Hangar 18

I’m not a conspiracy theory kind of guy.  I tried it for a while, back about the time Oliver Stone’s “JFK” came out.  I mean, he had me going for a bit there.  The film is brilliantly made, but then I realized that a first grader could punch holes in some of his arguments.  Plus, the more I matured, the more I realized that the ability to keep a secret is actually an extraordinary talent which most human beings simply do not possess.  So movies about secret government plots to hide things…like aliens…are already a big stretch for me.  Our film today, 1980’s “Hangar 18,” even tries to convince us that it is based on the testimony of “a few brave eyewitnesses.”  Question is, are you brave enough to experience this movie?

As the film begins, a NASA space shuttle is in the middle of launching a satellite.  All is going well, but at the last minute, astronauts Bancroft (Gary Collins) and Price (James Hampton) detect a strange signal coming from above their ship.  NASA director Harry Forbes (Darren McGavin) and the boys at Mission Control spot it too, but they go ahead with the launch.  Sadly, the satellite strikes something shortly after being released.  It explodes and the shower of debris causes the decapitation of a third astronaut who was assisting with the operation from the cargo bay.The shuttle is quickly brought back to earth.  Meanwhile, whatever the satellite struck has landed in the middle of the Arizona desert.  White House chief of staff Gordon Cain (Robert Vaughn) is quick to dispatch the military and a crew of scientists to investigate and take the craft back to the secretive Hangar 18.  Cain is also concerned about keeping any talk of this alien ship out of the media.  As is always the case in the movies, the Presidential election is just a few weeks away.  Since the current President mocked his opponent for claiming to have once seen a UFO, it would be a disaster if news of an actual UFO hit the papers.  So, things need to be kept hush hush, which includes silencing a local yocal (Stuart Pankin) who happened upon the UFO before the feds got a hold of it.

The ship is actually in very good condition…seemingly undamaged.  In Hangar 18, Forbes and his team begin to investigate the ship.  They find video files that seem to indicate plans for an invasion, as well as a young woman who seems to have been an abduction victim.  Oh, and then there are the corpses of the aliens themselves, who look to be completely human in their biology…and who seem to have a great love for the hair stylings (or lack there of) of Mr. Clean.

While all this is going on, Bancroft and Price have figured out that something is up.  Newspaper stories about the death of their crew mate point the finger at them, and all records of the strange object their instruments detected during their mission have vanished.  They set out to find out the truth, which makes them the target of your typical government creeps in suits.  But can they get to the bottom of this before Cain can destroy the evidence?

“Hangar 18” is another theatrical film that looks and feels like a made-for-TV movie.  I’ve been seeing a lot of those lately.  With the cheap sets, the clunky special effects and the presence of Gary Collins as the cherry on top, this has movie of the week written all over it.  The movie does seem to have it’s fans, but most of them seem to be more enthralled with UFO conspiracies than the movie itself.

Anything close to actual science is out the window.  Honestly, you have to laugh at some of the “scientific” methods these NASA scientists use to investigate this ship…such as randomly pushing buttons and seeing what happens!?!?  The folks in Washington don’t exactly show off a lot of brain power either.  They’re so concerned with keeping this thing a secret that they don’t even bother to lock up the shuttle crew on their return!

Even at only 97 minutes in length, the movie drags.  Opportunities to bring in some excitement are wasted.  For example, when the aliens were discovered, I was truly surprised.  But, they’re just dead and bald.  Nothing happens!  Why not have them wheeled into an examination room on gurneys, believed to be dead, only to have them spring up and attack some unsuspecting candy striper.  Cheap gimmick yes, but a heck of a lot more interesting than anything they actually put on screen.  At least make the aliens green and slimy…not fat and bald!

About the only bright spot in this universe was Darren McGavin.  Considering what he had to work with, he managed to be a likable presence on screen.  Robert Vaughn, capable of so much more, just scowls for most of his scenes.

So, all you UFO conspiracy theory folks, go ahead and believe what you want.  It’s a free country, after all.  Remember, if we’re to believe the text that opens “Hangar 18,” the story comes to us courtesy of “a few brave eyewitnesses.”  I just wish they had been brave enough to keep it to themselves.

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4 thoughts on “Hangar 18

  1. Vaughn’s role in “The Magnificent Seven” is very different from the others. He’s often lurking in the background, because, ultimately, his character is scared. He knows what he needs to do but he’s scared to do it. I guess I find his character in that film intriguing.

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