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Extraterrestrial Viewing
BY G. NOEL GROSS | July 19, 2002

Click for the first of this two-part report.

As a companion to Three Days In Roswell, my travelogue from the Roswell UFO Festival, the following survey has been compiled for CineSchlockers interested in further exploration of both the whimsical and not-so-whimsical aspects of UFO lore available on DVD.

(1999, 81 minutes | Read full review)

Video: 3 Audio: 3
Extras: 5 Replay: 5
Advice: Highly
A danged brilliant, fantastic flick that just gets funnier with every viewing. This docu-comedy explores Roswell as it's overrun by UFO fanatics during the 50th anniversary celebration of its visitation. Minnesotan Rich Kronfeld was among the descending hordes. An awkward, charmingly naive dweeb in corduroy pants, who still lives in his mother's basement, but figures it'd be neat to be abducted by aliens. It's through his perspective that viewers experience the full zaniness of space-alien mania and it's also his masterfully quirky, wry wit that expertly bleeds every bizarre encounter of its last drop of absurdity. He visits the actual (maybe sorta) crash site where one can marvel at rocks, dirt, brush and the occasional jack rabbit. Rich interviews countless folks who believe that they've either seen a flyin' saucer, or been probed by the little green bastards. And there's the Alien EXPO with dealer tables featuring all things extraterrestrial (as one exhibitor says, "We put 'alien' on it. It sells.") But Rich's wildly silly adventure ends with the most startling event of the trip: "Roswell, The Musical." This special edition is loaded with fantastic extras like a hilarious commentary by filmmakers Timothy B. Johnson and Roger Nygard and Mr. Kronfeld. No breasts. Belly dancing. Alien heavy-metal band. Yodeling. Gratuitous manure footage. Deep-chakra massage. A Roswell pilgrim sums up the famous crash, "It's incredible, because what might have happened, might have happened."

(1994, 91 minutes)

Video: 2 Audio: 3
Extras: 0 Replay: 2
Advice: Recommended
Like the book it's based on, experts quibble over the details, but this made-for-cable movie packs in most of the best "Roswell Incident" highlights. Ever-creepy Kyle MacLachlan plays much of the flick made up as a geezerly Jesse Marcel who reminisces about the summer of 1947 when he was an officer at Roswell Army Air Field. Specifically, when Mac Brazel (Dwight Yoakman) wandered into town with some shiny debris he found scattered across his ranch land. Wreckage with strange, hieroglyphic-type markings that's light as air, reforms to its original shape when crushed and is seemingly indestructible. The inexplicable events that follow Marcel's initial investigation haunt him even 30 years later, as he's unwittingly made the fall guy for the now infamous flying-saucer-turned-weather-balloon cover up. It's only by bugging buddies at his 509th Bomber Group Reunion that Marcel begins to fill in the gaps with wild tales of the recovery of an alien craft and its pilots -- some of them ALIVE! Martin Sheen pops in during the final reel as an is-he-or-isn't-he government goon who firmly suggests there might be BETTER ways for ol' Jesse to spend his retirement years. This Canadian-exclusive "Special Edition" is far from it with not even a trailer and sketchy video quality. No breasts. Two corpses. Gratuitous interrogation scene. Alien mind meld. One alien autopsy. Doodling. Not everyone's a believer, "When it comes to UFOs, as far as I'm concerned, it's a big bag of [email protected]#%!"

(1997, 31 minutes)

Video: 2 Audio: 2
Extras: 0 Replay: 0
Advice: Rent It
Yep, it really is just 30 minutes long! What's worse, it's got an obscene MSRP of $25!!! Three years after the U.S. government's official explanation of the Roswell crash as being merely debris from a balloon-borne research project code named MOGUL, came this nifty footage meant to dispel persistent tales of recovered alien bodies. The reels show Air Force researchers flinging anthropomorphic dummies and eventually real-life pilots from BIGGER balloons really, really high in the sky. Trouble is, while mildly amusing and definitely DIZZYING (as the camera whirls in free fall), this wacky government science project post-dates 1947 by several years as a breathless narrator underscores, "Clearly these dummies are odd. Almost spooky looking. No doubt, found in the desert without any understanding of their use, one could jump to almost any conclusion. Aliens included. However, these dummies pose one critical problem. They were dropped SIX YEARS after the Roswell incident."

(1989, 101 minutes | Read full review)

Video: 2.5 Audio: 3
Extras: 5 Replay: 2
Advice: Highly
A must for Christopher Walken fans and those interested in abduction tales. Walken portrays real-life author, Whitley Strieber, who translated his "true story" of personal alien encounters into a screenplay. But given Walken's erratic dialogue, he must've never read the thing, and when he does talk, one never knows what the devil he's going on about. Anyway, Strieber carts his nuclear family to their country home, where in the dead of night, a brilliant light engulfs their cabin, waking Whitley. With the soundtrack swirling, Walken, er, Whitley asks aloud, "Is that someone there?" And whoa, Nelly, there is! It's the best moment of the flick. The rest sort of meanders (and is supposed to). You're never quite sure if Whitley is dreaming, or if space aliens REALLY ARE collecting him from his bed, or if he's losing his mind. And neither is he. Extras wise, director Philippe Mora is joined by William J. Birnes who co-authored "The Day After Roswell" for a commentary that bucks convention with a broad, engaging discussion of alien abduction and other UFO phenomena. No breasts. Eric Clapton guitar picking. Gratuitous Yiddish. Shotgun brandishing. Dancing space aliens. When the "little blue bastards" pull out an anal probe, Mr. Walken whimpers, "Can we talk this over?!" and "How dare you!"

(1996, 48 minutes)

Video: 3 Audio: 3
Extras: 3 Replay: 2
Advice: Recommended
Star Trek's Scotty hosts this overly earnest, yet engaging, rapid-fire exploration of UFO lore. Doughy James Doohan emotes from the very beginning, "We must warn you! If the footage and testimony you're about to see is REAL, it's perhaps the most IMPORTANT discovery of our time!" From there the documentary crisscrosses the globe and time itself, with cave paintings of flying whatchamadoodles, the U.S. government's Project Bluebook (called a disinformation campaign), mass sightings over Mexico City in 1991, the mysterious MJ-12 group and Ronald Reagan's famous United Nations speech where he hypothesized about "an alien threat from outside this world." Throughout it all there's oodles of blurry shots of glowing something or anothers zigzagging across the screen. What adds to this disc's appeal, is the inclusion of "UFO Top Secret: The Bob Lazar Interview." For nearly an hour, the controversial "former government scientist" chatters about his work back-engineering alien flying saucers at an even more SECRET base just south of Area 51 known as S-4. But don't tell anyone I mentioned it.

(1997, 54 minutes)

Video: 3 Audio: 3
Extras: 2 Replay: 1
Advice: Rent It
For America's "most secret base," we sure do hear an awful lot about Area 51 and its other nicknames such as Dreamland, Groom Lake and The Ranch. According to this mighty lean documentary, it turns out the RUSSIANS have the best aerial photo of the non-existent base. While stateside UFO enthusiasts and the just plain curious also like to video tape mysterious glowing objects often visible over the base from the nearest vantage point miles away. There's also a lot of second-hand talk about Bob Lazar's experiences, who was featured in the previous title, but not here. However, this piece DOES get into the pop culture aspect of Area 51, via a visit with the owners of the Little A'Le'Inn who've filled the niche market for T-shirts and nicknacks for those who bother to brake along Nevada's "Extraterrestrial Highway." Though billed as an extra, the value of about an hour of "unedited footage" of alleged UFOs (meaning scraps of increasingly poor quality video cobbled together with NO AUDIO) will be dubious to all but the most ravenous devotees of the field.

Check out Three Days In Roswell for my report and
photo album from the annual UFO Festival.

Send your comments to [email protected]

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.

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