High Strangeness: It Happened On Route 3

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It Happened On Route 3

You know what's a damn shame?

It's a damn shame that the 1975 TV movie "The UFO Incident" doesn't seem to be available on DVD or streaming video. I just got done watching the movie, about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case, on YouTube, and YouTube sucks. The picture was crap, the audio was crap, there were gaps and skips galore, and yet...

And yet, the movie still kicks ass. I haven't watched it for years, and it still gives me the chills. The script, based on the John Fuller book, "The Interrupted Journey," is tight and literate and cleverly constructed. The directing is understated and confident, with long, long tracking takes that allow the tension to build and build and build. The portrayals of the aliens and their shadowy UFO are chilling in their simplicity. And the performances of the leads are fucking amazing. James Earl Jones as Barney Hill. Estelle Parsons as Betty Hill. Bernard Hughes as Dr. Benjamin Simon. These three are virtually the entire cast of the film, so they're on screen constantly, and they all rock.

Somewhere along Route 3, New Hampshire...
It's still terrifying to see Jones as Barney Hill pleading under hypnosis, "I want to wake up... Please, let me wake up!" rather than have to remember what happened along Route 3 that night. And those shots of the "men" approaching the Hill's stalled car on the deserted highway, and that plasticky hand slowly reaching in through Betty's window to take her out of the car... damn, still terrifying after all these years. Even the voice-over narration makes an impact, as it's delivered by the sonorous voice of Vic Perrin, who provided the creepy "Control Voice" at the beginning and end of every episode of "The Outer Limits" in the early 1960s. Classy and effective. And the sweet love story between Betty and Barney hits just the right note... a safe refuge for two people terrified that they are losing their grip...

So why why why is this brilliant little movie not available in a watchable format? "Fire in the Sky," the only other movie I know of based on an actual alien abduction case, is available in HD everywhere, and, with all due respect to Travis Walton, it sucks. It makes being abducted by aliens seem like being trapped for two hours inside somebody's nose. Somebody with a sinus infection.

I've checked Universal's website, and I can't find any indication that "The UFO Incident" is or ever will be available in any format. Amazon lists the movie, but says the DVD is "unavailable." I mean, I'm grateful that a few people have posted even crap versions on YouTube, because a crap version is better than no version at all. But still...

This sucks.

7 comments:

Terry the Censor said...

I remember watching some of the movie on TV as a kid, though (ironically) I have no memory of the alien scenes. (Probably I was sent to bed, rather than suffered from tramatic amnesia.)

When I started looking into the Hill case in 2011, I too was horrified by the chopped up state of the online copies -- most especially because I was taking notes. I could find no legal copies for sale, so I wrote Kathleen Marden and asked if there were plans for a DVD (2011 was the 50th anniversary of the case).

Kathleen answered, "Universal Studios has no plans to relaese The UFO Incident on DVD as
far as I know."

My various Hill-related Google alerts have produced no news of such a release in the meantime. In fact, I don't think they ever released it, even on VHS.

That's all I know.

Mark OC said...

Thanks for doing so much legwork, Terry! I was thinking of writing to Kathy about it, so it's good to know that's already been tried. Warner Brothers has a great service where they offer little known movies (including TV movies like this one) on DVD made to order, usually for $30 or less. It make more of their catalog available but saves them from taking a rick on mass-producing a DVD. Why can't Universal do that?

Anonymous said...

It was re-broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel once or twice in the 90s and some good-quality AVI's of that are definitely out there. I got one on torrents last year. Better than most youtube versions, at least.

Original prints of it are unlikely to still exist, so any versions you'll find nowadays are going to be recorded from broadcasts.

Saucerspud said...

Two things that got me hooked on the UFO phenomena as a kid. Watching this on TV in the 70's and my parents taking me to an Adler Planetarium sky show around the same time that was on the topic. Both scared the crap out of me, and left an indelible mark. I've grown older, jaded and cynical – and now approach the UFO subject with a healthy dose of open minded skepticism...much like you, Mark OC. As an aside, to this day my wife and I will screetch out "Baaaah-ney" imitating Estelle Parson's voice if we hear the name "Barney" mentioned somewhere. Oh yeah, also agree that Fire in the Sky is a big, stinky POS and LOL that it's like spending 2 hours inside someone's nose. Those aliens need a cleaning lady.

Terry the Censor said...

> "Fire in the Sky," the only other movie I know of based on an actual alien abduction case

There are also Communion and Intruders.

That makes four. I can't think of any others.

Mark OC said...

Thanks, Saucerspud, now I have "Baaaaah-ney" stuck in my head :)

Terry, good call! I can't believe I forgot to mention "Communion" and "Intruders"! (I've never seen "Intruders"; is it any good?)

Terry the Censor said...

I have not seen any of them. That era of abductions is quite embarrassing now.