” The report then goes on to consider in detail the likely consequences of open extraterrestrial contact for politics, science and religion.
Concerning the US government’s historical UFO research, the COMETA report states: “It is clear that the Pentagon has had, and probably still has, the greatest interest in concealing, as best it can, all of this research, which may, over time, cause the United States to hold a position of great supremacy over terrestrial adversaries, while giving it a considerable response capacity against a possible threat coming from space. Within this context, it is impossible for them to divulge the sources of this research and the goals pursued, because that could immediately point any possible rivals down the most beneficial avenues. Cover-ups and disinformation (both active as well as passive) still remain, under this hypothesis, an absolute necessity. Thus it would appear natural in the minds of U.S. military leaders, secrecy must be maintained as long as possible.”
In addition to the reams of official documents and scholarly white papers hinting at an extraterrestrial origin for UFOs, there are also many retired –and in some cases serving– government, military and intelligence officials who have testified publicly to their own knowledge of UFOs and/or the intelligences behind them, and to the extreme secrecy surrounding these issues. Notable among these individuals are: former CIA director Roscoe Hillenkoetter; former special assistant to deputy CIA director Richard Helms, Victor Marchetti; Senator Barry Goldwater; Gemini astronaut Col. Gordon Cooper; former UK Chief of Defence Staff and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral of the Fleet The Lord Hill Norton; billionaire financier Lawrence Rockefeller; Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell; former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Hellyer; former Governor of Arizona, Fife Symington; and Japanese Defense Minister, Shigiru Ishiba. Presidential counsellor John Podesta also has strongly hinted at a UFO cover-up. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC in 2002, Podesta stated: “I think it’s time to open the books on questions that have remained in the dark on Government investigations of UFOs. It’s time to find out what the truth really is that’s out there. We ought to do it, really, because it’s right; we ought to do it because the American people quite frankly can handle the truth; and we ought to do it because it’s the law.”
And all of this is to say nothing of the literally millions of individuals from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe who, over the past six decades, have reported seeing not only structured craft unlike anything known to have been built by man, but also – and crucially– non-human entities in the vicinity of and inside said craft. It is the sheer number of UFO sightings reported worldwide that compels so many governments and militaries to continue to closely monitor the UFO phenomenon.
~ THE SAUCERS AND THE SILVER SCREEN ~
UFOs are naturally cinematic. These sleek, unearthly objects are seen performing remarkable aerial manoeuvres. They shimmer, they glow, they glide majestically. Though factual, UFOs are also the stuff of great science-fiction, and so it is no surprise that they have always sold well at the box-office. Recent years have seen an explosion in the popularity of the UFO subgenre, and audiences now stand little chance against what amounts to a full-scale alien invasion of our popular culture.
This book asks the reader to consider the effects of this invasion – to ponder cinema’s transcendent power to both fictionalize and actualize its subject matter. Several years ago I was enjoying coffee with a friend. She had no particular interest in UFOs. No UFOlogical knowledge of which to speak. I asked her: “Have you heard of men in black?” I was referring to the factual historical accounts of UFO witnesses suffering intimidation by ominous black-clad mystery men in the days and weeks following their sightings. This thoroughly documented phenomenon dates back to the late-1940s and was even investigated by the FBI in the 1970s. Thousands of UFO witness have received these unwelcome visits over the years. My friend replied immediately: “Of course, everyone’s seen Men in Black!” Naturally, she was referring to the 1997 sci-fi blockbuster. For my friend, decades’ worth of lived history had been consumed in their entirety by a 98 minute Will Smith movie. All she knew of men in black… was Men in Black. This is the power of cinema.
For my friend, a little-known reality had been fictionalized through its fantastical depiction onscreen. And yet, cinema also has the power to actualize. Men in Black and other UFOlogical entertainment products have assumed permanent residency in the popular consciousness, and thus will always occupy at least some level of our perceived reality. This fictionalize/actualize dynamic will be examined more thoroughly in the conclusion of this book.
Whether or not they serve to fictionalize or actualize, what’s clear is that movies of any genre inform our ‘understanding’ of the world around us. This was beautifully observed by the great British filmmaker Ken Russell, who said that “Hollywood fills the gaps in our knowledge of the world.” It’s a profound statement, because it’s true.
Hollywood as parasite
A great deal of Hollywood’s UFO movie content has been informed directly by fact-based UFOlogical literature, events, and debate. In the chapters to follow, you will learn that Hollywood engages with UFO lore in parasitic fashion, with industry creatives latching onto and sucking-dry the rich veins of a ripe old subculture. This perspective contrasts with the popular assumption that the UFO subculture feeds on – and thrives as a result of – images projected by the American entertainment industry.
With this in mind, Silver Screen Saucers also encourages the reader to ask: how has so much dense UFOlogical discourse –by its very nature fringe and subcultural– so successfully burrowed its way into Hollywood’s populist narratives? Many in the UFO research community point to a “Hollywood UFO conspiracy” designed to acclimate us to an alien reality (and to subtly disinform us along the way). It’s a scenario in which the US government exploits its close historical relationship with Hollywood by systematically seeding inside UFO information into entertainment media, slowly bringing us around to the truth of the phenomenon – or at least the truth as officialdom wishes us to perceive it. Others, meanwhile, suggest that Hollywood’s UFO movies are merely the result of a natural cultural process driven by generic trends and stemming from a simple recognition among studio executives that, when it come to the box-office, aliens sell like hotcakes. As we shall see, the truth of matter may lie somewhere in between both of these theories.
If you care about UFOs, you should care very much about UFO movies. Like it or not, they are the dominant cultural force shaping our perceptions of the phenomenon. A magical medium has distorted an underlying and mystifying truth. Cinema has moulded and simplified our expectations of how the phenomenon should manifest. And yet, at the same time, UFO movies have provided us with nuggets of truth – inspired as they are by a tangible conundrum sprung from our lived historical reality. The challenge is to separate the truth from the fiction, the fact from the fantasy. I have taken that challenge in this book with the certain knowledge that it cannot be met in full. The acceptance of the challenge alone is sufficient. To accept the challenge is to actively –rather than passively– engage with Hollywood’s treatment of this multifaceted phenomenon. This is an essential task if ever we are to truly understand the particulars of our own UFO beliefs – beliefs which have been finely sculpted through both natural cultural process and deep political propaganda.
UFOs show no sign of leaving our skies, or our screens. They are here to stay. To read this book, then, is to prepare for your future and to understand that truth is often far stranger than the wildest Hollywood fiction.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published September 2015
Size: 229 X 152 MM