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Interviews and documentary footage combine with the fictional story of an air-force pilot who encounters aliens.
In July 1952 the Air Technical Intelligence Center of the United States Air Force holds a press conference at the Pentagon, led by Maj. Gen. John A. Samford, Director of Intelligence, to address the numerous nationwide reports of unidentified flying objects that have been filed over a period of several years: In June 1947 pilot Kenneth Arnold reported that while flying a private plane to Mt. Rainer, Washington, he viewed numerous bright objects traveling at tremendous speeds. At Pendleton Base, air force personnel learned from Arnold that the objects had no visible wings and appeared saucer shaped. Arnold's story was picked up by wire services and ran in several major national newspapers. After sightings of numerous, unusual flying objects in Kentucky in January 1948, military personnel and intelligence at Godman Air Base request that a passing ferry flight escort investigate strange lights near their flight path. The group leader and wing escort acknowledge sighting a large metallic object, but moments later the flight leader's plane disappears and later inexplicably crashes, killing all aboard. The tabloids learn of the incident and print numerous false and sensational stories that prompt a public demand for an explanation. The air force then secretly establishes Project "Sign" to investigate sightings of unusual phenomena and all military branches are requested to forward any reports of unidentified flying objects to Sign's team. Trained investigators follow up each account, traveling nationwide and abroad to conduct interviews. One of those deemed by the investigators as a credible and responsible witness is Capt. Willis Sperry, a commercial airline pilot for seventeen years. In 1950 while flying over Washington, D.C., Sperry and his co-pilot come into direct visual contact with very bright lights heading directly at their aircraft. When Sperry turns the plane sharply to avoid a collision, the object stops, then parallels the airplane on either side before abruptly flying away. Despite these kind of substantiated stories, Project Sign closes in 1950 and the air force announces they will maintain only a routine watch for unidentified flying objects. Soon after, a former reporter and veteran, Albert M. Chop, takes the head position of the Press Section of Air Material Command in Dayton, Ohio, and is surprised when numerous journalists request information on an unusual sighting in Sioux City, Wisconsin. Despite Chop's insistence to the reporters that Project Sign is closed, he privately makes inquiries and learns that a commercial aircraft's pilots and passengers and the Sioux City airport tower personnel all witnessed a spherical object with bright lights that nearly collided with the plane. Although Chop dismisses press interest in the report, he is later taken aback when an eminent German scientist recommends that "UFOs" be given serious investigation. Chop then seeks out a public information military contact who admits that Project Sign was never intended to be made known to the public. In order to carry on investigating, Sign was publicly announced as closed, but in fact continues clandestinely under a new name, Project "Grudge." Some time later, Chop is made head of the information section and continues to receive many reports of unusual sightings and press interest in "flying saucers." Chief of Air Force Photo Reconnaissance Col. Doddard informs Chop that a reporter from Life magazine has been given clearance to write a story concerning military involvement with UFOs. Doddard then tells Chop that he has been requested by the Pentagon to relocate to Washington D.C. to work as press liaison for military information. Chop accepts and soon after settling in is startled by the interest generated by the Life article and a similar piece in Look magazine in which the military acknowledges the existence of unknown aerial phenomenon. Soon after, Project Grudge is expanded and renamed "Bluebook" and Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt of Wright Patterson Field is assigned as the military intelligence representative. Ruppelt has Maj. Dewey Fournet contact Chop to acknowledge that the military possesses film footage of two sightings, one in Montana filmed by a civilian and another in Utah, shot by a Navy photographer. Although the Utah film is still under analysis, Fournet arranges for Chop to see the Montana footage taken by Nicholas Mariana in August 1950. The film, augmented by Mariana's audio statement, depicts two bright, shiny, apparently round objects flying rapidly over a nearby copper factory. After seeing the film, Chop meets with Ruppelt and learns that aeronautic engineers have determined from the objects' angle and speed they are not weather balloons and cannot be otherwise identified. Chop learns from Ruppelt that intelligence has tracked hundreds of reports and has solved eighty-five percent of them, but there remain unsolved accounts by reputable, highly reliable sources, including military personnel. Chop then hears an audio statement made by Navy Chief Warrant Officer and photographer Delbert Newhouse describing a sighting he photographed and witnessed with his wife while vacationing in Utah. Newhouse admits his footage is marred by his unwise adjustment of the shutter opening and states the film does not duplicate what he saw with the naked eye. While awaiting to view the Newhouse footage, Chop meets radar specialist Wendell Swanson, who explains that although radar is highly accurate, it can still record "false" sightings caused by air inversions. Swanson admits, however, that they have radar footage of objects moving at great speeds that cannot be explained. After viewing the Newhouse footage, which shows some fourteen bright objects moving in unusual patterns, Chop is informed that analysis has determined the objects are not birds or balloons and have not been faked, and are thus classified as "unknowns." In late July 1952, Chop awakens one morning to learn of several accounts of unidentified objects moving over the city, supported by visual and radar reports. Two weeks later, several more "unknowns" are spotted over the nation's capital, prompting Chop to hasten to National Airport where for more than six hours he watches as radar tracks the objects. After the air force authorizes two jets to intercept the objects, Chop listens to a pilot's radio report of enormous bright lights and unusual movements. Later, Ruppelt is contacted by the president about the incident, but, without being present at the airport or aware of the visual contact, Ruppelt states that the cause was air inversion. The sightings and subsequent flurry of news reports bring about the Pentagon press conference at which Samford announces that there are a small number of reports made by credible observers of "relatively incredible things" that the military is attempting to resolve. Samford sums up that to date there is no pattern, purpose or consistency to indicate they pose any threat to the country. Chop has firmly come to believe in the existence of unidentified flying objects.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 9 May 1956|
|Release Date:||1956||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Ivar Productions, Inc.|
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A unique glimpse of a unique period in time
Allen Penny 2011-12-29
This unique film is as elusive as the subject matter that it so poignantly portrays.A few years later and this film would not have been released as the...
Bring this movie back!
Boston Best 2008-03-24
A classic vintage 1950s look at the flying saucer phenomenon. We would like to see it more than once every 20 years.