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Project U.F.O. (1978)
Movie Review by The Gravedigger

Project U.F.O. (1978) I have a soft spot for this TV show from the late 70's. It begins with an authoritarian voice-over that convinces you that UFO's are real, and explains that the subsequent story is based on fact of the government's Project Bluebook, which investigated UFO sightings.

The show itself focuses on the two air force investigators, Major Jake Gatlin and Lieutenant Harry Fitz, and what they find. The sightings are first told from the witnesses' perspectives then the "real" explanation is shown.

In the first episode, THE WASHINGTON DC INCIDENT, a UFO is spotted over the Capitol. Several jets are dispatched and one of them crashes. There's narration by producer Jack Webb (DRAGNET) and it's much more hard-nosed than subsequent episodes. In the next show, JOSHUA FLATS, they encounter an entire town, led by some bullies, which is lying about a recent UFO sighting. When the photo one of the guys took is proved fake it seems like it's solved. But a young Mexican boy explains that the encounter happened weeks earlier and that he was the only one who saw the spacecraft, which landed in the daytime. A humanoid looking alien comes out, dressed in white with a black visor--and when the visor rises we see this oversized human mouth. It speaks English but in many different voices, explaining he's simply there to observe. In THE FREMONT INCIDENT there's a sighting by a black police officer in a small town. No one believes him and it threatens his job on the force. Gatlin, who had been working Project Bluebook for five years, recounts his own sighting with a UFO, which was also witnessed by four others. This flashback sequence mixes stock footage of his aircraft with the model of a flying saucer. In ROCK AND A HARD PLACE a UFO is sighted by the customers of a skytop restaurant, including the two air force pilots. It turns out to be the work of a helicopter pilot trying to drum up business for his failing company. In BELIEVE IT OR NOT they investigate an engineer who witnesses a spacecraft not once but twice in the desert. The UFO is very long and rectangular and speaks to him. He confides to the investigators that the aliens want him to tell humanity that they have to fix the planet's atmosphere or that they will invade sooner. They come to the conclusion that he probably saw the reflection of a nearby train in the clouds. But this is put in doubt when they interview an unrelated witness who saw the exact same ship. This episode has some of the worst "day for night" shots I have ever seen. It's terrible! In another episode two commercial airplane pilots see a spaceship and narrowly miss running into it on a flight. They are interviewed separately and tell the same exact story, that they saw a boomerang shaped craft. Then the Project Bluebook guys go off to Wyoming where a guy running for office in a small town insists that a saucer zapped him and burnt the paint off of his car. In one investigation a man wants to sue the airforce because he thinks they are responsible for shooting down a UFO, part of which crashed through is house. It turns out to be a meteor.

In the second season Major Gatlin is replaced by Captain Ben Ryan (Edward Winter, who had portrayed one of the airplane pilot witnessses in season one). He's much more hard nosed and it takes a few episodes for Harry Fitz to warm up to him. As with the first season the majority of these episodes involve people's reputations,such as that of a junior high school teacher in SCOUTMASTER, who witnessed a UFO--and the local paper is going to mention that the man was treated for mental problems at a VA hospital if his story isn't authenticated by someone else. In WHITMAN TOWER it's the residents of a skyscraper that witness and alien craft outside their windows. In ATLANTIC QUEEN it's people on a ship who not only see a saucer but an alien humanoid. It's all neatly explained at the end...until a little girl divulges what she saw.

PROJECT UFO definitely doesn't hold up by today's standards, with the plastic looking miniatures and rough blue-screen effects, yet it's entertaining in a retro way.

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