Air Date: October 20, 1975 (NBC)
Production Companies: Universal Television
Running Time: 92 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Hesper Anderson and S. Lee Pogostin
Based on the book The Interrupted Journey by John G. Fuller
Directed by: Richard A. Colla
Cast: James Earl Jones, Estelle Parsons, Barnard Hughes
Rating: 8 vintage televisions (out of 10)
The UFO Incident (1975) is a remarkable telefilm that maintains our streak of high points in 1970’s TV terrors. I didn’t expect this reaction when I learned it takes place mostly during hypnosis sessions and focuses on the drama and dynamic between the married couple that have repressed memories about an incident that occurred two years prior.
Little did I know, although maybe I should have, that as the couple, James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons would be excellent and that the aforementioned drama, as well as flashback recreations of their experience, would unfold in such a compelling manner. Director Richard A. Colla previously made three 1974 TV sci-films that I’ve somehow overlooked (The Questor Tapes, Live Again Die Again, and The Tribe) and will three years later make Battlestar Galactica.
The following story is based on the records of the United States Air Force, the files of the Hayden Planetarium and the actual transcripts of the tapes made by Betty and Barney Hill, under hypnosis, by Dr. Benjamin Simon. The purpose: to penetrate and extraordinary case of double amnesia, precipitated by their claimed sighting of a UFO in 1962.
Jones and Parsons play the Hills as fully fleshed, three-dimensional characters. Barney is a worrier, burdened by years of struggling with issues of race. Betty is his rock, but she’s burdened by recurring nightmares. What they can’t remember is tearing them apart when she finally tells her sister about their encounter and the couple are encouraged to seek help.
Dr. Simon (Barnard Hughes) makes it clear that his treatment is centered on recovering their memories and that any nonsense about UFOs is secondary. One of the conclusions that he ultimately draws is that their fears come from Betty’s dreams and Barney has been sucked into them by her sharing them with him.
Their recreations to being walked aboard a UFO are fascinating based on what we’ve learned about the characters. Barney is expectedly crippled by fear, but Betty calms and uses the opportunity to ask questions about the aliens, what they want, and where they’re from. The map she draws as a result doesn’t seem to mean anything at the time; however, would later prove to accurately depict a solar system not yet discovered.
The UFO Incident is completely engrossing and doesn’t drag for one second. The fear of the Hills is real and convincingly transfers to the audience. No, nothing shocking or graphic really happens, but the production is nevertheless one of the most genuinely terrifying experiences you may have watching a TV movie.
Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch The UFO Incident as well as all the great movies from this series...