UFO: Target Earth (1974)

I do not believe in UFOs. There, I said it, and I'm proud of it. There's not one iota of my entire being that believes for a nanosecond that we are or have been visited by aliens who are mutilating our cows and sodomizing our Mexican farmers. It's preposterous to even suggest that such a thing is even remotely possible based on all evidence (or lack thereof), and I tend to write people off as raving lunatics and Glenn Beck worshippers who try to tell me otherwise. I do, however, firmly believe in extraterrestrial life, that is, "life as we know it" existing somewhere else in the vastness of the cosmos. Even putting aside Drake and his equation, it's illogical to assume that life can only be found on this one itsybitsy speck of watery gravel in the entire mindboggingly huge universe. It's just not visiting us, all those shitty cellphone videos of blurry lights in the sky are bunk, all those alleged abduction victims are either nutjobs or selling books.

I don't think there's any sort of inconsistency or hypocrisy in my two beliefs, they have almost no relation to each other. It's like me saying that I believe in the existence of large-breasted horny teenage Asian supermodels but I don't believe that large-breasted horny teenage Asian supermodels are sodomizing Mexican farmers...or something like that, I seem to have lost my metaphor due to blood flow-redirection issues.

No, no, that's not what I meant.

Pam, you're a well-educated intelligent woman, where do you come down on ETs and UFOs?

I agree with you, Nate. I believe there's likely to be other sentient beings somewhere out there in the Universe, but I've seen no convincing evidence that any of them have visited Earth. There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking among the UFO crowd; they want so desperately for there to be extraterrestrials here on Earth, preferably interacting with humans, that they seize on the most feeble evidence and claim that, indeed, Aliens Are Among Us. They also seem to be agreed that the aliens are benevolent, with no evidence whatsoever to support this that I've heard.

Why can't you see the proof!?!

This movie seems to have been written for, and possibly by, this kind of person. According to IMDb, the principal actors had few or no other acting credits, although it appears that one of them was Montgomery Clift's older brother. Brooks Clift plays a general and had a whopping five other movie credits during his career, so he may be the most prolific actor in this movie. For some reason IMDb thought it important to mention that his astrological sign was Aquarius. By the way, my brief Google search showed that the few reviews of this movie are uniformly negative. Also there's a lot of horrid 1970s clothing and hairstyles in this movie. You have been warned.

The movie opens with interviews of several people who claim to have seen a UFO. One of them is a professor at an unspecified university in Athens, Georgia. It pretty much has to be the University of Georgia, but I assume that the filmmakers were afraid that the University would raise all kinds of hell if this movie suggested it was in any way affiliated with UFO "research," thus the mystery. Judging from the accents of the interviewees, they all came from the vicinity of Athens. Most of the interviewees claim to have seen only a mysterious object flying by in the sky, but one couple says they were taken aboard the object and subjected to a medical examination, with no explanation given to them as to why.

Yes, the screen caps suck, but this movie was apparently shot on Betamax and then transferred to VHS and then run over by a bus and then converted to digital by a blind hobo and then uploaded to archive.org by someone with a sense of humor.

Of course the couple is boiling mad, furious that the U.S. Government is unable to prevent nosy aliens from grabbing any American citizen they choose and dragging him off willy-nilly for an invasive examination, and they're demanding -- What? They say it was a pleasant experience, that somehow they "just knew" the aliens were benevolent? Come on, they'd be angry if an American doctor came up to them on the street and forced them into his office, where he examined them in connection with some research he was doing and didn't even bother to tell them why he was doing this, so why are they okay with aliens doing the same thing?

"It felt kinda tingly, I liked it."

From the interviews we go to the opening credits, and the accompanying music reinforces the idea that alien visits are a good thing. It's a swoony dreamy melody, more suited for a romantic movie than a science-fiction movie. Once past the credits, we go to a cluttered office inhabited by a young man with a particularly offensive example of a 1970s male hairstyle. This movie starts off with that almost-certain kiss of death, a voiceover, which tells us this young man is Alan Grimes, a teaching assistant at the University of Gainesville (the University of Florida must not have been as sensitive as the University of Georgia).

Alan (when did most people start adding the second "l" when naming their kids Allan?)

Mr. Grimes seems to be listening in on a phone call, and he learns that unidentified blips were spotted on radar, heading toward the "Beaufort Power Project," but disappeared when they got there. The voice goes on to say that there has been a 15% drop in line transmissions in this area. One of the speakers seems to be connected with the military, and the other is possibly associated with another part of the military, or maybe the electric company. At first I thought the second speaker was Alan Grimes, but he's not moving his lips as the voice speaks, so he must just be eavesdropping. No clue about how he was able to tap into the call, since the voiceover said he was trying to call a colleague, but clearly he got somebody else.

Updating your facebook profile on this phone must take forever.

In the next scene, a general picks up the phone and identifies himself as General Gallegher. This is Montgomery Clift's older brother, and he's not nearly as good-looking as his famous sibling. The General has to speak a code phrase and is using a red telephone, so we know he's going to be discussing important stuff, but all we hear is that interceptors have been dispatched. To check up on the blips? The electric company must be livid that it's losing so much electricity and not getting a dime for it, so they're probably pushing the military to find out what's going on. In the meantime, Alan stands at a window, looking out into a thunderstorm, and a little boy complains he saw a bright light. Is the little boy in a nearby house, or is Alan thinking back on a childhood experience? I have no idea.

Ye gods, the Army needs to ditch those Motel 6 shag carpet drapes, that's embarrassing.

Alan decides he needs some help, and off he goes to meet a young woman he thinks can supply it. Vivian, the woman in question, modestly denies being able to sense alien presences but says she can feel energy which she believes is associated with aliens, and thinks she may be able to communicate with them, or more specifically "it" -- from which it seems we are to assume there's really only one alien. Alan seems to be the blase sort, since he showed no surprise at somehow picking up a telephone call to a number other than the one he dialed (remember rotary dial phones?), and he shows no surprise at hearing some woman say she thinks she can communicate with aliens. Instead he decides he needs some assistance and goes to a nearby planetarium (?) to get it.

Vivian. Purple overload! Organs shutting down...

His expert of choice is at the planetarium and currently giving a lecture on Halley's Comet. Unless Halley's Comet is one of your passions, you might want to fast-forward through this part, assuming you've brought yourself to actually watch this movie, because it's as dull as most college lectures. I'm not sure what was so urgent, because all Alan wanted was to ask the Professor about his opinion on UFOs. Personally I think the discussion about sensing alien energy was a lot more interesting, but hey, I didn't make this movie. The Professor makes it clear that he thinks UFOs are only natural objects in the sky we just didn't see well enough to identify. He sticks his neck out even farther by telling Alan to come to the observatory and he'll show him what he means. Oh, we all so know that the Professor is going to see real aliens and have to eat every word he said.

The Prof, rocking the Justin Beiber Sweep.

At the observatory, we learn that the Professor shares Nate's and my opinions about aliens, namely that they could be out there but haven't visited Earth, mostly because they're limited by the speed of light and there just aren't enough planets close enough for the inhabitants to make it to Earth in a reasonable amount of time. Alan starts to say to the Professor, "I think you should know," but we'll never know for sure what it is Alan wants the Professor to know, because the screen goes black for a couple of seconds and the movie resumes with the Professor telling Alan he has his academic standing to protect. If this were another sort of movie I'd think Alan made a pass at the Professor, but as the conversation continues it seems the blank probably contained Alan's opinions about the odd phenomena around the Beaufort Power Project. The Professor says it could be some peculiar power mass, and acts as though electricity is a strange, mysterious phenomenon itself, which of course it probably is to an astronomer. The Professor concludes the scene by telling Alan to do what he has to do, but keep in touch.

"Oh, yeah, she's totally taking a shower. Boobies. Telescopes are awesome."

We are now a quarter of the way through this movie, and still not an alien to be seen. I'm going to turn this review over to Nate, and Nate, I don't want to hear from you again until there are some aliens!

Challenge accepted, Pam, but I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed once again by this movie's complete and utter lack of bug-eyed moon monsters for at least the first two acts. The next night, Alan and Vivian meet up at a local country western bar and talk about Alan's douchey sweater vest and Vivian's strange ability to sense when aliens are afoot. As it turns out, she gets an "oppressive feeling", emanating from Alan and starts to squirm and pant, suggesting that either Alan's got some alien DNA in him from an earlier anal-probing ET encounter, or Vivian recently saw When Harry Met Sally. And, yes, Pam, that flashback with the little boy before was Alan as a kid, though the movie does a lousy job of explaining that.

Cheryl Tiegs's sister and the backup drummer for Foghat watch the commotion in the corner booth.

I have to mention here that there are numerous Hollywood-style slow-panning gimbaled-dolly tracking shots in this movie. That's not really too impressive by today's standards, but for a movie made in 1974 with what was surely a budget in the tens of dollars, it's worth mentioning. So many b-movies use the standard locked-down single-pivot camera to save time and money that it's quite refreshing to see a little movement in the blocking here (pay attention next time you watch some crappy 1950's b-movie, often the camera remains perfectly stationary throughout most scenes and the actors struggle to stay in-frame).

At least there's no Abrams Lens Flares.

Befuddled and in need of someone to validate his opinions, Alan goes to see some older lady in her house. Who is this woman, dressed like a Tampa retiree with her love of banana ferns and sitar music? His faculty advisor? His grandma? His Mrs. Robinson lover? I'm sure they said in an earlier scene, but I refuse to rewalk this mangy three-legged dog to check. Whoever she is, the lady is a level-headed nay-saying debunker who is "not about to sacrifice my meager intelligence to some whispery illusion, not without debate." The two of them discuss aliens and UFOs and metaphysics and Venn diagrams and cetacean pharyngeal inconsistencies. Then they make out. Ok, they don't, but this movie is so damn boring that I'm hoping for anything here.

Is that Betty Ford?

Still convinced that aliens are real and visiting rural Georgia, Alan, who apparently doesn't have any classes to teach, loads up his Chevy van and goes out into the field with Vivian in tow. Vivian's motivation for being here is suspect, as she's pretty grumpy at Alan and even grumpier at her own life in general, but at least she's out getting some sun. They go to the local Army post and Alan goes in to talk to General Gallagher about linking up his brokeass public university communications equipment with the gubbmint's high-tech gear (Vivian apparently stays in the van). The General says that's not a go because of all the scramblers and decoders and such, but Alan is sure he's covering something up (remember that conversation he overheard on the partyline earlier?). Actually, I don't remember it either, and that's one of this movie's major faults (along with the mustaches), that it forces you to keep track of too many people we don't care about doing too many things we have no patience to care about and blabbering on about things we simply refuse out of principle to care about. UFO invasion movies should be pretty straightforward affairs, like I'm sure Battleship will be next year (giggle).

That shoulder patch is a fake, by the way.

Alan and Vivian brainstorm a bit and determine that something seriously messed up is going on with the Buford Power Plant and environs. Vivian, who has now become Daphne from Scooby Doo, says she was snooping around the plant and heard about mysterious burn marks on steel beams and power surges during UFO flybys. Alan, when he's not obviously, if ineffectually, hitting on the quite pretty Vivian, connects all the dots and is sure that the US Army is somehow covering up something and that it's completely up to him (and, to a lesser extent, Vivian) to figure it all out.

Setting up their camp (nice serial killer van).

Now they're out interviewing slow-talking moonshine-slugging locals about mysterious lights and spooky visions (because this movie simply can't drag any more...). As one old codger tells them about the Nibiru masking the sun to punish the Babylonian unbelievers, Alan starts flashbacking to when he was a wee little moptop and was himself abducted. Wait, wait, wait, didn't I see this already? Is this not the seventh season of The X-Files when Mulder finally figures out his own needlessly convoluted abduction story and goes off to star in Evolution?

Red miniskirt? Really?

They then go out to the lake, which is the nexus of alleged alien evil, and Alan takes a motor boat to other side to set up some scientific gear (why not just walk around?). Vivian (apparently left on the other side of the lake for dramatic purposes) starts to hear her name whispered in a scratchy electronic voice on her radio, gets the willies, and trots off into the pine forests like a scared little schoolgirl (who hears alien voices).

"I hear reverb people..."

Son of a bitch, this is all so fucking boring. With a title like UFO: Target Earth you expect more in the way of action and targeting and stuff. Alien invasion flicks are a staple of b-movies, from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers to Independence Day, and it's a genre ripe with possibilities for the inventive filmmaker. Recently, the rise of computer generated imagery and Will Smith and computer generated Will Smiths has led to a massive increase in both the quantity and quality of alien invasion movies, much to my happiness. You just need exploding helicopters and overacting females and maybe some ray guns, it's not a hard formula for success. So far, however, and a peek at the counter says we're 45 minutes into a 75 minute long movie, UFO: Target Earth should really be re-titled Douchebag Untenured GTA and his Flaky New Age Girlfriend: Target Extreme Boredom. Pam, I can't do this anymore, it's getting fuzzy, take the wheel for me...

Alan in his boat. Michael Bay would have a giant alien robot samurai leap out of the lake and blow up a supertanker full of nuns. That would be so awesome.

I'm here for you, Nate. At least I'll be here as long as I can stand to watch this movie, which may not be much longer, but I'll do my best for MMT. I can't believe there haven't been any aliens yet. But on the bright side, Alan has reached the other side of the lake, and Vivian is running into the woods, still accompanied by the scratchy voice. I'm sure I'm going to see aliens!

Hopefully, they'll look like these two.

Alas, no. Alan is greeted by the gray-haired woman he talked to earlier and a bearded man who I vaguely recall seeing in the movie previously but about whom I remember nothing. They promptly set off through the woods in search of Vivian. Incidentally, the lighting in the movie has become very dark, although it's still daylight, unless it took Alan an ungodly amount of time to cross the lake. No, looking closer, I think it's just that it was dark in the woods and they didn't have the money for lights. Anyway, Vivian is now running her hands across the ground, and then suddenly she looks up to see Alan and the other two. Vivian announces tearfully that "they" are using her, and she can't touch them, she can only feel them. Is this the closest we're going to come to aliens?

Jazz hands!

The gray-haired woman assures Vivian there's nothing to be afraid of, like she would know. I mean, how would she know, unless she already is familiar with this alien presence? She further states that the alien spacecraft must have plunged into the lake some time ago, and the aliens have been lurking there ever since. Based on no evidence at all, she deduces that at times the mother ship sends out smaller ships to steal power and generally check out the area. I'm struck with the vision of alien flying saucers zooming by power plants and grabbing electricity off the power lines as though it was laundry hung out to dry, but after all, unlike the gray-haired woman I don't know anything about the alien technology and what it can do, so maybe they really can do this. Then there's another boring philosophical discussion between Alan and the gray-haired woman, notable only for the woman's insistence that all will be well, despite Vivian's earlier distress and her statement that the aliens are using her. The bearded man hasn't said a word and I have no idea what he's doing there.

At some point in our movie, this lady became our heroine. Sigh.

Either something was cut from the movie or there's a very awkward jump, because we cut to a dimly-lit room where Vivian and Alan are talking about dreams and how they just know something big is about to happen. You know, now that I think about it, there's a distinctly dreamlike quality to this movie, in that you have abrupt jumps in time and/or space that don't make much sense, and the characters often seem to be moving in slow motion. If this were a good movie, I'd think there was some significance to that, but I'm sure in this movie it was due to either poor editing or the filmmaker's poor judgment on what constitutes a coherent movie. Anyway, in the middle of Alan and Vivian's discussion, the bearded man calls them to another room, where the gray-haired woman, who only moments before was hale and hearty, is now lying on the floor with the bearded man sponging her face. Instead of rushing her to the nearest emergency room, they obey her orders to keep on monitoring the lake with their equipment. Her courage bears fruit right away, because the bearded man spots a huge concentration of energy underwater!

And where did the blue light come from?

The bearded man and the gray-haired woman must have brought a van full of equipment with them, because this is where the energy-monitoring is taking place. One vital piece of equipment is a TV set, which starts showing streaks of moving light, the way TV sets used to do when they couldn't quite pick up a signal. Alan announces portentously that "They're almost here," but with no special emotion, just as though he's announcing the approach of the pizza they ordered. Why isn't he jumping up and down, cheering? Surely even the most dedicated believer in alien life ought to be excited when he finally finds it. Instead he announces, "Dreams..." as though this ought to mean something. I know, the aliens are already controlling Alan's mind, and he doesn't even know it! There's going to be a spectacular ending where Alan attacks the power plant to get energy for the aliens, and the military bombs the entire area! Finally some excitement!

One wonders about the energy requirements of all this electronic equipment, seeing as how they don't have a generator or anything. That must be one heavy-duty car battery.

I'm sort of right. Alan does seem to be under alien control, but all he does is stare at the TV set and mumble about a rush into oblivion. This would seem to be the cue for the bearded man to smash the TV set, but instead he goes to get Vivian to see if she can figure out what's happening. At first Vivian refuses to leave the gray-haired woman, but the bearded man talks her into going out to look at the mesmerized Alan. Unfortunately, although Vivian seems to know what's going on, she can't do anything but watch. For some reason she doesn't seem to hear the scratchy voice anymore. The bearded man finally displays some common sense and starts gathering up equipment, although at this point that wouldn't be first on my priority list. First on my list would be a) drag everybody into the van, and then b) speed out of there as fast as the van would go. Okay, I lie: probably my real list would be a) yell, "Everybody into the van," and b) get out of there whether or not anybody else made it into the van. I repeat what I said before, How does anybody know that these aliens are friendly? Vivian, however, is made of sterner stuff, and also of greater perception, than I. She has figured out, and how she did it I couldn't tell you, that the aliens are leaving and want to take Alan with them. Instead of trying to save him, though, all she does is beg to go along. For the millionth time I ask, HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THESE ALIENS ARE FRIENDLY?

Hello, this could be you, Vivian!

Okay, now we get aliens, or at least we get to hear them. In an Oz-the-Great-and-Powerful voice, Alan and Vivian are told that it is their fears which have shaped the aliens' forms. Good, can we see the forms? No, too bad, the voice goes on the say that they have no forms, they're pure energy. So how were they shaped by anybody's fears, especially since all the humans we've seen so far didn't seem to have any fear at all of the aliens? But it seems that somehow there was some fear, and it shaped the aliens, and I guess they didn't like what they saw when they looked in the mirror, because the voice says in a not-angry-but-terribly-hurt tone that those fears must be cast aside. The gray-haired woman, who you'll recall is inside, tells Alan (still outside) to cast aside his fears (what fears?), and although she's almost too weak to speak, Alan hears her. However, all he does is stare at the TV set, where we see a lot of pretty lights.

Didn't your mom tell you not to sit that close?

The bearded man is still fooling around with the equipment, oblivious to Alan's state of mind, and also oblivious to the Professor's approach. Don't know where he came from, I didn't hear a car, so maybe he walked all the way from town? He looks pretty mesmerized himself. You know, it may not be the Professor, a close-up shows that he looks younger and has longer hair than the Professor, so is this somebody else, or did the Professor show up in addition to the long-haired guy? This movie takes way too much effort to follow. However, it probably doesn't matter, because just then the voice announces, "They are gone." Everybody? And where did they go? (Except the long-haired guy is still wandering around.) I told you these aliens weren't friendly!

Dude, seriously, they're aliens, they will eat you.

And I was right. The voice tells Alan that he should give them the power to "return" (home?) but kindly explains that if Alan does this, he will die. However, if Alan is starting to have second thoughts, it's too late. If Alan doesn't give the aliens his energy, the world will crumble in his lifetime. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. What will Alan do? We're never actually told, but we're treated to a several-minute-long swirling display of lights on the TV screen, which repeatedly form into the number 8. I'd be impatient with this break in the plot, but so far these lights are the best thing about this movie. However, all good things must come to an end, and eventually the lights slow down and Alan is told that he's only the fourth human the aliens have chosen during the evolution of the human race. Wow, those aliens must not be in a real big hurry to get home, then?

Remember how cool the ending to Kubrick's 2001 was with all the stoner swirly lights? This isn't that cool.

Okay, I was wrong, it turns out the Professor/long-haired guy are the same person, namely Alan, whose hair has turned white -- what's left of it, because he's now almost bald as well. Of course we saw him walking around at the same time we saw young Alan looking at the TV set, but let's forget this, as it will turn out to have no significance. Bald-headed Alan walks into the lake, despite bearded guy's efforts to keep him out. (For some reason bearded guy is still here, although there's no sign of Vivian or the gray-haired woman.) Bearded guy goes in after Alan and thinks he's got him, but when he reaches the shore, we see that all he's got is a skull. You'd think he'd have noticed the difference before he carted a skull all the way back to shore. But as he rests on shore, gasping for breath and looking perplexed, the voice informs him, "We are beyond the jaws of darkness where the light springs from the consciousness of your mind and bends upon itself to become the truth." And with that, we see more lights, which coalesce to form a saucer-shaped light which disappears into the darkness of space. And I never got to see any aliens!

Wait, what? The aliens took everything but his skull? What?

I have to say, this is a boring movie. I think it just might be the most boring movie MMT has ever reviewed. Why was it even made? I can't find any information about Michael A. DeGaetano, the man who made it, but I think he must have been a firm believer in UFOs himself. This movie is like every UFO-nut's fantasy, plus I think whoever wrote the script was in a chemically-altered state of mind. Whole chunks of dialogue don't make any sense, as you can see from the alien's parting words. Wait, maybe it could be something else -- maybe the writer dreamed it. You know, the kind of dream that while you're having it, you think, "This is wonderful. It would make such a great story, it's so meaningful. I'll have to write it down when I wake up." Then when you do wake up, you think the dream over and realize it was nonsense. Boring nonsense.

"The director promised me there would be aliens. He lied."

The thing that bothers me most about this movie is that everybody who thinks that aliens are here on Earth assumes they are benevolent. How can anybody possibly believe this, based on what we've been shown? The aliens disrupt our power for their own purposes, kidnap humans and examine them, and last but not least, hypnotize a human into giving up his life so the aliens can leave Earth. And this is presented as a noble thing to do! What we've really been shown is that the aliens can control human minds and make them think abuse is something enjoyable. I'm thinking back over this movie to see if it wasn't in fact a subtle attempt to show how pathetic UFO believers are, and how they let wishful thinking get in the way of recognizing danger when it stares them in the face. Unfortunately it seems that the movie was intended to show exactly what we've seen, and the filmmaker was as deluded as the characters in the movie. Unless you believe in UFOs, don't bother to watch this movie.

Watch this one instead, now that's alien contact done right.

The End.

Written in August 2011 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.

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