TARGET… EARTH? (1980)
Article 5167 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Joost van Rees
Featuring Victor Buono, Rick Overton, Isaac Asimov
What it is: Documentary?
A researcher aboard a space ship is tasked with understanding the Tunguska Event from 1908, its cause, and the effect it had on humanity.
This is not to be confused with the 1954 alien invasion movie from 1954 (TARGET EARTH) nor the investigation of alien presence movie from 1974 (UFO: TARGET EARTH). No, this is another example of a movie subgenre I’ve already encountered several times in this series; it’s an “aliens from outer space have visited us” documentary. If you’re not familiar with the Tunguska Event of 1908, it involves a huge explosion supposedly caused by a meteorite impact, only, since there was no impact crater, it is believed that the meteorite exploded above the ground.
I will admit to a certain fondness for this one, though not necessarily because it’s so convincing. Rather, I’m fond of the way it was so eccentrically staged. Rather than an earnest authority figure of sorts narrating for us, we get a fictionalized framing device in which a man named Homer the Archivist (played by Victor Buono) living in a spaceship is tasked with researching the event by his computer-with-an-attitude (voiced by Rick Overton). Buono waxes philosophic about human nature, banters with his computer, and talks to frogs. These scenes alternate with documentary footage, interviews, and some strange footage involving alien women aboard another spaceship. I’m not sure if it really works, but I will admit that Buono is very entertaining and has some great lines. It’s this truly strange framing device that instills what fun there is in this documentary. At any rate, I will say that this movie does earn the question mark in its title.
On a side note, you will see Isaac Asimov’s name in the cast list above; according to IMDB, he was one of the people interviewed. In truth, I did not see him; either I did not recognize him (though those sideburns are hard to miss) or he was on so briefly I missed it when I was out of the room for a second…or, he wasn’t in it at all. However, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle both appear, as well as Carl Sagan.