“1.2 billion TV viewers saw the home-made autopsy film in 1995. Experts have been divided over its authenticity ever since … until now.”
I think we all remember that night in 1995 when Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: The Next Generation hosted the television event Alien Autopsy: Fact Or Fiction. The media hype surrounding the event was one of the largest I can recall from the time. I was one of the billion-plus viewers who were curious about this allegedly “found” footage of an actual alien autopsy conducted on one of the bodies found in the Roswell crash of 1947. The story went that an Air Corp combat photographer was roused from his bed in the middle of the night. He was conducted to a secret hanger at Area 51 that he claimed he didn’t even know existed. There he was ordered to document on film the procedure on the alien saucer occupant. The footage was raw black and white and appeared to accurately portray the procedures of the era. Frakes would interrupt the footage from time to time to add a dramatic, often overly so, spin on the footage. He would speculate not only to the authenticity of the footage, but the background on the unfortunate subject being cut up before our eyes. The footage was graphic and managed to convince many who saw it. But, there was always that nagging doubt in our collective consciousness. This movie turns that doubt on its head and manages to tickle our funny bone as well.
Ray Santilli (Donelly) is a small-time hustler. He has a street vendor table where he sells pirated films and bogus memorabilia. His best mate Gary (McPartlin) is a law clerk at a pastry company. Here he finds his talents wasted and any chance to become a lawyer slim. He’s the perfect foil for Ray’s con. Ray wants to go to America and dig up rare Elvis footage that hasn’t already been seen, or most importantly, copyrighted. He hopes to bring it back to England and make a fortune. In America he finds a man who has some silent footage of Elvis at an Ohio venue. Ray’s excited. Then Harvey (Stanton), the man with the Elvis footage, drops a huge bomb. He claims to have the most important footage in history. Ray’s convinced and drives from Ohio to Miami to see what Harvey has. What he sees leaves him dumbstruck. Harvey is that Air Corp photographer and has footage of an alien autopsy. The only trouble? He wants 30 grand. So, Ray does the only thing he can do. He goes to English mobster Voros (Otto) and borrows the cash with a promise to get him a copy of the footage. Voros is an alien groupie who desperately wants to believe.
It all appears to be going well for Ray, until he gets the film home to England. It seems that a chemical degradation process began the moment the film can had been opened to show Ray the film in Miami. It’s all gone. Now he has no film and no 30 grand for Voros. He’s going to end up seriously dead. What’s a desperate man to do? He decides to fake the footage based on his memory of the actual film. He gets together friends with specific skills, and they make the film in a relative’s living room while she’s away for holiday. It not only fools Voros, but the world. Before they know it, they’ve made almost $750 thousand on television rights in 89 countries. But the story can’t help but unravel. Seeing the end coming they decide to cash in again and entice a documentary filmmaker (Pullman) to cover their story … for a price.
I was not familiar with the Ant & Dec phenomenon that appears to be all the rage in England. The duo are renowned for their hosting duties at awards shows and the like in the UK. If I had known them, I might have been more dubious of the film. I’m glad I didn’t. The pair turn what could be a very dry story into an entertaining whirlwind of fun. I don’t know much about the real Ray and Gary, but I imagine them to be somewhat boring. Ant & Dec turn these characters into guys you want to root for, if only because you don’t want the ride to end. The film rolls by so quickly that you’ll be absolutely wishing it had gone on longer. There was nearly a half hour of deleted scenes. So it very well could have gone on much longer. We love underdog stories, and this one beats them all. While Ray doesn’t appear on paper a very likable guy, he betrays his friends and is about as selfish a character as they come, you still can’t help cheering him on.
This is one of those based-on-a-true-story affairs. Who knows how close to the truth any of it is. The original duo is part of the film’s production crew. You know what? I don’t much care if any of it’s true. It’s a romp that I will absolutely watch again and again. You have to check this out. If you think Alien Autopsy: Fact Or Fiction was outrageous, this will leave you wetting your pants, or at least falling off your seat with laughter. Get it while it’s hot.
Alien Autopsy is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This movie looks better than its low budget would imply. Colors are pretty outstanding as is the detail. There are minimal compression worries. The black levels are average, but there really aren’t a ton of darkly-lit moments in the film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 delivers pretty much the dialog as you might expect. This is all about the boys, and the spoken word dominates. The score is rather whimsical, setting the overall comedic atmosphere. It all blends together into a rather invisible audio presentation which leaves you forgetting that you’re even listening.
There is an Audio Commentary by director Johnny Campbell. It’s a very humorous track that fits well with the film itself.
The Making Of Ant & Dec’s Alien Autopsy: (30:55) The duo host this British television special that takes you behind the scenes of the film. While it does give you some nice peeks behind the camera it never takes itself too seriously and is almost as entertaining as the film itself.
Deleted Scenes/Alternate Opening/Outtakes
It simply amazes me that it took four years for this film to find distribution in North America. How could so many houses have turned this down? The movie maintains a very independent look and feel to it. That might turn some away from it on the surface. But this movie is ten times as entertaining as most of the mainstream stuff I’ve seen of late. Still not interested? These guys fleeced the media moguls of 89 countries out of $740 thousand. They tricked over a billion viewers and had experts arguing for 11 years. And, I couldn’t stop laughing so hard that I blew cranberry juice out of my nose. “Bet you want to hear the story now.”