High Strangeness: This Means Something...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

This Means Something...

Here it is, the day before the big 40th anniversary re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the greatest UFO movie ever made, and I don't have a ticket...

But I have good reason. I'll ba making a road trip with my two daughters, delivering the younger of the two to school in Connecticut. When I get back I immediately have to shift gears and prep for the beginning of my Autumn teaching gig at DePaul in Chicago -- I'm teaching "Writing the TV Spec' Script" to a group of 14 young writers, so I have to be prepped and psyched -- can't take time off for a movie screening, no matter how historic!

That leaves me with one day, next Thursday, September 7 -- the last day of its seven-day run -- to catch the movie. So I will be among the last people in the world to see the movie, and so help me God, nobody better spoil it for me!

A couple of cool notes about the movie premiere, though:

I read this week that the character of Roy Neary could have been portrayed by Steve McQueen, but McQueen didn't think he'd be able to cry on cue. Imagine Steve McQueen sculpting that plate of mashed potatoes... The mind boggles!

Paul Hynek, the second-youngest of Dr. J. Allen Hynek's sons, invited me to a screening party in L.A. on Friday, but I had to pass. Still, I'll be there in spirit, as my publisher is shipping a bunch of books to Paul to pass out to his party guests!

Dr. Hynek's long-time friend, colleague and confidant, Jennie Zeidman, who has become my favorite pen-pal, told me that her son surprised her with tickets to a screening this weekend, and she's over the moon: "I have been chortling ever since," she wrote to me. "I first read the script at the Hynek Ridge Avenue house in Evanston. If that version had prevailed, the film wold have needed an R rating!"

Then she ended her note with this tantalizing tease: "If you send me a mailing address, I will send you something I found in an old file folder..."

Wow... I sent her my mailing address immediately, and now I'm consumed with curiosity and anticipation... What could she be sending me??

On a related note, I just did a really fun podcast the other night, and I hope you'll give it a listen when it's posted. It's the Binnal of America podcast, hosted by Tim Binnall. Tim is a great host, and we had a totally entertaining two-hour talk about Dr. Hynek and UFOs -- well, I was totally entertained anyway. But one thing that struck me about the conversation was the way Tim described how he had reacted to my book. He said he learned a lot about UFO cases that he thought he was pretty familiar with, and with cases he hadn't read up on before. He said the book was full of surprises and drama, as though I had written it as a screenplay (I had!). And he said that by the end of the book he really loved Allen Hynek as a person. In other words, he reacted to the book on a both an intellectual and an emotional level, which was music to my ears. Thanks for the ego strokes, Tim!

Finally, a bit more good news. Over the weekend I got my best write-up so far, from the Los Angeles Review. "O’Connell provides a sweeping look at all things UFO, skillfully weaving Hynek’s investigative role throughout the various touched-upon cases." the reviewer wrote. "In the end, readers are left with a book that smartly refuses to simplify anything." 

Yep... as a great mashed potato sculptor once said, "This means something."


purrlgurrl said...

Oh hell, it's not even playing in our little hamlet, and we're not driving over 70 miles one way to the big city to see it.

Anyway, enjoy it for all of us who fly beneath the radar of the Hollywood studios. I'm sure a new version based on this re-re-re-release will be hitting Netflix someday and I'll see it then.

SaucerSpud said...

Just wanted to say I read your book a few weeks ago and found it to be fascinating. A terrific read. I felt you did an outstanding job balancing UFO lore and Hynek's life – which would be an interesting story without the UFO angle. Well done! Wondering if you could recommend any worthy UFO books. I've read all the "classics" and since most contemporary works on the subject are pure quackery, I'm hoping you can point me to newer works that have value to them.

Bill Pilgrim said...


Oh...now I really want to know what was in the original script that (in the 1970s) would've pegged it for an "R".
I have a speculation...and it does not involve Roy Neary's wife.
My major complaint about the extended version is the scene at the end with Roy inside the mother ship. To my mind it dampens the mystery and robs the viewer of the use of creative imagination and fantasy. What would each of us imagine the interior of that Leviathanesque craft to look like?
That would be a great note to end on.

Bill Pilgrim said...

...Meanwhile, some folks in Wyoming are hosting what they hope will be the first annual "Devil's Tower UFO Rendezvous."


Bill Pilgrim said...


If you haven't already read them:

UFOs. Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record
by Leslie Kean
Three Rivers Press
(Even Michio Kaku, the indefatigable skeptic, liked it.)

UFOs & NUKES: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites
by Robert Hastings
CreateSpace Independent Publishing
(A new, revised and updated second edition has just been published. Hastings presents irrefutable evidence that UFO activity has been around nuclear weapons facilities of all types since the dawn of the atomic age in the 1940s. In my opinion his research and findings present the best evidence that intelligently operated vehicles utilizing tremendously advanced technologies are present on Earth.
He also produced an excellent 50 minute documentary: UFOs and Nukes: The Secret Link Revealed. It's easily one of the best UFO documentaries ever made. Available - for a small fee - at Vimeo On Demand and Amazon Prime.

SaucerSpud said...

Thanks for the book suggestions, Bill!

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Hey, I appreciate the ongoing conversation here while I've been unable to post!

SaucerSpud, thank you for the kind words! That means a lot to me.

Bill & SS, I agree that Leslie Kean's book is a must read. I would of course add all 3 of Hynek'e books: The UFO Experience, The Edge of Reality, and The Hynek UFO Report. I have always enjoyed the writings of John Fuller (because he's such a good journalist) and John Keel (because he's such a fun storyteller).