Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hangar 18 (1980)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are some movies that were destined to be filler.  It used to be that on a Sunday afternoon, you’d turn on the TV and catch some old, generic movie halfway through.  These were the movies that the station didn’t have to pay much for in terms of royalties, so they could easily use a few of them when they didn’t have any original programming to use.

When you have access to movies, either on demand or through streaming, you get a lot of these movies.  I have access to Netflix’s vast selection of movies.  Many are ones that that they didn’t want to (or couldn’t) buy on DVD, but can probably rent the rights to for little or no money.  Customers get access to another title and you don’t have a disc collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.

This is how I found out about Hangar 18.  It’s a movie about three astronauts launching a satellite.  It’s just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill satellite-launching missions until a blip shows up on their screen.  You wouldn’t think a blip would be that big of a deal, except that the satellite crashes into it.  (Oops!)  The blip turns out to be a flying saucer that crashes on Earth.  Two astronauts, Price and Bancroff, manage to make it back safely, but a third astronaut is killed by debris from the actual collision.

At first, Price and Bancroff consider themselves lucky.  That is, until they wake up the next morning to find out that they’ve been blamed for killing the third astronaut.  There are people that can help them, but the conspicuous lack of evidence is a problem.  The wreck has been collected and taken to the titular Hangar 18.  Any data that was recorded has been erased or doctored.  So, the two set off to find some proof.

Meanwhile, the team studying the ship manages to get it open without hurting anyone or doing any serious damage.  By sheer luck, they manage to access the information in the ship’s computer.  They come to realize that the aliens have been gathering information on things like power plants and other important structures.  They even bear an uncanny resemblance to us.  (Yes, there’s a reason for that.)

There’s a lot of evidence that not only are they doing recon on us, but this probably is just a small piece of a large fleet.  Should we be afraid?  Undoubtedly.  Is there a total lack of people wondering where the rest of the aliens are?  Most definitely.  Instead of trying to figure out how to deal with the threat, those in charge go the Marvin the Martian route:  blow it up.

This was not a very good UFO story.  I could see this being the pilot for a TV show, sort of like V or something.  You have an alien race that’s going to potentially destroy us.  Instead, it’s like someone had that idea, but couldn’t get the project going, so they just made the pilot into a movie and ended it there.  We never get to see the mother ship.  We never get to see other aliens trying to find their lost comrades.  The potential for aliens coming later on to finish the job is never really dealt with.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 used this film for one of their episodes, which should tell you something.  I’d be interested to see if I can get that just to see what they did with the movie.  It runs for 97 minutes, which is just short enough that it would work.  It’s not a total waste of two hours, especially if you’re making fun of it.

It was released in July of 1980, right around the time that you had other similar movies, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.  It also has that dated look that makes you think that the only reason someone approved of this project was to take advantage of the alien craze of the time.  (This movie probably wouldn’t have been released in theaters today. Instead, it probably would have been done by the Syfy channel.)

The movie is safe for teenagers and above.  There is no nudity or cursing, but there are a few gunfights and an accident.  It’s not a particularly exciting movie, regardless.  I’d say if you can get it for free streaming, give it a try.  Don’t waste a queue slot on this if you’re using Netflix.  If you have the one-at-a-time plan, you’ll regret wasting the spot. 

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