“The U.F.O. Incident” – A Lesser Known Sci-Fi Gem

Welcome back dear readers to our new monthly segment of…ALIEN ABDUCTION APRIL!

We continue this week with a made-for-television movie special that I honestly did know existed until recently. When researching for movies to review for this month, I discovered a hidden gem that does not seem to get mentioned a lot, even though it has a very prominent actor in the lead role. It fascinated me so much that I had to review it for Halloween Year-Round.

At the time of this writing, the film is not available to stream anywhere. But it did come out on Blu-Ray in June 2022 thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics (this is why I support physical media).

Mysterious Sighting
Based on the eye witness accounts of Barney and Betty Hill conducted by Dr. Benjamin Simon, files from the Hayden Planetarium and released records from the United States Air Force, James Earl Jones (two years before Star Wars) and Estelle Parsons play the married couple, who upon returning from a trip in Niagara Falls & Montreal back to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1961 crossed paths with a race of alien beings

Thinking that it was all just a bad dream with very little memory of the event, they try to forget it and move on with their lives. Two years later, no longer being able to hold in the traumatizing experience, they both agree to visit psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Simon who helps to bring to light their suppressed memories (a result from double amnesia) using hypnosis. What happens next is a chilling, intimate account of their encounter with aliens from another world and the alien tests that they underwent.

To provide historical context into the film’s story set in 1961, Barney and Betty Hill are an interracial married couple living in New Hampshire. During this time period, the civil rights movement in the United States was in full force advocating for equal protection under the law in relation to the 14th Amendment and to end discrimination in public spaces, education and employment based on skin color

The signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 would significantly help to strengthen the 14th Amendment further while ending Jim Crow laws that would actively discriminate against minority groups. This was also during a time when U.S. states could, and at times did, establish laws preventing the rights of interracial couples to marry. These were known as anti-miscegenation laws. These laws would later be ruled as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967.

The Real Barney and Betty Hill
The real Barney and Betty Hill

In the film, Barney Hill is employed with the U.S. Postal Service in the town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He is a distinguished member of the NAACP and is active in community affairs in his hometown (specifically he sat on the local board of the United States Commission on Civil Rights)

His past divorce still fills him with guilt, and we learn how Barney’s prior trauma and racial strife as a young black child growing up in both a predominantly black and later white neighborhood in Philadelphia, along with his own personal prejudices formed through those experiences, truly adds a deep layer of depth to him as a person. This was expertly conveyed in Jones’s performance as we learn how terrified he was of the alien encounter and how he handled it in the film.

Stellar Performances
James Earl Jones does a masterful job in showing those feelings onscreen and conveying how much he really, truly loves his wife and was greatly concerned for her safety throughout the story. Their dynamic throughout the film felt genuine and real. To see him and his wife struggling to come to terms with the alien encounter that they faced, was sad and touching

He goes full force with his performance in the doctor’s office, describing his feelings of terror and needing to get his gun from the trunk of his car to defend himself and Betty from the UFO flying near them. Jones tears up at certain points of his treatment, really selling the experience that he was feeling. The way he screams and cries out is both shocking and heart wrenching. You can really feel the pain that he went through being so scared of that alien encounter.

The UFO Incident Photo 2
It’s a very character/performance driven film.

Estelle Parsons also gives a commendable performance as Betty Hill. Her concern for her husband and their wellbeing is what prompts her to eventually convince her husband to call up his friend in the U.S. Air Force to report their incident and to find the help that they needed in order to move on. Parsons shows that love and compassion onscreen, even doing her best to help her husband to overcome his own personal demons that he struggles with.

And with her being able to relate to him as a woman who is also divorced and working as a social worker, you can feel a down-to-earth presence with her. She especially gives a chilling performance as she recounts her memories of the event. The way she screamed when she saw the multiple alien figures approaching her car door and opening it, seeing their faces, and being asked to come with them to their ship for tests

I truly felt sorry for her experience, which was also heartbreaking to see. Especially with Betty pleading to one of the aliens who examined her, in the hopes of trying to gain some kind of physical evidence to prove that their encounter was real.

The film takes its time with its story pacing, which establishes everything I mentioned above while building upon to the big payoff of seeing the aliens and their spacecraft. It is a slow burn however, and this in turn makes the beginning feel slow.

Usually, I am more than willing to let a movie have a slow burn if it pays off, but for some reason I felt that the initial set-up took longer than it should have. It wasn’t until the 30-minute mark onward where the story really picks up the pace and keeps you engaged from that point onward.

Director Richard A. Colla, who would later direct the pilot for Battlestar Galactica (1978), does a great job with the resources he had to work with in telling the story of Barney and Betty Hill. And while the UFO spacecraft and alien special effects may not have the same budget quality as something like Fire in The Sky, he uses it to the best of his ability. His main focus was on setting up and portraying the couple, their relationship being tested and the revelation that they convey to Dr. Simon about their alien encounter is the real selling point of the film. And in that respect, he succeeded in getting the audience fully invested with the main characters.

The UFO Incident Photo 6
Granted, the budget does show at times. But that can often give a movie a charm or feeling of authenticity.

Overall, I felt that I really got to know Barney and Betty Hill on a much deeper, intimate, and personal level than I had expected. Seeing each one recount the events of that fateful night to Dr. Simon really struck a strong chord with me in a way that I did not expect.

They felt like a real, loving couple who truly loved one another for who they were, despite their differences and past experiences. This is a testament to the importance of strong direction from Mr. Colla and the acting talents of Jones and Parsons.

I will not spoil the end credits, but it too had a very eerie feeling to the ending of Fire in The Sky.

Four and a Half UFO Saucers Out of Five.

Next week, we conclude Alien Abduction April with something a lot more fun and spectacular that still brings a smile to my face every time I watch it. The 1996 sci-fi comedy classic…MARS ATTACKS!

So until next week dear readers, keep your eyes on the skies…and don’t forget to take a rest when traveling home from vacation.



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