Unidentified Flying Objects


1h 32m 1956
Unidentified Flying Objects

Brief Synopsis

Interviews and documentary footage combine with the fictional story of an air-force pilot who encounters aliens.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Documentary
Sci-Fi
Release Date
May 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 9 May 1956
Production Company
Ivar Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Washington (D. C.),United States; Washington, D.C.,United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

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.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Documentary
Sci-Fi
Release Date
May 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 9 May 1956
Production Company
Ivar Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Washington (D. C.),United States; Washington, D.C.,United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Film Length
10 reels

Articles

UFO


The phrase "flying saucer" was coined in June 1947, with sightings in Washington State of "saucer-shaped objects" over Mount Rainier. The catchphrase entered the national lexicon two weeks later with reports from Roswell, New Mexico, of the "capture" of a flying saucer near the Roswell Army Air Field. Conspiracy theories about government suppression of the existence of UFOs began to percolate as Hollywood's imagination ran wild. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1950) was a surprisingly adult treatment of the notion of extraterrestrial visitors, while other films -The Flying Saucer (1950), Man from Planet X (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), War of the Worlds (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953) - upped the exploitation ante to excite prospective ticket-buyers. Something was in the air in 1956, with the release of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (with special effects by Ray Harryhausen) and Winston Jones' documentary Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers. (Completed that year but unreleased for another three was Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space.) The film chronicles the investigations of Albert Chop, chief of the Pentagon's press section, into UFO sightings and his eventual conversion from skeptical inquirer to true believer. Producer Ivan Tors later created the TV series Flipper -- an otherworldly helper to humanity whose physical appearance is not so dissimilar from the tradition depiction of intergalactic "greys."

By Richard Harland Smith
Ufo

UFO

The phrase "flying saucer" was coined in June 1947, with sightings in Washington State of "saucer-shaped objects" over Mount Rainier. The catchphrase entered the national lexicon two weeks later with reports from Roswell, New Mexico, of the "capture" of a flying saucer near the Roswell Army Air Field. Conspiracy theories about government suppression of the existence of UFOs began to percolate as Hollywood's imagination ran wild. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1950) was a surprisingly adult treatment of the notion of extraterrestrial visitors, while other films -The Flying Saucer (1950), Man from Planet X (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), War of the Worlds (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953) - upped the exploitation ante to excite prospective ticket-buyers. Something was in the air in 1956, with the release of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (with special effects by Ray Harryhausen) and Winston Jones' documentary Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers. (Completed that year but unreleased for another three was Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space.) The film chronicles the investigations of Albert Chop, chief of the Pentagon's press section, into UFO sightings and his eventual conversion from skeptical inquirer to true believer. Producer Ivan Tors later created the TV series Flipper -- an otherworldly helper to humanity whose physical appearance is not so dissimilar from the tradition depiction of intergalactic "greys." By Richard Harland Smith

Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers aka UFO


"There was something up there in that sky, and if they were not balloons, I don't know what to think."

So says Albert (Al) Chop (Tom Towers) in the 1956 documentary Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (UFO for short). His statement is about as deep a critical analysis as this curious documentary is willing to provide. Mixing in fictional characters with real life witnesses and military personnel, UFO is more of a fictional re-enactment than an actual documentary but still manages to do more than many newer UFO documentaries by producing interviews with figures now firmly cemented in the pantheon of UFO lore, Nicholas Mariana and Delbert Newhouse among them.

On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, an experienced aviator working in the Pacific Northwest, claimed he saw nine objects he could not identify, flying in tight formation, near Mount Rainier, Washington. Even though Arnold himself described the objects as "something like a pie plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the rear" as well as "saucer-like," the press quickly latched onto the description "flying saucer" and a new era was born. Forget that Arnold's own description was of something crescent-shaped, flying saucers were all anyone talked about.

That sighting is mentioned at the start of UFO and the story takes off from there by introducing us to a fictionalized government UFO investigator and press liaison, Al Chop, who goes from base to base, speaks with experts on radar and aviation, watches 16mm films and dutifully reports everything he can to the powers that be. Starting with Project Sign and Grudge before moving on to Project Bluebook, the film covers familiar territory for the UFOlogist of today but at the time, coming just nine years after the first official sighting of the modern age of UFOlogy (Kenneth Arnold's Mount Rainier incident), this must have been a treasure trove of information for people interested in the subject but with little to no means of research.

It should be noted, as well, for the modern viewer that the now well-known Roswell Incident, occurring just weeks after Kenneth Arnold's sighting, is not mentioned at all, despite an actual newspaper story on "flying discs" recovered at the site. The reason is simple: The story was forgotten about almost immediately following a military press conference stating the crashed object was a research balloon and not picked up again until some thirty years later. As a result, there's no mention of it here but its legacy nevertheless casts a large shadow over the whole affair.

Roswell was the first prominent use of the "research balloon" explanation for a UFO sighting and throughout UFO, balloons are constantly brought up as a possible solution before being immediately discounted. By 1956, that explanation must have already been prevalent enough to merit attention, by the writers of UFO, as a popular red herring thrown out by skeptics. Of course, as much as the film wants us to believe in its objectivity, it clearly falls on the side of the UFOs but, curiously, does so by suggesting that the government investigators are on the up and up, a complete reversal from the widely held view of UFOlogy today. Comically simplistic assurances are given of the investigators' credentials at every turn:

"Ruppelt will give you a complete briefing on Blue Book."
"What's the story on him?"
"Ruppelt's an aeronautical engineer. He knows about things that fly."

Ah, good old Ruppelt, he knows about things that fly. Of course, the film also uses a lot of the same tropes still employed today as "proof-positive" of the authenticity about any given sighting, stating with confidence, for instance, that the military had no planes in the area. But, of course, what else is the military going to say? What's fascinating about all of this is that, coming as it did in 1956, the two schools of UFOlogy had yet to emerge (the government side, that it's all bunk and the civilian side, that it's all a cover-up) and are blended together in a strange bedfellow amalgam of scientific research, national pride and wild conjecture.

Near the end of UFO, the now famous Washington, D.C. UFO incident of 1952 is re-enacted with surprising detail. The characters are a mix of the fictional, like Chop, and the real, like Captain Ruppelt (played by Robert Phillips) but the story plays out almost exactly as the accounts for it have detailed. Nothing ever comes of the lights witnessed both visually and on radar over DC on those two occasions in the summer of 1952, but the film does a good job of creating a fair amount of both tension and suspense as the players stand around the radar scope watching the approaching blips while listening to the pilots describe the lights as "closing in." Years later, this simple but effective technique would be raised to chilling new heights in Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott.

Perhaps the most important parts of the whole film are the actual documentary portions, where witnesses now long familiar to rabid followers of the subject, are presented telling their stories first-hand. Both Nicholas Mariana and Delbert Newhouse are there, on camera, actually describing the events that took place when they made their now famous films. Both films are presented in detail at the end of the documentary but, in a bizarre teaser, are shown early on in such short snippets as to produce unexpected laughter from the viewer. After Al Chop is told, repeatedly, that the footage he is going to see is short, so make sure to pay attention, the footage plays for, literally, less than three tenths of a second. Then they watch it again and, finally, a third time in slow motion which, of course, still yields, at half-speed, less than a full second of footage.

By the end, these films are studied in more detail and, give credit where credit is due, the film makers focus in on the lights and give the viewer plenty of time to study the objects up close. No more can be seen than white dots of light on film but their unidentified nature makes them haunting, akin to watching a mysterious, eerie ballet play out in the sky. And the fact that they are filmed in color, presented in the midst of a black and white documentary, only adds to their feel of other-worldliness.

Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers won't give modern day UFO aficionados much to chew on but it will give them a sense of the history of the movement as presented before the modern age of UFO sightings had even reached the decade mark. Before Hollywood and the popular culture at large expanded the surrounding lore to include abductions, medical experiments and implantations, the story of UFOs was as simple as seeing an unidentified light and the message was clear: Watch the skies!

Producer: Fernando Carrere, Clarence Greene, Russell Rouse and Ivan Tors Director: Winston Jones Screenplay: Francis Martin Cinematography: Howard A. Anderson, Eddie Fitzgerald and Bert Spielvogel Music: Ernest Gold Film Editor: Chester W. Schaeffer Cast: Tom Towers (Albert "Al" Chop), Bert Freed (Dayton Colonel), Robert Phillips (Captain Edward Ruppelt), Nicholas Mariana (as himself), Delbert Newhouse (as himself), Willis Sperry (as himself), Harry Morgan (voice of Pilot on Radio - uncredited)
BW-89m. Letterboxed.

by Greg Ferrara

SOURCES:
The Online Paranormal Encyclopedia
Wikipedia
IMDB

Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers aka UFO

"There was something up there in that sky, and if they were not balloons, I don't know what to think." So says Albert (Al) Chop (Tom Towers) in the 1956 documentary Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (UFO for short). His statement is about as deep a critical analysis as this curious documentary is willing to provide. Mixing in fictional characters with real life witnesses and military personnel, UFO is more of a fictional re-enactment than an actual documentary but still manages to do more than many newer UFO documentaries by producing interviews with figures now firmly cemented in the pantheon of UFO lore, Nicholas Mariana and Delbert Newhouse among them. On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, an experienced aviator working in the Pacific Northwest, claimed he saw nine objects he could not identify, flying in tight formation, near Mount Rainier, Washington. Even though Arnold himself described the objects as "something like a pie plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the rear" as well as "saucer-like," the press quickly latched onto the description "flying saucer" and a new era was born. Forget that Arnold's own description was of something crescent-shaped, flying saucers were all anyone talked about. That sighting is mentioned at the start of UFO and the story takes off from there by introducing us to a fictionalized government UFO investigator and press liaison, Al Chop, who goes from base to base, speaks with experts on radar and aviation, watches 16mm films and dutifully reports everything he can to the powers that be. Starting with Project Sign and Grudge before moving on to Project Bluebook, the film covers familiar territory for the UFOlogist of today but at the time, coming just nine years after the first official sighting of the modern age of UFOlogy (Kenneth Arnold's Mount Rainier incident), this must have been a treasure trove of information for people interested in the subject but with little to no means of research. It should be noted, as well, for the modern viewer that the now well-known Roswell Incident, occurring just weeks after Kenneth Arnold's sighting, is not mentioned at all, despite an actual newspaper story on "flying discs" recovered at the site. The reason is simple: The story was forgotten about almost immediately following a military press conference stating the crashed object was a research balloon and not picked up again until some thirty years later. As a result, there's no mention of it here but its legacy nevertheless casts a large shadow over the whole affair. Roswell was the first prominent use of the "research balloon" explanation for a UFO sighting and throughout UFO, balloons are constantly brought up as a possible solution before being immediately discounted. By 1956, that explanation must have already been prevalent enough to merit attention, by the writers of UFO, as a popular red herring thrown out by skeptics. Of course, as much as the film wants us to believe in its objectivity, it clearly falls on the side of the UFOs but, curiously, does so by suggesting that the government investigators are on the up and up, a complete reversal from the widely held view of UFOlogy today. Comically simplistic assurances are given of the investigators' credentials at every turn: "Ruppelt will give you a complete briefing on Blue Book." "What's the story on him?" "Ruppelt's an aeronautical engineer. He knows about things that fly." Ah, good old Ruppelt, he knows about things that fly. Of course, the film also uses a lot of the same tropes still employed today as "proof-positive" of the authenticity about any given sighting, stating with confidence, for instance, that the military had no planes in the area. But, of course, what else is the military going to say? What's fascinating about all of this is that, coming as it did in 1956, the two schools of UFOlogy had yet to emerge (the government side, that it's all bunk and the civilian side, that it's all a cover-up) and are blended together in a strange bedfellow amalgam of scientific research, national pride and wild conjecture. Near the end of UFO, the now famous Washington, D.C. UFO incident of 1952 is re-enacted with surprising detail. The characters are a mix of the fictional, like Chop, and the real, like Captain Ruppelt (played by Robert Phillips) but the story plays out almost exactly as the accounts for it have detailed. Nothing ever comes of the lights witnessed both visually and on radar over DC on those two occasions in the summer of 1952, but the film does a good job of creating a fair amount of both tension and suspense as the players stand around the radar scope watching the approaching blips while listening to the pilots describe the lights as "closing in." Years later, this simple but effective technique would be raised to chilling new heights in Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott. Perhaps the most important parts of the whole film are the actual documentary portions, where witnesses now long familiar to rabid followers of the subject, are presented telling their stories first-hand. Both Nicholas Mariana and Delbert Newhouse are there, on camera, actually describing the events that took place when they made their now famous films. Both films are presented in detail at the end of the documentary but, in a bizarre teaser, are shown early on in such short snippets as to produce unexpected laughter from the viewer. After Al Chop is told, repeatedly, that the footage he is going to see is short, so make sure to pay attention, the footage plays for, literally, less than three tenths of a second. Then they watch it again and, finally, a third time in slow motion which, of course, still yields, at half-speed, less than a full second of footage. By the end, these films are studied in more detail and, give credit where credit is due, the film makers focus in on the lights and give the viewer plenty of time to study the objects up close. No more can be seen than white dots of light on film but their unidentified nature makes them haunting, akin to watching a mysterious, eerie ballet play out in the sky. And the fact that they are filmed in color, presented in the midst of a black and white documentary, only adds to their feel of other-worldliness. Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers won't give modern day UFO aficionados much to chew on but it will give them a sense of the history of the movement as presented before the modern age of UFO sightings had even reached the decade mark. Before Hollywood and the popular culture at large expanded the surrounding lore to include abductions, medical experiments and implantations, the story of UFOs was as simple as seeing an unidentified light and the message was clear: Watch the skies! Producer: Fernando Carrere, Clarence Greene, Russell Rouse and Ivan Tors Director: Winston Jones Screenplay: Francis Martin Cinematography: Howard A. Anderson, Eddie Fitzgerald and Bert Spielvogel Music: Ernest Gold Film Editor: Chester W. Schaeffer Cast: Tom Towers (Albert "Al" Chop), Bert Freed (Dayton Colonel), Robert Phillips (Captain Edward Ruppelt), Nicholas Mariana (as himself), Delbert Newhouse (as himself), Willis Sperry (as himself), Harry Morgan (voice of Pilot on Radio - uncredited) BW-89m. Letterboxed. by Greg Ferrara SOURCES: The Online Paranormal Encyclopedia Wikipedia IMDB

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film's title appears in the opening credits as Unidentified Flying Objects. An additional "banner" style title then is imposed over the title adding: "The True Story of Flying Saucers." Numerous written acknowledgments appear in the opening credits, including those for the interviewees who appear in the film and Tom Towers, the aviation editor of Los Angeles Examiner, who plays "Albert M. Chop." An onscreen statement in the opening credits indicates that the footage of "UFOs" shot in Montana and Utah would be shown both within the film and at the picture's conclusion in "various densities and speeds" to enable viewers to examine the objects. The opening credits conclude with a declaration that the producer has placed the original documents supporting the motion picture in the custody of the Title Insurance and Trust Company in Los Angeles.
       The story opens with an onscreen statement and voice-over narration that states, in part, "The Motion Picture you are about to see is true. It is not fiction. Much of the information in it has never been told. You will see it here for the first time." Unidentified Flying Objects was produced as a drama/documentary that featured multiple, news style voice-over narrations. Along with actual documentary footage of unidentified flying phenomena, the film also included staged scenes about real individuals, many of whom played themselves. Portions of the film were shot in Washington, D.C. and at various air bases.
       At the film's conclusion, after the Montana and Utah footage is shown in slow motion and close-up, an onscreen statement reiterates the film's truthfulness and concludes with the following questions: "What are they? Who made them? Where are they from?" According to news articles and reviews, producer Clarence Greene became interested in the topic of "unidentified flying objects" after experiencing a sighting of his own. Reviews noted that there had been no official government approval or disapproval of the film.