HANGAR 18 (1980)
Article 3641 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-19-2011
Posting Date: 8-3-2011
Directed by James L. Conway
Featuring Gary Collins, Robert Vaughn, James Hampton
What it is: Science fiction conspiracy thriller
A UFO lands in Arizona after colliding with a satellite just put into orbit by NASA, an accident that results in the death of an astronaut. The government tries to keep the discovery of the UFO under wraps while investigating the craft, but the other two astronauts (blamed unfairly for the death of the third) can only clear their names by finding the evidence that the UFO exists.
The scenes in the movie can roughly be split into two sections; there are those that deal with the investigation of the alien spacecraft, and there are those that deal with the government conspiracy. I find the investigation of the spacecraft to be a potentially interesting concept, and the best moments of the movie revolve around these sections. However, the other half of the movie deals with one of the most dunderheaded cinematic government conspiracies I’ve ever encountered; every action the conspirators take just seems to make the chances of keeping this thing under wraps more unlikely, and had they simply taken the other two astronauts into their confidence (after all, there’s nothing illegal about investigating a UFO) rather than trying to cover up everything and placing the blame for the death on their heads (thus simply encouraging them to investigate on their own), the whole action-conspiracy-thriller section of the movie could have been dispensed with. As it is, it’s what Roger Ebert called an “idiot plot”; a conflict that could have been easily resolved if the characters hadn’t been idiots. And, unfortunately, the conspiracy eventually spirals out of control and takes the UFO investigation sequence with it, leaving a series of unresolved plot points and a dumb ending in its wake. But then, what do you expect from a movie produced by that purveyor of documentaries like THE OUTER SPACE CONNECTION and IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK – Sunn Classics.