This one is a real curiosity. It’s a documentary about UFOs made during the 1950s UFO craze that was sweeping the nation. I can’t say I learned anything from it, but it gave me a real sense of how the craze began at that time rather than looking back on it years later. For nostalgia’s sake, it’s great. Otherwise, though, it’s not necessarily out of this world.
Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (1956) begins with a July 9, 1952, press conference at the Pentagon, then narrator John Brown quickly tells us that when the wire services picked up the story of Kenneth Arnold reporting the first UFOs in 1947, everyone in America became conscious of flying saucers and there was an “avalanche” of sightings.
Of course, not every one of these sightings was “real.” There were enough, though, that the government opened “Project Sign” to investigate. This and other investigations weren’t so much about what UFOs were, but what they weren’t. I suppose that’s the process… eliminate the possibilities, then see what remains.
This extended introduction, which also recaps the major cases of early sightings, ends when Project Sign is closed in 1950. The rest of the film tells a story from the viewpoint of Albert M. Chop, a US Air Force public information officer whose career advancement led him to increasing involvement in the UFO investigation.
One of the first things Chop (portrayed by “actor” Tom Towers) learns is that Project Sign was not really closed. The name was change to “Project Grudge” to tighten its secrecy. Chop’s job was to field requests for information from the press and the film highlights a 1952 story in Life magazine. This was indeed a different era; five years later and the story was still hot.
Ultimately, UFO (the alternate title) reaches a conclusion that hasn’t changed much in 65 years. If UFOs aren’t birds or weather balloons… if images of them are not faked… what can they be? The film suggests the possibility… only the possibility… that they are extraterrestrial. It closes with two actual films of early sightings showing mere blips of light in sky.
Today, the simple facts presented in 1956 have grown to include alien abductions and conspiracy theories. It’s interesting that at the same time I watched this, I started the new season of American Horror Story (Death Valley) in which the very sightings described in UFO led to a secret contract between Dwight D. Eisenhower and the aliens.
Initially intended to prevent the aliens from sharing their futuristic technology with the Russians, Eisenhower and future presidents learn that we sold our souls to the devil so that the aliens could experiment in creating human/alien hybrids (reason fuzzy.) This is one result of the UFO craze so innocently depicted in UFO, perhaps more suited for today’s audiences.
Written by Francis Martin
Directed by Winston Jones
Starring Willis Sperry, Nicholas Mariana, Delbert Newhouse, Wendell Swanson, Tom Towers
RT 91 min.
Released May 3, 1956
Recorded on Sept. 27, 2020 (TCM)
Rating 6 Godzillas (out of 10)
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