On October 25th, a large metallic object crashed in the Arizona desert. The government is concealing a UFO and the bodies of alien astronauts.
Year of Release: 1980
Genre: Science Fiction
Running Time: 97 minutes 91:37)
Director: James L. Conway
Darren McGavin ... Harry Forbes
Gary Collins ... Steve Bancroft
James Hampton ... Lew Price
Robert Vaughn ... Gordon Cain
Philip Abbott ... Frank Morrison
Joseph Campanella ... Frank Lafferty
Pamela Bellwood ... Sarah Michaels
Tom Hallick ... Phil Cameron
Steven Keats ... Paul Bannister
Andrew Bloch ... Neal Kelso
What would happen if a UFO were to crash-land on Earth? Would the government let us know? Or would they fear nationwide panic and keep it under cover? This intense thriller opens as two astronauts are deploying a satellite from a space shuttle when it collides with an unidentified object. The object makes a crippled but safe landing in the remote southwestern desert where it is quickly carted off by government agencies to a secret Air Force base.
Meanwhile, the two astronauts are back on earth and are anxious to know what happened, but no one is talking. When they begin to investigate, they learn that the government will stop at nothing to keep them from discovering the truth!
Hangar 18, remindin' us that you really can't go home again - particularly after a chunka space debris decapitates you and sends your corpse hurtlin' toward the sun.
An speakin' of guys who can't keep their heads screwed on straight, you'll hafta be patient with me this week cause I've been a little on edge ever since Bernard McGowan was remanded into my custody after goin' on public access cable an makin' an ass of himself in front of several dozen people at Mom & Poop's Senility Acres rest home who haven't been able to find the remote control since 1992. Sadie Bonebreak says I'm bein' a "titty baby" about it, but that's easy for her to say considerin' she hasn't come home to find she can't make fish sticks in the oven cause some Cleftskull with madula-doodledosis made 'imself a new wardrobe outta the Reynolds Wrap. I tried to be sensitive about it, but I hate when people start screwin' around with the canon of classic literature.
"Hey, Tin Man, you're supposed to be lookin' for a heart, jackass, you're stealin' the Scarecrow's bit," I explained in a calm and nurturing manner.
Bernard mumbled somethin' about protection against alien laser-eye technology but I couldn't understand 'im cause he was openin' an M.R.E. with his teeth at the time.
Anyway, unless you spend a lotta time in the dark corners of the internet where fat bald guys with screen names like "CloseEncunters" and "Grey4Pay" write bad fan-fic involving Gillian Anderson and intergalactic gangbangs, you may not've heard about this "Storm Area 51" plan that's pickin' up steam. It's basically the same "plan" the illegal aliens use to get past the border patrol in Born in East L.A., an so now every lunatic who's ever had their Thanksgiving Dinner invitations rescinded is plannin' to cause a catastrophic shortage of airline seating on all flights into McCarran International so they can waddle around the Nevada desert in hopes of blinding military personnel with flesh that hasn't seen the sun since Deep Space Nine went off the air.
Why does any of this matter? Well, Bernard decided he was gonna do his part to create "societal awareness" for everybody who never saw Independence Day, an so he lied to the local station manager an made up some story about making a plea to the City Council to fix the sinkhole on Savage Street before radioactive cockroaches scurry up outta there like in that movie Bug.
I hadda get Corky Diggins to make me a copy of the broadcast to find out exactly what'd gone wrong, but apparently in his zeal to prove the seriousness of the extraterrestrial threat to the viewing audience, Bernard whipped off his Jar Jar Binks underoos an revealed what he claimed was a scar from his alien implant... which was unfortunately located just to the right of his... um... manolith.
My personal attorney, Cletus Rubenstein, was able to get Bernard released on bond, but he's currently facin' 51 charges of indecent exposure (one for each old fogey who bore witness to his retro rocket on TV), an he's still insistin' on hoppin' a plane to rendezvous with his fellow Wangoliers.
I've forced 'im to watch Wavelength 22 times since then to prove that even *if* nekkid outer space weirdos did land on Earth the lead singer of an all-girl Rock band will've already busted 'em out an helped 'em escape from our bumbling government officials, but nothin' I try seems to work. I know it sounds drastic, but I've been talkin' to Billy Hilliard about this an we may have no choice but to lock Bernard in the outhouse at the Grime Time for his own protection until this thing blows over. Let's just hope it don't come to that.
Bernard said Wavelength is nothin' but a “false flag, feel-good, Hollywood bullstuff rose-tinted misrepresentation of the facts,” an that I needed to see this flick called Hangar 18 that proves not only that the government has been concealing the existence of aliens from the American public, but also that satellite launches are really just a cover for the deployment of Star Wars missile defense weapons necessary to ward off interstellar travelers who're tryin' to pick up Game of Thrones broadcast signals without payin'. Bernard, ya gotta understand, is the kinda guy who makes marijuana paranoid. Not a bad flick though – basically we've got Robert Vaughn on one side tryna cover up the crash so his man in the White House won't lose “transparency” cred before the election, the dad from Teen Wolf on the other tryna expose the conspiracy, an Darren McGavin stuck in the middle rootin' around in the space ship tryna figure out why anybody'd wanna fly 10,000 light years just to cram medical instruments up the butts of hillbillies. Now I'm not sayin' you'll be any closer to understandin' the meanin' of life after watchin' this, but it's got a lot to offer in the way of philosophical musings an guys in business suits runnin' around the desert gettin' their $100 socks torn up by cacti, so if you'll stay tuned for another coupla seconds I'll give ya a quick rundown of the kinda wisdom you stand to glean from this baby. First, if the revelation of alien life on planet Earth is likely to cost you an election, you've probably made some pretty ridiculous campaign promises. Second, blowin' space ships outta the stratosphere is all well an good at Dave & Buster's, but it makes for a lousy first contact in Earth's orbit. An third, mastering intergalactic travel is easy, Rogaine is hard.
The movie begins at Mission Control where a space shuttle is about to dump a satellite into orbit so we can pirate illegal Czechoslovakian rugby matches, cept pretty quick an unidentifiable flyin' object starts bouncin' around the radar screen like it's goin' for the world Breakout record, an when the satellite gets launched it blasts itself right into the UFO, causin' an explosion that fires debris back at the shuttle an decapitates this astronaut that looks like John Waters. Needless to say, space traffic controller Darren McGavin is royally hacked off, but manages to suppress his rage until he can get home to take it out on his furnace. Meantime though, the UFO has become an unidentified falling object, an so General Halftrack hasta call up Chief of Staff Robert Vaughn an tell the Man from U.N.C.L.E. that the Men from M.A.R.S. have crashed out in the West Texas desert until Rob gets this look on his face like the permanent loin cloth rash from Teenage Caveman just flared up on 'im. Then NASA sends AAA out to tow the saucer to Alamogordo so they can make this fat Texan who looks like John Belushi look stupid when he tries to report the landing to the sheriff the next day. To further complicate matters there's an election in two weeks an Rob's afraid the discovery of extraterrestrial life might depress turnout among the Evangelical bloc an cost the conservatives the election, so he orders the Men in Slacks to cover up the crash an put a 24-hour watch on Richard Dreyfuss an Teri Garr. Then the Air Force throws the two surviving astronauts (Steve an Lew) under the saucer an claims they fouled up the launch that eviscerated the third astronaut's space junk. Steve an Lew are P.O.'d, so they go to complain to Darren only to find that he's been reassigned to Hangar 18 for his paranormal night stalkin' abilities. It's prolly just as well since Lew was Michael J. Fox's dad in Teen Wolf, an things might get a little *unpleasant* if they were to get Kolchak involved. But anyway, Darren's over at Hangar 18 investigating the unidentified flying intergalactic 5-disc CD changer with a crack team of scientists who've all lost university tenure for championing heliocentrism, only when they decide to take a peek inside, the ship lays down a wheelchair ramp an starts belchin' out fog like the Undertaker's about to step out an head to the ring for a casket match. Fortunately he doesn't, so Darren an the eggheads go rootin' around inside an determine from the interior design that it's prolly just the mother ship comin' to take David Bowie back to his home planet, until they locate the cockpit an find a coupla dead skinhead space aliens who've succumbed to prolonged exposure to Mel Brooks movies.
While that's goin' on, Steve an Lew go talk to Al Borland's dad at N.O.R.A.D. to find out where the ship ran aground so they can do some investigatin' an figure out whether or not the area's economy can support an extraterrestrial based tourism industry. Unfortunately once they've chartered a flight to Hooterville the Men in Slacks show up an our astromen hafta suckerpunch 'em an drive 60mph the wrong way down the interstate until the feds go swan divin' off an overpass an turn their Impala into a Chinese Pug. Back at the base, Darren an the best minds of our time are screwin' around in the spaceship pushin' buttons at random an causin' billions of dollars wortha damage to the installation with plasma lasers, til they eventually find this nekkid broad chillin' in a giant test tube an hafta send 'er to Roswell General to find out if 'er implants are alien or domestic. Then one of the P.H.D.s from M.I.T. deciphers the alien language on his coffee break an transcribes the complete works of Erich von Daniken onto 2000 sheets of dot matrix printer paper an we find out that the astronazis've been hangin' around Earth for thousands of years forcin' us to build geographic land marks big enough for their wives to navigate the planet, while simultaneously gettin' busy with our ancient human ancestors cause the chicks back home only let 'em do it missionary style. Then the Department of Homeland Security sends more assassins after Steve an Lew an they cut the brake line on the astronauts' rent-a-car an cause 'em to crash into an oil refinery to justify a 19 cent hike in the cost of unleaded, only the two shuttlecocks end up stealin' a fuel tanker an gunnin' it down the highway like The Road Warrior until the goons get too close for comfort an Lew hasta climb all over the rig like Spiderman an dump hundreds of gallons of Texas tea onto the asphalt an drop a road flare. Lew takes a bullet in the chest, but the resulting explosion launches the taxpayer funded cruiser into a corkscrew plancha that ends with the destruction of several acres of endangered jackalope habitat. Then Darren turns on the radio an hears about Lew blastin' off for the last time an goes apeshit threatenin' to Bob Lazar the whole project, only by this time Rob an General Halftrack're back at the White House sweatin' nuclear warheads over the way their conspiracy's covered things up about as well as a hospital gown on diabetes screenin' day, an so they start makin' like Al Qaeda an plottin' to fly a twin engine Cessna into the hanger before the story gets out an the Pope loses his job. Prolly oughta cut it off here, but I think Rob may have made a teensy little miscalculation on this plan of his, so you may wanna check out the endin' for yourself.
Alrighty, so Hangar 18 was released during the period in the late '70s - early '80s where everything was a conspiracy and the government was doin' every devious thing under the sun and it was up to the heroic everyman to get to the bottom of things. Specifically, there was the conspiracy flick with an outer space theme, popularized by titles like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Capricorn One, Endangered Species, and the virtually unwatchable Eyes Behind the Stars. These cover-up titles weren't an entirely new concept as quite a few Science Fiction movies from the '50s had done the same thing decades before, but they seem to have increased in popularity after that whole Watergate thing. Of course, it didn't hurt that Close Encounters had raked in over a hundred million bucks just three years earlier, so between the opportunity to ride Close Encounters' coattails *and* cash in on the resurgence of the "don't trust anybody" subgenre, Hangar 18 made a lot of sense financially - so much so that the studio brought legitimate acting talent on board and even sunk some real cash into the special effects, but at the end of the day the movie's a little slow and unsure of its ultimate goal. It also has that pseudo-documentary feel inherent in many of the films produced by Sunn Classic Pictures, who made a whole slug of flicks based upon paranormal phenomena in the late '70s, movies like: The Outer Space Connection, The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena, The Bermuda Triangle, and The Mysterious Monsters. To further emphasize this, the movie has an opening statement that reads: "In spite of official denials, rumors have continued to surface about what the government has been concealing from the American public at a secret Air Force hangar. But now, with the help of a few brave eyewitnesses who have stepped forward to share their knowledge of these events, the story can finally be told," just in case you weren't previously prepared to take the film deathly seriously. Honestly, it looks and plays a lot like a made-for-TV movie that happens to have a more generous budget, and for that reason it's not as memorable as it might be had the script been a little bit darker in tone. That said, it's perfect as an afternoon matinee film appropriate for family viewing, as it lacks anything even remotely offensive to the sensibilities of your average Sunday School teacher.
In any event, we really oughta take a deep-dive into the conspiracy these guys had against the Three B's (that's Blood, Breasts, and Beasts for any casuals out there) and find out if their "artistic vision" can overcome the fact that the movie's most impressive scenes involve motor vehicle chases. The plot, when viewed nearly 40 years later, is pretty cliched, if mostly competent. That said, there are some details that make you shake your head a bit - in particular, you might wonder how it is that the satellite can impact the craft hard enough that it must land on Earth, yet have no visible signs of damage. There's also a bit of gratuitousness where it concerns the local yokel who sees the crash but is unable to convince anyone, as well as the nekkid woman they find in the ship - neither of these subplots go anywhere, and in the case of the redneck observer, don't even yield a jump scare. So the script is a little unfocused, but still serviceable. The acting is pretty good, but you can't help but feel that the meandering plot and timid script result in a whole lotta wasted acting talent. Robert Vaughn tends to get typecast in these just-the-facts roles with some regularity (which really sucks, because if you let him cut loose a la C.H.U.D. II/Battle Beyond the Stars, he's great), but Darren McGavin is particularly under-utilized here, despite being featured in the only scene that exhibits any real emotion. Collins and Hampton also give fine performances as the two surviving astronauts out to expose the conspiracy, but the script is just too dry and restrictive to get the best out of all the assembled talent.
Here's who matters and why (less Robert Vaughn): Gary Collins (Watchers 4, Killer Fish, King Kong vs. Godzilla), James Hampton (Teen Wolf 1 & 2, Condorman, The Cat from Outer Space), Philip Abbott (The First Power), Joseph Campanella (The Glow, Hologram Man, Space Case, Earthbound, Meteor, Ben), Pamela Bellwood (The Gardener, Le zombi de Cap-Rouge, Cellar Dweller, The Incredible Shrinking Woman), Tom Hallick (The Backlot Murders, The Last Man on Planet Earth, My Favorite Martian 1999, Satan's Mistress, Time Travelers 1976), Steven Keats (The Last Dinosaur), William Schallert (Matinee, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gremlins, The Monolith Monsters, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Tobor the Great, Them!, Gog, The Man from Planet X, Mighty Joe Young 1949), Darren McGavin (Dead Heat, Happy Hell Night, Captain America 1990, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Six Million Dollar Man, Something Evil, Mission Mars, Witchcraft 1961), Cliff Osmond (Invasion of the Bee Girls), Andrew Bloch (Jason Goes to Hell), Stuart Pankin (Congo, The Vagrant, Arachnophobia, Earthbound), H.M. Wynant (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Trail of the Screaming Forehead, Solar Crisis, Earthbound, The Horror at 37,000 Feet, The Stranger 1973), Bill Zuckert (Alien Intruder, Critters 3, The Time Machine 1978), Jesse Bennett (Neon City, The Stand 1994, Earthbound), Robert Bristol (Night Train to Terror, Cataclysm), J.R. Clark (Ssssssss), Craig Clyde (Earthbound, The Time Machine 1978), John William Galt (UFO Kidnapped), Chesley Noone (Evil Come Evil Go), H.E.D. Redford (Legion of Fire: Killer Ants!, Silent Night Deadly Night, The Returning, Earthbound, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1980, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Time Machine 1978), Max Robinson (Silent Night Deadly Night, Halloween 5), Michael Ruud (The Philadelphia Experiment, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1980, Halloween 4, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Time Machine 1978), Scott Wilkinson (Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare, The Boogens, The Time Machine 1978).
This flick's basically character actors on parade, so here's the list of credits that these folks were actually including on their resumes: James Hampton (Jerry Woolridge in Sling Blade, Hannibal Dobbs on F Troop), Philip Abbott (Arthur Ward on The F.B.I.), Joseph Campanella (Jonathan Young on The Young and the Restless, Harper Deveraux on Days of Our Lives, Lew Wickersham on Mannix, and he voiced Dr. Curt Connors on Spider-Man: The Animated Series), Pamela Bellwood (Claudia Blaisdel on Dynasty), Steven Keats (Jack Toby in Death Wish), William Schallert (Russell Lawrence on The New Gidget, Martin Lane on The Patty Duke Show), Darren McGavin (The Old Man Parker in A Christmas Story, Brian Madison in Billy Madison, Mike Hammer in Mike Hammer, Captain Grey Holden on Riverboat, Casey on Crime Photographer), Stuart Pankin (Jimmy in Fatal Attraction, Bob Charles on Not Necessarily the News, and he voiced Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs), Michael Irving (Jayson on Lou Grant).
The special effects, while decidedly dated, are fairly ambitious. The miniature rocket in space is pretty elaborate, and the rocket-propelled satellite is decent as well, although its impact against the stationary UFO is achieved with a less-than-stellar composite shot. It does appear that they were able to build at least a partial mock-up for the captured ship though (which looks okay if you can get past the bizarrely illogical architectural design), and although the alien occupants are just a coupla guys in bald caps, the stunt crew pulled off a coupla pretty spectacular car crashes and did a nice job with their climactic explosions, so the score on the special effects front is a positive one. The shooting locations are, for the most part, well constructed/scouted. In particular, the interiors of the space shuttle and parts of the UFO are especially well done, although the UFO is hit and miss as you move from room to room, and I suspect the set designers may well have caused a temporary aluminum foil shortage in the towns of Midland and Big Spring, Texas. Still, the ship's cockpit/engine rooms are full of great props and it's clear the designers went to a lot of trouble to give the saucer a genuine otherworldly appearance. Additionally, there's a short sequence at a Country Western bar, an oil drilling site, the mission control station, and some exteriors filmed in the Texas desert, and all these locations ring true and feel in tune with the tone of the film. The soundtrack, while tonally suitable for the events of the movie, aren't particularly memorable and do very little to generate any sense of excitement, dread, or emotion of any kind. The score was composed by John Cacavas, who mostly worked in TV and primarily produced music for dramas like Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Mrs. Columbo, and The Equalizer, so it stands to reason that the producers of Hangar 18 knew what they were getting and wanted this sort of routine soundtrack. I'm not knocking the composer because it's clear to me that this sort of music was part of the aesthetic the producer was looking for, but it's a very flat score that, unfortunately, matches the general tone of the movie. Overall, the film's production values are good enough to warrant a passing grade, but the flick's just too slow moving for me, and I feel like its pseudo-documentary approach hamstrings its ability to do anything fantastical, lest they lose that "plausibility" touch they were shooting for. I'd only recommend this one to the true believers out there, as the flick is severely lacking in the excitement department.