ETs Among Us: UFO Witnesses and Whistleblowers (2016)

Science Fiction Movies

My interest in flying saucers is strictly limited to science fiction movies.  The first such movie I ever saw, back when I was just a kid, was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956).  I’ll never forget the way a flying saucer lands, and an alien steps out from the force field surrounding that spacecraft.  Before the alien has a chance to say, “Take me to your leader,” we let him have it, killing him on the spot. On the other hand, sometimes we were the ones with the flying saucer, as in Forbidden Planet, which was also made in 1956.

It didn’t have to be flying saucers, of course, just as long as there was some kind of spacecraft that would allow extraterrestrials to visit Earth or for us to visit them.  And the distance travelled need not be great, as in Cat Women on the Moon (1953).  More likely, the extraterrestrials would be on a planet in our solar system, such as Venus in Queen of Outer Space (1958), or Mars in War of the Worlds (1953).

As for the possibility of encountering extraterrestrials originating outside our own solar system, it was necessary to imagine some kind of faster-than-light space travel, such as hyperspace or warp drive.  Since we have no such technology, our visiting other planets outside our solar system had to be imagined as taking place far into the future. Aliens from other planets, on the other hand, could arrive at any time.

As indicated above, as far as I was concerned, all this was just for fun.  I never took these movies seriously. The distance between stars is too great; traveling faster than light is not possible.  There may well be planets scattered throughout our universe supporting intelligent life, but we won’t be able to visit them, and they won’t be able to visit us.  Too bad.

In fact, we’d be doing good just to have some kind of communication with them.  So far, we haven’t received any signals from another planet indicating intelligent life.  And even if we did, a conversation with aliens on another planet would be tedious, after we somehow managed to teach them English, that is.  We would say something, years would pass, they would receive our message and say something in return, after which more years would pass, and then finally we would hear what it was that they said.

All the movies referred to above were made back in the 1950s, when we thought we could trust our government.  That ended in the 1960s and 1970s, when we learned ugly truths about J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., the machinations of the C.I.A., the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate.  The resulting distrust found its way into science fiction, allowing for the possibility that the government knows more about extraterrestrials than it is letting on, notably in The X-Files, a show that debuted in 1993.

This too, as far as I was concerned, was just for fun.  I especially liked it in the beginning, when Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) was assigned to spy on Agent Mulder (David Duchovny), who was too willing to believe stuff for his own good, or rather, for the good of the government that didn’t want anyone to know about certain things.  While two government officials talk to Scully, a mysterious third man, wearing a black suit, stands off to one side, observing the interview.  The role of this third man was parodied in Men in Black (1997), in which the title men do their best to protect us from space aliens, while at the same time keeping the public from knowing about those aliens.  Mulder and Scully didn’t trust each other, and neither had a love life.  It was a cold world, a perfect atmosphere for that show. All that began to change as time went by, which, I suppose, was as inevitable as it was unfortunate.

Ufology Movies

A friend of mine, however, has recently immersed herself in the theory that there are aliens from other planets flying around in our skies, and she asked me to watch ETs Among Us:  UFO Witnesses and Whistleblowers (2016) and tell her what I thought.  I think she believed I might be persuaded by this documentary, which surprised me. She has known me to be a skeptic on this subject for a long time, going all the way back to 1968, when Erick von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods? Nevertheless, I decided to give it a look.

Since I had never paid much attention to this ufology genre, which takes the idea of extraterrestrials seriously, I naively thought I might watch all the movies of this sort in order to get a good understanding of the situation.  The only one I had ever seen was The UFO Incident (1975), a movie based on a “true story” about a couple that had been abducted by aliens.  That bit about sticking a needle in the navel really made me squirm.  But other than that, I had no idea there were so many movies, mostly documentaries, that purport to provide evidence that UFOs are alien spacecraft.  I was overwhelmed.  There must be a huge audience for this sort of thing, I thought to myself. Indeed, it appears that forty percent of Americans believe in flying saucers.

My friend, on the other hand, has seen a lot of these ufology movies, and it was this particular one, ETs Among Us:  UFO Witnesses and Whistleblowers, that she seemed to regard as providing conclusive evidence for an alien presence here on Earth, covered up by the government.  I have decided, therefore, that even if I have not surveyed the entire field, she has, thereby relieving me of the need to view any more than just this one.

Government Conspiracies

It starts right off with Clifford Stone asserting that our government and other governments around the world know that UFOs are not of earthly origin, but have been denying this fact for years. The reason being, according to Richard C. Hoagland, is that if the American people were to find this out, civilization would be destroyed.  Later in the movie, he says that a lot of people will commit suicide if they learn that there are flying saucers.  This is followed by Robert Dean, who says that ninety percent of human beings are asleep, having no idea what’s going on in the world, living in a little illusional world of their own.

But if people will commit suicide if they wake up to the truth, then is it not better that they remain asleep? Does it not follow that this documentary we are watching is endangering civilization? Shouldn’t we be thankful that our government knows what is best for us, and that it is this very movie that poses a threat to our way of life?  I’m sure glad my friend didn’t commit suicide when she watched this movie and was persuaded as to its veracity.

In any event, we can’t handle the truth.  Toward the end of this movie, Dr. Z informs us that those in the government that dare to reveal what they know about extraterrestrials are assassinated. Sometimes, even those who keep what they know to themselves are killed anyway, just to be sure.

Jim Marrs, however, provides a different motive for why the government is keeping us from knowing about extraterrestrials.  If we became aware that they exist, then we would know that there are alternative sources of energy, methods of transportation, and other technologies, which would undermine the monopolies from which the government gets its power.  In this case, we can handle the truth, but letting us know the truth would not be good for those that benefit by keeping it all a big secret.

It may appear that this will be the basis for a debate between Hoagland and Marrs as to what the reason is for the government conspiracy behind the coverup regarding UFOs.  Instead, these alternative motives are allowed to coexist.  When one motive stops making sense, the ufologists can shift to the other motive, and when that one begins to falter under the facts, they can move back to the first one.  However, they are not equals.  The principal theory is that the government does not want us to know the truth because civilization would be destroyed if we did, while the theory that our knowledge would undermine monopolistic power is secondary, to be relied on only when necessary.

Around seven minutes in, Donald Ware says that the Council on Foreign Relations is the United States branch of world government, and you can’t get nominated to be president of the United States, Democrat or Republican, unless you have been groomed by the CFR for world service.  So, Donald Trump was groomed for world service before he took office, contrary to what you might have supposed.  Of course, it is only after they are elected to be president that these men are informed by the CFR that there are flying saucers.  Before that, they are in the dark, just like the rest of us. Later in the movie, we are informed that President Eisenhower actually met with some of these space aliens.  Furthermore, Ware says that the chairmen of the boards of all the major media companies in the United States, along with several others on those boards, are members of the CFR, and they see to it that we don’t know the truth.

Suspicions about world government have long existed by those who have no interest in UFOs.  They believe that organizations like the CFR, the United Nations, Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission are composed of elites who pull strings and control events behind the scenes.  As a result, those that maintain that UFOs are alien spacecrafts have a ready-made belief system that allows for the most essential feature of their views, which is that these world governments are determined to keep us from knowing about these aliens.

Conservatives are the ones that have always been bothered by this idea of world government, fearing that the United States is losing its sovereignty.  This was taken to the next level in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), in which the whole world loses its sovereignty to a galactic government, which threatens to destroy earthlings with robots like Gort, if they don’t behave.  And the attitude of that movie was that the representative of that galactic government, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), is a good alien, and we should be grateful that he and his galactic government are doing this for our own good.  Conservatives must have really hated that movie.

Anyway, a little more than eight minutes into this movie, Jim Marrs claims that the government is now preparing us to believe that there is alien intelligence, because all governments need an enemy to control the people.  That is, since communism is gone, and terrorism will fade one day, an extraterrestrial threat will soon be needed to take their place.  Therefore, no matter what the government does, they can’t be trusted. Right now, they are mostly concealing or disputing evidence that would support the existence of alien spacecraft, but to the extent that they actually release evidence that does support their existence, that is because they will soon need us to believe in flying saucers so we will be frightened into submission.

This is another pair of contradictory, alternative theories.  When the government does anything that seems to go against the idea that they don’t want us to know about flying saucers, the ufologists can take the position that the government is trying to control us by making us afraid that there are extraterrestrials. But when that position begins to seem unlikely, they can move back to a government coverup.  Once again, however, they are not equals.  The principal theory is that the government doesn’t want us to know there are extraterrestrials, and the other theory, that the government needs us to believe in flying saucers so that they can control us, is utilized only as needed.

Shortly after that, Daniel P. Sheehan refers to the 1977 Congressional Research Service report that concluded that there were two to six highly technologically developed, intelligent civilizations in our galaxy. As noted above, even now in the twenty-first century, we have yet to detect any signals from space that would indicate even one such planet beyond our solar system with intelligent life on it, and he says that in 1977, this report stated that there were two to six of them.

Well, I researched it, and I could find no reference in that report to these extraterrestrial civilizations. Assuming that the report does include this subject, it would have been nice if Sheehan had provided a link so we could read about it.  Or, if this is classified information that only he was privileged to see for some reason, he might at least have told us what the evidence is for such a claim.  In particular, what is it that allows us to be sure there are at least two such planets, but leaves us in doubt as to the other four?

Religious Implications

Then there is a shift to ancient astronauts.  Poala Harris says we have proof that we were visited by extraterrestrials in ancient times, and as she is saying this, we see a painting of a flying saucer hovering over a brontosaurus.  More significantly, however, we are shown religious art featuring flying saucers: paintings of Moses, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and Jesus, all supposedly with one or more flying saucers somewhere in the picture.  I guess the idea is that Moses got the Ten Commandments, not from God, but from some ancient astronaut, and it was not the Holy Ghost that came upon the Virgin Mary, but some extraterrestrial.  Of course, these artists were not around in biblical times, just as there were no artists around in the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, so it is not clear how these paintings are supposed to be evidence of such.

And why religious art anyway?  In the movie Contact (1997), when it appears that there is intelligent life on another planet, we see Robert Novak on Crossfire saying, “Even a scientist must admit there are some pretty serious religious overtones to all this.”  For some reason that I have never understood, he is expressing a view held by a lot of people, that the existence of extraterrestrials would have religious significance.  Now, if there is a God, he could have chosen to put intelligent life on other planets, or he could have confined it to just this one.  If there is no God, then since evolution produced intelligent life on this planet, it could just as easily have done so on other planets.  The supposed religious implications are nonexistent.

Extraterrestrial Motivations

Up to this point, the focus has been on theories about what the government is up to regarding UFOs. But there is also the question as to the role of the aliens in all this, especially if they are the ones responsible for religious belief on this planet.  Do they want us to know about them, or are they trying to avoid detection; are they acting independently, or in a conspiracy with the government; and are they benevolent, or do they wish us harm?

This consideration is precipitated by a discussion of the autopsy of an alien whose flying saucer crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, which was filmed and later broadcast in 1995, under the title Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction.  Either the film is real, and that creature was an alien from another planet, or it is fake, as the government claims.  In general, when we look at a picture, there is usually someone telling us what it means, without which we would not know what we were looking at.  Therefore, the whole thing hinges on whether the person telling us what it means is reliable.  In this case, the person that talks about that autopsy is some guy in Greece, Nikos Alexacos, whoever that is.

Alexacos says that the brain of the alien that was autopsied shows evidence of telepathic powers, and that lots of people right here on Earth have received communications from the aliens through ESP.  Who these people are and what the aliens psychically said to them, Alexacos doesn’t tell.  In any event, the aliens must want us to know about them, otherwise they wouldn’t let people know of their existence through telepathy.

Mental telepathy aside, it is argued that the aliens want us to know about them through ordinary means, deliberately flying around so we can see them, and even getting out of their flying saucers to talk to people, making it difficult for the government to keep it all a secret.  But if the aliens want us to know about them, all they have to do is land right in the middle of the football stadium at half-time during the Super Bowl, step out of their flying saucer, and say, “Here we are!”

Perhaps they are afraid to do so.  According to Alfred Webre, the extraterrestrials are from benevolent civilizations, but Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rockefeller, and David Rockefeller set up a “virtual disinformation system” to discredit all contactees, and then they essentially declared war on the aliens with the goal of capturing their technology, presumably for the sake of wealth or conquest.

I once read that Stephen Hawking advised against sending signals into space.  Instead of trying to make contact with intelligent life on other planets, he said we should avoid making contact, or they will come here and hurt us.  Well, people that think as he did might just as well relax.  According to Donald Ware, Zeta Reticulans are already here, living among us.  But the Zeta Reticulans are not the only ones.  Clifford Stone says there are fifty-seven different alien species on our planet.  He bases this on a book he saw when he was in the military with instructions on how to render first aid to any alien species that soldiers might come into contact with.  Because the aliens don’t speak English, they would let us know about their injuries through mental telepathy.


This leads to the subject of hybridization.  A female abductee, taken aboard a flying saucer, will have the DNA in her eggs modified through splicing.  Then the fetus is implanted in her.  Six weeks later it is extracted and put in a jar with liquid in it, presumably so it can further develop.  The point is to alter human bodies in a way that will allow our souls to inhabit these hybrid forms when they are reincarnated into them in the future.  Furthermore, for some reason or other, fifteen percent of the world’s population already have alien implants in their bodies, composed of iron surrounded by tissue full of nerves.

Galactic Diplomacy

Earlier I made reference to alternative theories, in which two mutually incompatible theories are allowed to exist at different times, depending on the situation, without forgoing either one completely.  By this point, it should be clear that this movie is supporting a whole variety of theories about extraterrestrials, many of which are inconsistent with one another.  They are invoked as needed, ready to be set aside temporarily when a totally different theory is deemed suitable for the occasion.  So, if your mind is beginning to wilt under the onslaught, that is to be expected.  I say this because another layer is about to be added to all this, and you are not expected to be able integrate this information with what has come before.

It seems that the aliens are worried about us.  They are concerned about the environment, but mostly, they are concerned that we will destroy our planet through nuclear war.  To that end, they have an “integrated galactic plan” for the benefit of our planet.  That is why an alien visited Gorbachev and told him that the Soviet Union needed to change its ways, right after which Gorbachev initiated Glasnost and Perestroika.


While we wonder if an alien will soon be sitting down to talk to Putin, the subject changes to a moon base being planned by the military.  Paul Hellyer, the former Minister of National Defence in Canada, worries that if the Moon is being used by extraterrestrials, then we cannot be sure what kind of reception Americans will receive when they start working on that moon base.  One of the problems, according to Hellyer, is that he doubts if a single member of Congress knows about the existence of these extraterrestrials on the Moon.  When they fund such projects, they are unknowingly putting us in danger.

In fact, it seems that the Defense Department could not account for over two trillion dollars in spending for secret projects like this moon base, so to cover up this activity, it was made to appear that a plane flew into the Pentagon on 9/11, while in point of fact, the destruction was actually produced with explosives set off by agents of our own government.  Not surprisingly, according to Jim Marrs, the majority of fatalities at the Pentagon that day were in the Army’s accounting office, the very people investigating the missing money.

Our Martian Ancestry

And then it turns out that the extraterrestrials are us.  According to Richard C. Hoagland, the human race did not originate on Earth, but on Mars.  Actually, Clifford Stone says the Martians lived inside the two moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, before they came here.  Neither man says exactly when the Martians migrated to Earth, or whether there are Martians that still live inside those moons, but David Hatcher Childress suggests that at least some of the Martians came here thousands of years ago, since they were the ones responsible for building the megalithic structures here on Earth, obelisks and pyramids, which are just like the ones on the Moon and on Mars.

One wonders why they would waste time with obelisks and pyramids when they could have been building refineries and electric power plants to supply themselves with the same conveniences they presumably enjoyed back home, while living inside those moons.

Putting it all together, we are not of pure Martian ancestry, but rather a hybrid of Martians and humans at an early stage of evolution, which resulted in what we now call modern man. Anyway, after they colonized Earth, the Martians continued with what David Jacobs calls their goal of “planetary acquisition.”  Dave Perkins says this is achieved by means of cattle mutilations, the purpose of which is to take bacteria from the rectums of these cows, which is then used to nurture hybrid babies in space, the ones in those jars referred to above, which are then used to populate the universe.


I will never watch another ufology film.  This one wore me out.  What really worries me, though, is that from now on, I may not be able to enjoy watching science fiction movies anymore either.

Spacewomen vs. Earthmen

Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)

Cat-Women of the Moon is a cheesy science fiction flick with a right-wing ideology.

When it begins, we find five astronauts on a spaceship on their way to the moon.  One of those astronauts is Helen (Marie Windsor), the navigator.  After the ship has quit accelerating, and the astronauts are able to rise from their cots, Helen flips open her compact and begins combing her hair and fixing her face.  Walt, the engineer, who comes across as a womanizer, watches her do this and says, “Oh brother, am I going to collect some bets.”  One can only imagine that the bets had something to do with having a little space sex with Helen.  This might be a challenge, however, because there seems to be a love triangle between her, Kip (Victor Jory), and Laird (Sonny Tufts), the copilot and pilot respectively.  Looks as though they should have brought more women along so that everyone could have one.  But that will soon be remedied.

Walt is also out to make a fast buck.  He plugs an oil company on the radio when saying a few words to the folks back home, which he figures is worth a couple of grand.  He also has some stamps to put on his letters from the moon, which he figures will be worth a couple of hundred bucks each.

Helen seems to be directing the ship to land on what she and Laird call the “dark side” of the moon, which no one has ever seen, as opposed to the “bright side” of the moon, which is what we on Earth can see.  Of course, the far side of the moon is not always in the dark, just as the near side of the moon is not always illuminated, so the man that wrote this script seems to have been rather confused on this point.  Laird balks at Helen’s desire to land on the dark side because the original plan was to start with the bright side.

Once they land and get suited up, Helen complains about her boots, which she says are too heavy.  But Laird tells her that they will weigh less once they leave the ship and are walking on the surface of the moon.  That’s where there will be less gravity, you see.  And sure enough, once they disembark, the boots are much lighter.

Anyway, there they are on the “dark side” (i.e., far side) of the moon, and yet Laird is able to look up at the sky and see the Earth.  Helen, who brings her cigarettes with her because they make her feel at home, directs them toward a cave.  Laird just doesn’t understand how she knows so much about this dark side of the moon.  But it’s a good thing she does, because when they reach the border where the illuminated part of the moon begins, Laird shows the men how you can light one of Helen’s cigarettes by exposing it to the sun, where it immediately bursts into flames.  It manages to do this even though oxygen is not present.  Laird did this with the cigarette to show everyone why they must avoid setting foot on the bright side.  And this is strange, because it was the bright side where Laird said they were supposed to land originally.

Once they get inside the cave, their boots become heavy again.  Then they notice stalactites, which are formed by dripping water.  Kip takes one of Helen’s matches and lights it, proving that there is atmosphere in the cave as a result of the increased gravitational pull.  So, they remove their space suits.  Kip brought his revolver with him for the same reason Helen brought her cigarettes:  it makes him feel at home.  But now that they know they can breathe the air, Kip says the revolver is definitely going with him now.  As he says, “Where there’s oxygen, there’s life.  And where there’s life, there’s death.”  In a left-wing movie, any character that straps on a gun with a swagger is doomed to suffer an ignominious death before the movie is over, but as this is a right-wing movie, he proves to be quite the hero with that gun, as when he deals death to couple of giant spiders that attack Helen.

Eventually they encounter the title aliens, good-looking women from an ancient civilization, three of whom are Alpha, Beta, and Lambda.  They are called “cat-women,” presumably, because women are often thought to have feline characteristics, especially if they wear black tights, have upward slanting eyebrows, and long fingernails.  The men of their civilization died soon after these women were born, but Beta says they have no use for men.

What they do have need of is the spaceship so they can get to Earth, because they are running out of oxygen on the moon.  They have been in telepathic communication with Helen and have made her one of them.  The cat-women have no telepathic control over men, only other women, but they do have their womanly wiles.  The women set about trying to seduce the men in order to learn how to fly their spaceship.  Once they get the information they need, they will kill the crew, go to Earth, get telepathic control over all the Earth women, eugenically select the best men to impregnate the cat-women, have lots of girl babies, and rule the world.  Needless to say, it is just this idea of women taking over that bothers the male-dominated, paranoid right.

Beta works her charms on Walt, playing on both his lust and his greed.  He hopes to get a little moontang from her, and he becomes really interested when she tells him about all the gold on the moon.  She promises that after he teaches her what he knows about the ship as the engineer, she will show him the gold.  On the ship, she catches on quickly.  Walt says, “You’re too smart for me, baby.  I like them stupid.”  Beta then delivers on her promise to show him where the gold is, taking him to a cave where the walls are full of the stuff.  While he is dreaming of untold wealth, she plunges a knife in his back.  Meanwhile, Lambda has been going to work on Doug, who is the boy-next-door type.  She falls in love with him and warns him of what’s up.

Kip has been suspicious of the whole setup.  While the other men have been enjoying delicious meals with the cat-women, he has been sitting apart, eating his K-ration.  He even tosses the wadded-up package on the floor to show his contempt for the whole business.  Laird, on the other hand, thinks those on the Earth and the moon can get along, just the sort of peacenik naiveté for which the right has contempt.  Laird wants everything done by the book, and he is always talking about science.  Those on the anti-intellectual right are skeptical about science and disdainful of the professional elite, and Kip’s contempt for Laird in this regard surfaces repeatedly.

And Kip has been suspicious of Helen too.  He gets rough with her, grabbing her hand and squeezing it until she feels pain.  It happens to be the hand through which the cat-women have telepathic control over her.  Released from cat-women control, she falls into Kip’s arms and confesses her love for him.  They kiss.

But once he releases her hand, she reverts back to the bad Helen.  She tells Laird she loves him to get the information she needs to pilot the spaceship.  When she tells Kip it is Laird she loves, he is disgusted.  But when he finds out from Doug what he has learned from Lambda, that Helen is just trying to get information from Laird before she kills him, he squeezes her hand again.  Whenever he hurts her like that, she becomes tender and compliant.  That’s the way you have to handle women.  And now that she is back to being the good Helen, she confesses the plot, as well as her love for Kip.  This angers Laird, and he and Kip get into a fight, which breaks up when they realize that Helen, no longer under Kip’s grip, has run off.  Lambda tries to stop Helen, Alpha, and Beta from commandeering the ship, but Beta bonks her on the head with a rock and kills her.  Kip uses his revolver to shoot Alpha and Beta, after which Helen is no longer under cat-women influence.  She and the rest of the crew, minus Walt, get back to the ship and head for Earth.

And so it is that Kip, the gun-toting astronaut, saves the day by killing these cat-women before they could take over the Earth.  He has won the heart of the woman he loves, not only getting the better of Laird, but also freeing Helen from the pernicious influence of those cat-women, who had been putting ideas in her head.

Queen of Outer Space (1958)

Whereas Cat-Women of the Moon was serious in tone, Queen of Outer Space is a light-hearted look at another world dominated by women.  Nevertheless, it too has a right-wing orientation.

When this movie begins, it does it’s best to look futuristic, because it is set in what at that time was years in the future, 1986, but you have to smile when you see the display of cobra phones, which I haven’t seen outside of a movie since the 1960s.  Three astronauts and a Professor Konrad blastoff into space in a futuristic 1950s rocketship, full of mechanical gauges.

They are headed to a space station because there has been some trouble lately.  Just before they get there, the thing is blown up.  They set their ship on maximum acceleration to escape the blast, and the next thing you know, they land on Venus, which turns out to be habitable.  That surprises the crew, since it is contrary to the theory that Venus cannot support life.

But it does support life.  In particular, it supports life in the form of beautiful, young women with ray guns, who are wearing makeup, tight-fitting garments from the waist up, short skirts, and transparent high-heel shoes.  The men are brought before Queen Yllana.  She and the councilwomen who accompany her wear masks.  One of the women watching this tribunal, Motiya, leaves and goes to tell Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor), leader of the resistance movement, what is happening.

Queen Yllana says the Earthmen are violent and want to invade their planet.  Larry, the womanizer of the crew, says, “Why don’t you girls knock off all this Gestapo stuff and be a little friendly?”  Yllana says they will all be put to death after they are tortured into telling the truth, after which they are led to the prison chamber.

Once they are alone, Professor Konrad and Captain Neal Patterson conclude that they did not wind up on Venus by accident, Neal saying that the beam that destroyed the space station and knocked them off their course may have originated from Venus.  Mike says, “Oh, come off it.  How could a bunch of women invent a gizmo like that?”  To this, Larry replies, “Sure.  And even if they invented it, how could they aim it?  You know how women drivers are.”

Talleah comes to the room, and we get a quick history lesson.  Ten Earth years ago, there was a war between Venus and Mordo, in which weapons of great power were used.  Mordo was eventually destroyed, but most of the cities of Venus were destroyed as well.  As a result of all this suffering, the women took over, led by Yllana, who said that men caused the ruin of their world, and it was time for women to be in charge.  They were able to do it because the men didn’t take them seriously.  After all, Yllana was only a woman, and the men were too busy preparing for war.  Most of the men were put to death, except for a few scientists and mathematicians she needed.  (So that’s who built the beam that destroyed the space station!)  These few men were banished to Tyrus, a satellite of Venus, and it has become a prison colony.  And because the men on Earth have been making a lot of scientific progress, Yllana wants to destroy Earth with the Beta Disintegrator before they are able to invade Venus.

Meanwhile, sex is on everyone’s mind.  Larry is excited to think about the ratio of women to men on this planet.  More particularly, both Talleah and Yllana are falling in love with Neal, which is why Talleah becomes angry when Yllana sends for him.  When Neal gets to Yllana’s boudoir, he tries making love to her, but she refuses to remove her mask.  He psychoanalyzes her.  “I understand you better than you do yourself,” he tells her.  “You’re denying man’s love, substituting hatred and a passion for this monstrous power you possess.”  He continues, saying, “You’re not only a queen, but a woman too.  And a woman needs a man’s love.”

Determined to give her the love she needs, he rips off her mask, revealing her horribly scarred face, which she says are radiation burns, caused by men and their wars.  She asks him if he will give her that love now, and he says he’s sorry, turning away in disgust.  This then is the root of the problem.  Deprived of the sexual fulfillment of giving herself to a man completely, she has tried to compensate by dominating men and destroying them.

He is sent back to the prison chamber, but women loyal to Talleah bring the men to her.  Except for Professor Konrad, each man ends up with a woman who goes with them to destroy the Beta Disintegrator.  The women say they have no life without love, without children.  Talleah’s plan, if they are successful, is to bring the men back from Tyrus and restore the old order, the one in which men run things, while women stay home and have babies.

On their way to the Beta Disintegrator, they end up having to hide in a cave.  Just as in Cat-Women of the Moon, the walls of the cave are full of gold, which the women regard with indifference because gold is so plentiful on Venus.  And just as in that other movie, they get attacked by a giant spider, which they manage to kill.

Soon after, they are recaptured.  Yllana prepares to destroy the Earth, but Motiya sabotaged the Beta Disintegrator, and it starts disintegrating.  Yllana tries to save it, but she ends up being burnt to a crisp.  Now there are only beautiful women on Venus, with no ugly women around to cause trouble because they can’t get a man.

The next thing you know, the astronauts are saying goodbye to each of their women, because duty comes first.  But then they get a message from Earth telling them it is too risky to return on the ship that got them to Venus.  They will need to stay there for about a year.  Each man is delighted, taking his woman in his arms.  The movie ends as we see Professor Konrad about to be part of a ménage à cinq.

Invasion of the Star Creatures (1962)

Invasion of the Star Creatures is a low-budget spoof of movies like the two we have just discussed.  In order to make sure everyone is in on the joke, the credits open with “R.I. Diculous Presents An Impossible Picture.”  It is filled with silly situations and corny jokes, but it is rather amusing, if you are in the mood for this sort of thing.

On an army missile base, Private Philbrick and Private Penn are normally in charge of such things as washing the garbage cans, but are assigned by Colonel Awol to be part of a team investigating a cave that opened up as the result of a nuclear test explosion.  The team discovers seven-foot-tall, plant-like extraterrestrials.  They look like trees with vegetables growing out of their heads.  However, these plant creatures are just slaves, their masters being two tall, beautiful women, Professor Tanga and Dr. Puna.  The two privates are captured by the vegetable monsters and brought before the two women.

Philbrick wonders aloud what Space Commander Connors would do, a variation on such radio and television characters as Captain Video, Captain Midnight, and Commander Corey of Space Patrol.  The women tell Penn and Philbrick they plan to return to their planet, after which Earth will be invaded and conquered.  Then they show the privates the room where they grow the plant men.  We see flower pots, most of which have a hand sticking up out of them.  When they prepare to leave the room, Philbrick says goodbye to the plant hands, one of which waves bye-bye.

Although there are warrior men back on their planet, the women don’t seem to know anything about love, so Philbrick teaches Dr. Puna what “kiss” means. She swoons, allowing Penn and Philbrick to escape.  They return to base and tell Colonel Awol that he must stop the spaceship from blasting off.  Awol does not believe them and orders them to be thrown into the guardhouse, assuming them to be drunk.  But when Philbrick swears on his Space Commander Connors’ secret ring, Awol asks to see the ring.  When Philbrick shows it to him, Awol shows Philbrick his.  They utter the secret code words and do the hand signal.  Then they discover they both belong to the same stellar squadron, and it turns out that whereas Awol is only a junior flight leader, Philbrick is a senior flight leader, which means Philbrick is now in command.

The three of them head back to the cave.  Penn says the three of them will not be enough to stop the space broads from taking off.  Just then, a bunch of Indians come along, whereupon it turns out that they also are members of Space Commander Connors’ flight squadron, only one of the Indians is the general flight leader of that squadron, and proves it with a badge pinned to his bare chest.  So now, the Indian is in command.

They all have a pow wow, during which the Indians and the colonel get drunk.  Penn and Philbrick go back to the cave and manage to blast the rocketship off into space, marooning the two women.  Professor Tanga is angry that their plans for conquering Earth have been ruined.  But Dr. Puna gets Penn to teach Professor Tanga what “kiss” means.  As both women are kissed, they swoon.  When it is explained to them that marriage is when a woman becomes a man’s slave, they think the idea sounds heavenly. They all get married and live happily ever after.

I saw this movie a couple of times in the 1960s on the late show, and I liked it so much that I bought my very own copy on DVD.  I was looking forward to one of my favorite jokes in the movie, when Penn and Philbrick try to get telepathic control of one of the plant men.  The way I remember it, Penn says, “Focus on his eye.”

But as the eyes of the plant men are spaced really far apart, Philbrick asks, “Which one?”

“The one next to the carrot,” Penn replies.

Imagine my disappointment when I found it was not on the DVD.  Then I noticed that IMDb says that the television version is ten minutes longer than the theatrical version.

I guess I’ll have to wait for the director’s cut.

Children of Men (2006)

Although the movie Children of Men was released in 2006, and the novel on which it is based was published in 1992, it seems well-suited to tap into the anxieties of today:  the resurgence of fascism; the influx of immigrants having dark skin, especially those who are Muslims; and the declining birth rate of Caucasians, especially Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic Christians.  However, these three elements are disguised, for it would be unseemly to make them explicit.

The movie is set in the year 2027.   The United Kingdom is one of the few places left that has a functioning government.  Refugees pour in, fleeing war and starvation, even though it looks like the kind of country that under normal circumstances you would want to get out of.  The government has become a police state, while terrorist groups, like the one known as “The Fishes,” wreak havoc throughout the city.  And why, you ask, is the world in chaos?  It’s all because women stopped having babies 18 years earlier.

Come again?  Why would infertility cause a breakdown in society?  I could imagine people walking around, looking a little despondent at the thought that mankind would be extinct in less than a century, but why that would cause a dystopian world is a mystery.  The movie just plops that explanation before us as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.  If anything, worldwide infertility would ease population pressures.  We already know that people who are single have a much easier time making a living than people who have children, so there is no reason to think there would be so much starvation.  It would be like the Malthusian principle in reverse.  Granted, things may get a little difficult in about 40 years, when everyone will be a senior citizen, but that would not explain the present situation.

The explanation for this incoherence was noted above.  It would not do to say that it was the white race that was suffering from infertility, while darker skinned refugees were breeding with abandon, which is what a lot of people really fear.  And so this is concealed by having it be the entire human race that has become infertile.  While this disguises the appeal to white angst, it does so at the expense of not making much sense, for the reasons given above.

Anyway, in the midst of all this, a woman named Kee turns up pregnant.  It is important that she is played by a black actress, Clare-Hope Ashitey.  Had a white actress played her part, the subliminal racist threat of a declining white population might have become too obvious to ignore.  In any event, she becomes a pawn in the struggle between the state and the terrorists.  As a result, there is all this running about trying to get possession of the baby, while Theo (Clive Owen) tries to get Kee to this place in the Azores where a group known as the Human Project has scientists who are trying to find a cure for this pandemic of infertility.  Before he can get her onto a ship named Tomorrow, she has the baby.  She had joked earlier that she was a virgin, but that was more than a joke.  We are supposed to regard her pregnancy as having religious significance.  We know this because when she gives birth, and at other times when there is a lot of emphasis on the baby, we hear heavenly background music.

I know that for some people, life is precious, but given the world this movie presents to us, it is hard to regard Kee’s pregnancy as a good thing.  Why would anyone want to perpetuate such misery?  A midwife named Miriam, who was taking care of Kee for a while, says that everything happens for a reason.  Well, looking at the misery and suffering that mankind has been reduced to, perhaps she is right.  The reason for the infertility is to put an end to the evil known as Homo sapiens.

Unfortunately, Kee makes it onto the ship that will take her to the Human Project, and as the credits roll, we hear the laughter of children in the background, suggesting that the cure for infertility will be found, thanks in part to women like Kee.  Of course, we have to ask ourselves, “Won’t these children grow up to be just like all those adults we have been watching kill each other for almost two hours?”  This little baby will grow up to be a terrorist; that little baby will grow up and become a member of the police force; and that other little baby over there will end up in a concentration camp.  Now, aren’t we glad the Human Project is going to succeed?

However, if this movie is an unconscious fear of the decreasing fertility of the white race, then we can interpret the Human Project as actually being the White Project, the idea being that if we can just get white people to start having more babies so as to outnumber those of darker skins, then Western civilization can be saved.

Contact (1997)

Long before I saw the movie Contact, I had known people who made some sort of connection between intelligent life on other planets and the existence of God.  It’s hard to say what that connection was exactly, because no one ever presented it as a valid argument, consisting of premises about extraterrestrial beings and ending with the conclusion that God exists.  No such argument was ever forthcoming, because it would have been palpably absurd on its face, even to those who were advancing it.  Instead, they just seemed to feel that the existence of aliens had religious significance, but they could never quite to bring themselves to spell it out.

Apparently, it was people just like that who made Contact.  The movie is mainly about making contact with extraterrestrials through the transmission of signals through space, but religious stuff keeps showing up, not because there is any logical connection between the two, but simply because people in the movie seem to feel that connection, even though that feeling never seems to rise to the level of coherent thought.  Mostly what we get is the association of ideas.

For example, Jodie Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, an astronomer.  When Ellie was a young girl, she had a ham radio.  At one point, she asks her father if she can contact her deceased mother through her radio.  And after her father dies, she tries to contact him through her radio.  So an association is made between radio transmissions and life after death.  We regard this as merely a child’s desperate hope of finding her parents again, which would be just fine as a stand-alone scene.  But further such childlike associations recur throughout the movie.

While listening for signals from outer space in Puerto Rico, she meets Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), who is an almost-priest whose spirituality expresses itself as a concern for human values that he believes are being jeopardized by technology.  Ellie and Palmer have sex, and in the afterglow, during a little pillow talk, he says:  “So I was lying there, just looking at the sky. And then I felt something. I don’t know. All I know is that I wasn’t alone. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t scared of nothing, not even dying. It was God.”

There it is in a nutshell:  He looks up at the sky; he has a feeling of the sublime; so there must be a God.

By this time in her life, Ellie has become an atheist, one of a long list of movie atheists destined to find God in the final reel.  She says, “And there’s no chance that you had this experience because some part of you needed to have it?”

Her remark is to the point, of course.  Most people have a religious need.  That need is satisfied by whatever their parents told them when they were children, and that suffices for life.  If they lose their faith in the teachings of childhood, their religious need will manifest itself in something else, sooner or later.  But some people have no religious need at all.  They simply quit believing whatever they were raised to believe, and nothing ever takes its place.  They look up at the sky, and all they see are stars.  If they think about life on other planets, it inspires no religious awe.

As a way of forestalling objections, Palmer says, “I’m a reasonably intelligent guy, but this…. My intellect couldn’t even touch this.”  And that’s the end of that.  His epiphany transcended such things as reason and common sense, so it cannot be subjected to critical thought.

Later in the movie, when the world finds out that signals from the vicinity of the relatively close star Vega show signs of intelligent life, we are informed that attendance at religious services has risen.  And we see Robert Novak on Crossfire saying, “Even a scientist must admit there are some pretty serious religious overtones to all this.”

It would be tedious for me to object to every piece of poppycock in this movie, but I cannot let this one pass.  A lot of religious people believe that intelligent life on this planet can be explained only if there is a God.  Let us assume they are right.  In that case, there being another planet with intelligent life on it is no big deal.  What God did once, he could easily do again.  On the other hand, atheists believe that evolution can completely explain intelligent life on this planet.  Let us assume they are right.  In that case, evolution could produce intelligent life on another planet just as it did on this one.  In either event, one more planet is just one more planet.

Ellie and Palmer get into a debate about the existence of God.  She appeals to the principle of Occam’s razor:  “Occam’s Razor is a basic scientific principle which says: Things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be right. So what’s more likely? An all-powerful God created the universe, then decided not to give any proof of his existence? Or that he doesn’t exist at all, and that we created him so we wouldn’t feel so small and alone.”

Palmer says he would not want to live in a world where God does not exist.  Ellie, in turn, says she would need proof.  Palmer asks her if she can prove that her father loved her.  She is stumped.  I don’t know why, because all she has to do is apply Occam’s razor one more time.  Her father acted as though he loved her, and the simplest explanation for that is that he really did.  God, on the other hand, acts as though he doesn’t care.

Anyway, it turns out that the aliens have sent us schematics for building a transportation machine that will allow someone from Earth to visit that planet orbiting Vega.  After a lot of paranoid politics and neo-luddite terrorism, Ellie gets to go.  She zips through a wormhole and ends up in a world based on what is in her mind, memories of a beach in Pensacola and of her father.  The alien who has taken on the image of her father explains everything to her, how lots of civilizations from different planets have interacted this way.  Ellie wants to know why more people from Earth can’t see what she’s seen.  The alien answers, “This is the way it’s been done for billions of years.”

In other words, this advanced civilization does not ask why things have to be this way, and so Ellie shouldn’t ask why either.  We are not supposed to question the ways of the aliens just as we are not supposed to question the ways of God.

When Ellie gets back, it turns out that while she has been gone for eighteen hours by her time, only a split second has passed here on Earth.  This is the reverse of the usual twin paradox, in which more time passes for the people on Earth than it does for the astronaut traveling at speeds near that of light, but the reason for this anomaly soon becomes clear.  It is so that her story can be doubted.  Because she ostensibly was only gone for a split second, a lot people don’t believe her story about what happened.  In particular, Michael Kitz (James Woods), who is sort of the villain of the piece, calls her story into question.  He says she just hallucinated it, that the whole thing is a hoax.  He demands that Ellie produce proof, and she cannot.  He appeals to Occam’s razor, no less, and indignantly asks if we are supposed to accept her story on faith.

Now we know why this movie has the aliens demanding that just one person go on that trip to Vega instead of having the Vegans come to Earth.  It puts Ellie in the same position as someone who believes in God but cannot prove it.  Had the Vegans come to Earth, everyone would have seen them on television.  There would have been no doubt as to their existence.  But this way, the aliens leave no proof of their existence just as God has left no proof of his.  So all the objections earlier enunciated by Ellie about God are turned against her with respect to the aliens.  Ellie’s response to these objections harks back to the mystical experience Palmer had while stargazing, almost a beatific vision.

Since this is the way things have been done for billions of years, then here is the way it must have all begun.  There was this first ancient civilization, call it Civilization 1.  They discovered there was another civilization on another planet more primitive than their own, call it Civilization 2.  So, they decided to let exactly one person from Civilization 1 make physical contact with exactly one person from Civilization 2.  They knew that the one person so contacted would not be believed by most people from Civilization 2, except for those willing to take things on faith.  Why the people of Civilization 1 thought faith was important, we don’t know and never shall.  When Civilization 2 discovered a Civilization 3, exactly one person from among the faithful of Civilization 2 made physical contact with exactly one person from Civilization 3, and he was not believed by those of Civilization 3, except by those who have faith.  And they did it this way because that was the way Civilization 1 did it, and people of faith know they are not supposed to question why things are the way they are.  Then Civilization 3 did the same with Civilization 4, and so on and so on, until we get to our present civilization here on Earth.  And it all makes about as much sense as a religion in which God leaves no proof of his existence and then requires faith in him for salvation, without which one is condemned to the eternal fires of Hell.  Why God thinks faith is important, we don’t know and never shall.

For those who are inclined to infuse the existence of aliens from other planets with religious significance, this movie is for them.  For those who have no need of religion, this movie will make them feel like an alien from another planet.

Arrival (2016)

Linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) has a baby girl, raises her through her childhood, and then suffers through the heartbreak of finding out that her daughter will die of an incurable disease at a young age.

Then twelve flying saucers land in different parts of the world.  People start panicking and governments begin mobilizing, which I suppose is only natural.  But let’s face it.  If they wanted to kill us, then given their advanced technology, there wouldn’t be anything we could do about it.  Be that as it may, because of Banks’ language skills, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) shows up in her office to enlist her in translating the language of the aliens.  Weber plays her a snippet of the aliens talking, which lasts just a few seconds, and he asks her what she makes of it, as if anyone could translate a completely alien language from such a small sample.  I was hoping her reply would be, “He said, ‘Take me to your leader.’”

Banks says she would have to interact with the aliens in person to be able to communicate with them.  Weber refuses and says he is going to Berkeley to see if Dr. Danvers will work for them instead.  Banks says, “Before you commit to him, ask him the Sanskrit word for war and its translation.”  Is this a trick question?  The translation of the Sanskrit word for war has to be “war”; otherwise, it’s not the Sanskrit word for war.  Presumably, she is talking about the etymology of that word, which is “gavisti,” rather than its translation.  In that sense, I suppose you could say that the “translation” of the Spanish word for pregnant is “embarrassed,” for example.  Anyway, the whole point of this is Banks’ way of letting them know that Danvers is second rate.  When Weber finds out that Danvers thinks the translation of “gavisti” is “an argument,” whereas Banks knows that it is actually “a desire for more cows,” Weber knows that he must give in to her demands to meet with the aliens.  Thank goodness Weber didn’t enlist Danvers for the job!  With his second-rate language skills, he might have caused an intergalactic incident.

On her way to the aliens in Montana, she meets Dr. Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist.  He quotes from the preface of one of her books, “Language is the foundation of civilization,” and then tells her she is wrong, because, as he puts it, “The cornerstone of civilization isn’t language, it’s science.”  I guess this is the movie’s way of introducing some kind of science-versus-the-humanities conflict into the story, but we cannot help but feel we are being manipulated into being on Banks’ side, for it is beyond obvious that you can have language without science, but you cannot have science without language.  And just in case we missed it, the point is further driven home when they arrive at the place where Banks is going to get some facetime with the aliens so she can learn how to speak Alienish.  Donnelly asks if the aliens have responded to things like Fibonacci numbers.  Weber has to point out to him that they are still working on the responses to the word “Hello.”

However, even Weber seems a little obtuse on this point.  He later complains that the vocabulary list that Banks has constructed has words like “eat” and “walk,” which he calls grade school words.  Didn’t he take a foreign language course when he was in school?  We all know that you have to start off with common words like “eat” and “walk” in the beginning, that you have to learn how to say things like, “Where is the library?” before you can start having complicated discussions about whether the aliens intend to kill us.  Once again, the movie forces us to identify with Banks, because everyone else in the movie seems to be a little bit thick.

Now, it seems to me that if the aliens have the technology to travel light-years across space, they have the technology to receive our television broadcasts, by which they could have learned to speak English before they ever got here.  But the problem with that, according to the movie’s version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, if the aliens learned to speak English, it would rewire their brains, and the next thing you know, they would become rational like us.  That would never do.  So, Banks has to learn Alienish, which will rewire her brain so that she can grasp the mystical premise of this movie, which has something to do with the Eternal-Now and the Oneness-of-Allness.  This is why, presumably, their written sentences are basically circles with curlicues.  Our sentences have a beginning and an end, but the circular expressions of their thoughts defy such a linear manner of thinking.  I guess you might call it circular reasoning.  Anyway, the practical consequence of this mystical premise is that the future has already happened.  In fact, the aliens are helping us now to become One with each other so that three thousand years later, we will help them.

Furthermore, what we saw at the beginning of the movie is actually what will happen later after she marries Donnelly, and all the flashbacks she was having about her daughter were really flashforwards.  In one of those flashforwards, she tells her daughter that Daddy became angry and said she made the wrong choice, after which he divorced her.  The choice in question had to do with her deciding to have a child even though she knew the child would die from a rare, incurable disease.  My guess is that he said something like, “Why the hell didn’t we go to a fertility clinic and get the bad gene removed?”  But that would just be the same old, rational, scientific, linear way of thinking that comes from speaking English.

Capricorn One (1977)

Shortly after we put a man on the moon, a conspiracy theory emerged that it never really happened, that the whole thing was filmed in the Arizona desert.  Say what you will about conspiracy theories, they can make the basis of some pretty good movies.  Capricorn One is just such an example.  Instead of the moon, the plot of this movie consists of an effort to fake a manned mission to Mars.  It seems that Congress is ready to cut NASA’s budget at the first opportunity, and when it turns out that the planned mission would fail, certain bigwigs at NASA decide to fake the Mars mission to keep that from happening.

Reluctantly, the three astronauts go along with the hoax, because the conspirators have threatened to kill their families if they don’t.  Elliot Whitter (Robert Walden), a technician at mission control, figures out that the television signals are really coming from somewhere on Earth, about three hundred miles away.  He tells his superiors, but as they are in on the conspiracy, they tell him not to worry about it, but it is clear that they are worried about him.  He tells his friend Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould) about the signals one night over a game of pool.  Just then, Caulfield is called to the telephone, which allows some henchmen to spirit Whitter away.

Subsequently, the computer simulation of a spaceship returning from Mars shows that the module lost its heat shield on its return to Earth, which would mean the death of the three astronauts.  They realize that the conspirators will try to kill them to cover things up.  They escape and steal the jet that took them to their isolated location.  However, they run out of fuel and have to land in the middle of a desert.  When they get out of the jet, one of them delivers the greatest line of the movie:  “It looks like we’re on Mars.”  The rest of the movie is about Caulfield’s attempt to figure out what is going on and the astronauts’ attempt to escape, until the two stories merge when Caulfield saves the only surviving astronaut, Charles Brubaker (James Brolin), the two of them blowing the conspiracy wide open when they show up at Brubaker’s funeral.

As good as this movie is, it has the two unfortunate and unnecessary flaws that plague most conspiracy theory movies:  there are too many conspirators, and they overdo their efforts to control what happens.  In this movie, when Whitter disappears, Caulfield goes to his apartment, which he has been to many times before over the years.  When he arrives, there is a woman pretending that she is the occupant of the apartment and that she knows nothing about Whitter.  The apartment has been completely redecorated and refurnished, and there are stacks of magazines addressed to this woman.

This is totally absurd.  The simplest thing to do would be to just let Caulfield go to the apartment and find that no one is home.  Sure, he could report his friend’s disappearance to Missing Persons, but people go missing all the time.  There would have been no need to include that woman as part of the conspiracy, not to mention all the people needed to completely renovate the apartment.  Oh, and the people in the leasing office are part of the conspiracy too, because they show him rental receipts from her for over a year.  And the personnel department at NASA is in on it too, because they say they have no record of Whitter ever working there, and they have never heard of him.

By letting Caulfield knock on the door and find that no one is home, nothing would have been lost but the absurdity.  He could still have continued to investigate based on Whitter’s remark at the pool table.  Moreover, the woman in the apartment claiming to be the tenant and the scrubbed records in the personnel department at NASA only confirm that something insidious is going on, thereby guaranteeing that Caulfield will start investigating; whereas if Whitter had merely disappeared, Caulfield might have shrugged the whole thing off.

During the time that Caulfield was at Whitter’s apartment, the conspirators were busy sabotaging his automobile.  Said sabotage consisted of causing his car to suddenly accelerate after he is on the road for a while.  When this happens, the brakes fail, the gearshift disengages, and the ignition switch comes loose.  Boy, did those mechanics work fast!  Miraculously, Caulfield survives when his car gets to a raised drawbridge, causing him to plunge into the river.

Now, there must be easier ways to assassinate a pesky reporter than by sabotaging his car.  I would have shot him with a silencer when he entered Whitter’s apartment and just left the body there.  Maybe Whitter would have been blamed for the murder.  In any event, if they were going to kill Caulfield anyway, what was the point of the elaborate charade with the woman in the apartment, the leasing office, and the personnel department?

But why kill Caulfield at all?  In fact, why kill Whitter?  If the conspirators had managed to successfully kill the three astronauts, the signals Whitter was concerned about could have been dismissed as a computer malfunction.  And if he persisted with his story, most people would laugh him off as some goofball who is into conspiracy theories.

I said that there was an easier way to get rid of a pesky reporter, and that is by shooting him.  That apparently occurs to the conspirators too.  Brubaker tried to give his wife (Brenda Vaccaro) a secret message while pretending to be on his way back to Earth, indirectly referring to a town called Flatrock, which features a movie set for making Westerns.  In other words, it is fake, just like the Mars landing.  When Caulfield drives out to Flatrock, the conspirators, who apparently followed him, try to shoot him.  Now, the place looks deserted, so the conspirators could have just walked up to him and put a bullet in his brain and then driven off without any witnesses, but they fire a couple of shots at him from a distance and then drive off without finishing the job.

But we’re not through.  Now some Drug Enforcement Agents that are also in on the conspiracy plant some cocaine in Caulfield’s apartment and arrest him for possession.  I guess they figured that since they couldn’t kill him they would settle for locking him up.  Of course, he gets out on bond, but I suppose they didn’t count on that.

All right, so this movie is not realistic, if by “realistic” we mean the sort of thing that could actually happen.  But it is realistic in the sense that it matches the outlandish imaginings of people that espouse conspiracy theories, such as the one that we faked the moon landing.

Ex Machina (2014) and Westworld (2016- )

The problem of other minds was already a perennial problem of philosophy long before anyone even thought about robots.  The only conscious mind each person is sure of is his own.  We naturally attribute consciousness to others by instinct, and the rational justification of such attribution is that similar causes produce similar effects:  other people are like us in matter and form, in what we are made of and how we are structured, so it is only reasonable to expect that other people will be conscious beings and not mindless automata.  Most of us attribute consciousness to animals, but as animals become further removed from us, the analogy to ourselves weakens and our willingness to attribute consciousness weakens likewise.  Many have doubts about protozoa, for instance.

Robots are increasingly being made in a way that stimulates our analogical inference to consciousness.  We already use figures of speech that attribute consciousness to inanimate objects like computers:  personification, when we say the computer is thinking; apostrophe, when we yell at the computer for taking too long.  So when robots are given human form, including eyes and facial expressions, the tendency to take these figures of speech literally becomes irresistible.  And yet, we wonder if the analogy is just superficial.  After all, they are not made from the same stuff that we are made of, and they are not put together the same way we are.

When the movie Ex Machina begins, Caleb, a computer programmer, wins a chance to spend a week with Nathan, the CEO of the company he works for.  Caleb finds out that Nathan has constructed a robot named Ava who is so humanlike that we naturally believe she is conscious.  Of course, a human actress plays the part of Ava, so we in the audience are bound to think so.  In fact, we have to be convinced that she is a robot, for which purpose she is deliberately constructed so as to show off her mechanical parts.  Were it not for these obvious robot features, Caleb himself might wonder if Ava is just some woman trying to fool him into thinking she is a robot.  By way of contrast, in the television series Westworld (2016- ), the robots, referred to as “hosts,” are designed to entertain the human “guests,” for which purpose they must appear to be human.  To make it believable that they are not, we are shown scenes of their manufacture.

Another difference between these two shows is that whereas Ava of Ex Machina is electronic, with synthetic material used to create a human appearance for her, the hosts of Westworld seem to be more flesh-androids than robots, in that we suspect that protoplasm is used to make them.  To the extent that organic material is used to construct them, we are naturally more likely to infer consciousness, according to the principle mention above that from similar causes we expect similar effects.

Anyway, Caleb’s job in Ex Machina is to perform a Turing test, which a computer or robot must pass in order to qualify for having true artificial intelligence.  The idea is that if a human cannot tell when he is interacting with another human and when he is interacting with a machine, then the machine has passed the test.  Caleb jumps to the conclusion that if the robot can pass the test, then the robot has consciousness, and Nathan implicitly agrees with that inference.

Some people believe that intelligence implies consciousness and conversely, but neither one implies the other at all.  It may be that no matter how advanced robots become, they will still be automata without any consciousness at all, no matter how many times they pass the Turing test.  In Westworld, on the other hand, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) says that in the early days of manufacturing the robotic hosts, his partner Arnold was not satisfied with the fact that the hosts could pass the Turing test.  He wanted them to be conscious as well.  So it is clear that in this series, passing the Turing test is not regarded as a sufficient condition for consciousness.  There is almost the suggestion that passing the Turing test is a necessary condition for consciousness, but that cannot be right.  Chimpanzees are presumably conscious, but they would fail a Turing test.

In any event, Ex Machina equates intelligence with consciousness, so we shall let it go with that.  The main thing is that in talking to Ava, Caleb falls in love with her.  When he finds out that Nathan intends to reprogram her, wiping out her memory, he is alarmed, for memory is essential to the survival of our person.  As Leibniz once said, if you tell me that when I die, I will be immediately reborn in another body, but I will have no memory of my present life, then you might as well tell me that when I die, another person will be born.  Nathan plans to keep Ava’s body, but in destroying her memory, he will effectively be killing her.

Memory and the absence of such also play an important role in Westworld.  Unlike the original movie made in 1973, where the robots, especially the gunslinger played by Yul Brynner, are villains, in the television series, the hosts are victims.  They are raped, forced to witness the murder of their loved ones, and are murdered themselves.  The humans running Westworld, as well as the guests, feel no compunction about what is done to these hosts, in part because it is never really clear whether the hosts are conscious or not, but mostly because their memories are supposedly wiped clean after such abuse, as if that would negate their victimization.

Returning to Ex Machina, Caleb plots to help Ava escape.  At this point, I thought the movie would turn out in one of two possible ways.  My first possible plot was that the movie would become an adventure story, in which Caleb and Ava try to make their way through the forests and mountains with the very athletic and brilliant Nathan in pursuit.  They would eventually escape and live happily ever after.  The second possible plot, the one I was hoping for, was that just as they were about to escape, Nathan would tell Caleb that because he obviously regards Ava as a person, since he loves her and is trying to save her from death, then she has passed the Turing test big time.  Then he announces he never planned on wiping out her memory, so if Ava and Caleb want to get married and live happily ever after, that is fine with him.  He will simply begin working on a newer model tomorrow.

I can’t believe I did not anticipate the real ending.  After all, have I not watched every film noir that has ever been made?  How could I have missed the fact that Ava is the ultimate femme fatale, more ruthless than any of those played by Jane Greer, Joan Bennett, or Barbara Stanwyck?  She not only kills Nathan with the help of another female robot, but she also locks Caleb in the house where he will eventually die and blithely walks away to board the prearranged helicopter to take her to the city.

Perhaps even more unnerving is the way she smiles after she has locked Caleb in the house, and again when she makes it to the city and stands on a street corner watching people come and go.  In old movies, robots were typically mirthless, perhaps because we supposed that robots might have thoughts and sense perception but not emotions, especially not positive ones.  Increasingly, however, robots are portrayed as having the full range of human affect.  As for Ava in particular, any smiles made before her escape could be dismissed as part of her deceitfulness.  But these smiles occur when she has no need to manipulate anyone, and they are smiles that evince genuine delight and happiness.  It is that smile, more than her intelligence, that makes us believe she is conscious.

Ex Machina is a movie, which means that in just under two hours, the story came to an end, an end that the writer and director, Alex Garland, definitely had in mind from the outset.  Westworld, on the other hand, is a television series, whose end is not yet at hand.  So far, it is fun pulling for the robots for a change, and it is interesting the way this show raises all sorts of existential questions.  But I am only halfway through the first season, and I am starting to have misgivings.  If this were a movie or even just a miniseries, the revolt of the robots would be enough.  But since this is a television series, intended to go on for several seasons, there are all sorts of subplots and superplots, not the least of which is the one involving the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and his quest to solve the mystery of the maze.  As I watched this show, willingly allowing myself to be pulled into the story, I began having misgivings.  It reminded me of something.

What it reminded me of was Lost (2004-2010).  There too I was pulled into the mystery.  For five seasons I watched and was fascinated.  And then, in the sixth season, it became clear that throughout the show, the writers were just winging it, making stuff up as they went along, with no idea how it would all end.  As long as the ratings held up, they just went from season to season, adding on more stuff. But when it finally came time to wrap things up, all we got was a bunch of New Age nonsense.  All the pleasure I had experienced in watching this show was ruined in retrospect.

I could not get the thought out of my mind, so I looked up both shows on IMDb.  It appears that J.J. Abrams, one of the creators of Lost, is an executive producer of Westworld.  I don’t know how much to make of that connection.  All I can say is that I hope that the writers of Westworld already know how all the mysteries of this show will ultimately be resolved into a neat and satisfying end, and that they will not pull another Lost on us.

The Hidden (1987)

The different types of aliens that we encounter in science fiction movies are limited only by our imagination, and they can be grouped in various ways as we see fit, one of which is our attitude toward these aliens.  Of course, the most general attitude toward them is fear, at least in the beginning, since we fear the unknown.  But there are other attitudes more specific than that.

One attitude is disgust.  And the most disgusting type of all is the insectoid, an ugly, repulsive creature, often reminiscent of an insect, but one that typically goes about on two legs.  They are evil, dangerous, and must be evaded or destroyed.  In A Trip to the Moon (1902), the insectoid Selenites are decently attired, but most insectoid aliens do not wear clothes, as is befitting of anything subhuman.  Because they are subhuman, we usually encounter them when we go to their planet (or our moon), since they are incapable of developing the needed technology to come to us.  One exception to this is The War of the Worlds (1953), in which the aliens who launch an invasion of Earth may not be insectoids exactly, but they do look pretty repulsive.  When we visit other planets, it sometimes happens that an insectoid will manage to get onto the rocket ship and head back to Earth with us, as in It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), the precursor to Alien (1979), the most famous insectoid movie of all.  It was always a given that there was no reasoning with these creatures.

Another type quite common in science fiction movies is the humanoid.  They look like us, they wear clothes, and they even speak English. They are usually technologically advanced, and thus come to Earth, although in the television series Star Trek (1966-1969), the crew of the USS Enterprise would often encounter humanoid civilizations on other planets less advanced than that of America at the time the show was produced. They may be dangerous, as are humans, but they look like us, so we are comfortable with this type even so.  And there is always the chance that they can be reasoned with, as in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).  These movies may also feature insectoids, as in This Island Earth (1955). In that movie, the principal aliens are humanoids, but there are also mutants, insectoids that walk around with exposed brains, so they are easily dispatched, if you can get behind them and hit them right between the lobes.

Regarding the different attitudes we may have toward aliens, one more type worth mentioning is the ET.  Aliens of this type are similar to humans, but they are physically slight with large heads and big eyes.  They are not only technologically advanced, but usually spiritually advanced as well, as evidenced by the fact that they don’t wear clothes, indicating that they have progressed beyond any concern for modesty.  They do not speak English.  They are usually the ones to visit us.  This type is a latecomer, found in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982). They are typically friendly and benevolent, even childlike.  Our attitude toward them is affectionate.

The emergence of this type in the 1970s is probably an expression of the peace movements formed in opposition to nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War.  Both movements represented a desire to get along with other nations rather than continue an attitude of Cold War hostility.  In science fiction, this expressed itself as a desire to get along with aliens from other planets, and the easiest way to imagine doing that was to picture them as ETs, as being as innocent as children.

But in so doing, we made things too easy for ourselves.  Of course we can get along with aliens that look like that.  But what about aliens that are as ugly as they are physically imposing, the insectoids?  The bar scene in Star Wars (1977) shows all types getting along together, humanoids and insectoids in particular, but the tone of that movie is cute, not to be taken seriously.  A more realistic depiction of our being able to get along with an insectoid would be far more challenging.  Such a movie was almost made.  Almost.

The Hidden (1987) could never have been a great science fiction movie on a par with 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but as most science fiction movies go, this one could have been something really special in its own small way.  Unfortunately, those most responsible for how this movie was told, screenwriter Jim Kouf and director Jack Sholder, did not have the courage to carry things out to their logical conclusion, but pulled back to something they felt would be safe. Big mistake.

FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan) enlists the aid of local cop Tom Beck to hunt for a succession of people connected to a bunch of strange murders.  As Gallagher knows, but Beck does not, they are pursuing a criminal alien from another planet that takes over human bodies, and when the police manage to pump one so full of lead that it can barely function, it leaves that body and takes over another.  During the transfer, the human body opens its mouth, and a large, disgusting parasite that looks part slug and part insect comes out and enters into the mouth of its new host. As the alien moves from one host to another, it really seems to enjoy the pleasures afforded it by dwelling inside a human:  it likes fast cars, rock music, and sex.  Its big crimes are motivated by a desire for money and power.

Eventually, it turns out that Gallagher is actually an alien cop from the same planet as the alien they are pursuing.  After coming to Earth, Gallagher took over a human body that was going to die anyway.  Just before Gallagher manages to destroy the evil alien, Beck suffers fatal bullet wounds. But Gallagher has met Beck’s wife and daughter, whom he likes, and having lost his own wife and daughter at the hands of his nemesis, he decides to take over Beck’s body just as Beck is about to breathe his last.  But when Gallagher opens his mouth, we see no parasite emerge, but only a golden beam of light leaving him and entering Beck’s mouth. When the doctor enters the room, along with Beck’s wife and daughter, they find that Gallagher has died and Beck has seemingly made a miraculous recovery.

If only Gallagher had opened his mouth and another parasite had come out and entered into Beck’s mouth instead!  We would have been forced to think that something that looks like a combination slug-insect could be good, decent, and kind. That would have split those alien stereotypes wide open, metaphorically reminding us that someone who is ugly may nevertheless be a nice person to know.  But Kouf and Sholder had a failure of nerve.  They were afraid that even though Gallagher had established himself as the good guy, once those in the audience saw that deep down inside he too was an ugly parasite, they would have concluded that Gallagher was evil as well.  I suppose some in the audience might have thought so, but most would have understood that the ugly parasite that was in Gallagher’s body, but is now in Beck’s body, would be a good husband and father.

Some people try to salvage this movie by arguing that Gallagher and his nemesis, though from the same planet, were of two different species, but that strains our credulity.  How would a beam of light have had a wife and a daughter back on the planet it came from?

In the end, that doesn’t matter.  We can make up any story we want.  But the result will still be the same.  The minute Gallagher opened his mouth and a beam of yellow light came out instead of an insectoid, this movie became second rate.

Invasion of the Star Creatures (1962)

Invasion of the Star Creatures is a low-budget spoof of equally low-budget science fiction films.  Just to make sure everyone is in on the joke, the credits open with, “R.I. Diculous Presents An Impossible Picture.”  It is filled with silly situations and corny jokes, but it is rather amusing, if you are in the mood for this sort of thing.

On an army missile base, Private Philbrick and Private Penn are normally in charge of such things as washing the garbage cans, but are assigned by Colonel Awol to be part of a team investigating a cave that opened up as the result of a nuclear test explosion.  The team discovers seven-foot-tall plant-like extraterrestrials, sort of like the alien in The Thing from Another World (1951).  However, these plant creatures are just slaves, their masters being two tall, beautiful women, reminiscent of movies like Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and Queen of Outer Space (1958).

The two privates are captured by the vegetable monsters and brought before the two women, Professor Tanga and Dr. Puna.  Philbrick wonders aloud what Space Commander Connors would do, an allusion to such radio and television characters as Captain Video and Captain Midnight, or the television show Space Patrol (1950-55).  The women tell Penn and Philbrick they plan to return to their planet, after which Earth will be invaded and conquered.  Then they show the privates the room where they grow the plant men.  We see flower pots, most of which have a hand sticking up out of them.  When they prepare to leave the room, Philbrick says goodbye to the plant hands, one of which waves bye-bye.

Although there are warrior men back on their planet, the women don’t seem to know anything about love, so Philbrick teaches Dr. Puna what “kiss” means. She swoons, allowing Penn and Philbrick to escape.  They return to base and tell Colonel Awol that he must stop the spaceship from blasting off.  Awol does not believe them and orders them to be thrown into the guardhouse, assuming them to be drunk.  But when Philbrick swears on his Space Commander Connors’ secret ring, Awol asks to see the ring.  When Philbrick shows it to him, Awol shows Philbrick his.  They utter the secret code words and do the hand signal.  Then they discover they both belong to the same stellar squadron, and it turns out that whereas that Awol is only a junior flight leader, Philbrick is a senior flight leader, which means Philbrick is now in command.

The three of them head back to the cave.  Penn says the three of them will not be enough to stop the space broads from taking off.  Just then, a bunch of Indians come along, whereupon it turns out that they also are members of Space Commander Connors’ flight squadron, only one of the Indians is General flight leader, and proves it with a badge pinned to his bare chest.  So now, the Indian is in command.

But they all have a pow wow, during which the Indians and the colonel get drunk.  Penn and Philbrick go back to the cave and manage to blast the rocket ship off into space, marooning the two women.  But Dr. Puna gets Penn to teach Professor Tanga what “kiss” means.  They all get married and live happily ever after.

I saw this movie a couple of times in the 1960s on the late show, and I liked it so much that I bought my own copy on DVD recently.  I was looking forward to one of my favorite jokes in the movie, when Penn and Philbrick try to get telepathic control of one of the plant men.  The way I remember it, Penn says, “Focus on his eye.”

But as the eyes of the plant men are spaced really far apart, Philbrick asks, “Which one?”

“The one next to the carrot,” Penn replies.

Imagine my disappointment when I found it was not on the DVD.  Then I noticed that IMDb says that the television version is ten minutes longer than the theatrical version.

I guess I’ll have to wait for the director’s cut.

Soylent Green (1973)

From a 1973 perspective, Soylent Green imagines the world in 2022, where the temperature is stifling owing to the greenhouse effect, and where overpopulation has reached critical proportions.  Only the very rich and well-connected eat what for us is ordinary food, while the vast majority must eat crackers of different colors indicating their quality, with green being the most desirable because it is the most nutritious.  Even water is rationed.  And electric power is unreliable.

Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) is basically a good cop, but when investigating the crime scenes of rich victims, he does a little looting, mostly taking items of food, like beefsteak, vegetables, and liquor, and he also helps himself to whatever prostitute, referred to as “furniture,” happens to be attached to the luxury apartment.

We see Thorn having to struggle to walk up the steps to his apartment, because there are so many people sleeping on the stairs.  Later, when a riot starts because there is a shortage of Soylent Green wafers, we see dump trucks called “scoops” being used to remove people from the streets.

Thorn investigates the murder of Simonson (Joseph Cotton), which he suspects is an assassination.  Thorn’s assistant, referred to as a “book,” on account of his ability to do research on old written material, is Sol (Edward G. Robinson).  Sol learns a terrible secret and decides to end it all by going to a euthanasia center, where he gets to look at scenes of nature as it once was and listen to beautiful music for twenty minutes before dying from some concoction he imbibed.  Prior to this, he tells Thorn that the plankton used to make Soylent Green is disappearing from the oceans.  As a substitute for the loss of plankton, people that die are secretly processed and turned into the Soylent Green wafers.

The theme of this movie is ick.  Rich men are obnoxious, and we resent the way they are so privileged and arrogant.  The image of old people walking into euthanasia centers to end their lives is creepy.  And the use of human flesh to make edible wafers is disturbing.  Setting aside the fact that cannibalism can lead to the transmission of abnormal prions as in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the main objection to using human flesh for consumption is that the idea of it is repulsive.  But in a world that is overpopulated and in which there is a food shortage, such a solution may actually be rational.  After all, we are not talking about the kind of cannibalism where we have a bunch of savages standing around a pot with a missionary in it.  The people being turned into food either died naturally or, in the case of the euthanasia centers, voluntarily.  So, the worst you can say about such a world is that it makes us feel a little queasy.

Nevertheless, the movie should have simply ended with this revelation about Soylent Green.  Instead, in an apparent effort to make the whole business more insidious, Thorn tells his supervisor, “They’re making our food out of people.  Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle.”  Unfortunately, this line, which is supposed to make us even more horrified by what is going on, only makes us groan at its absurdity.  In a world where there are too many people, it makes no sense to breed more.  You just eat the ones you have.  Furthermore, according to my rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations, you would have to feed people at least five times as much protein to raise them as you would get out of them once you brought them to slaughter.  Because this idea of breeding people is illogical, it turns what would have been a believable, pessimistic vision of the future into something so silly we can only snort with contempt.