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Hangar 18


By Tom BakerPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 5 min read
Outside the weird-looking UFO in HANGAR 18 (1980)

Hangar 18 stars Darren McGavin, Robert Vaughn, Gary Collins, John Campanella, and John Hampton, as well as several other notable television actors of the era, in a sci-fi drama about a downed UFO that is scooped up by the government and taken to a supersecret government test facility where they can back engineer it so as not to provide us with free energy, but to advance their guided missile systems and whatnot. Because, baby, aliens or not, WAR IS MONEY.

Of course, we now know this isn't science fiction. Colonel Philip J. Corso told us this in his book The Day After Roswell and researchers such as Stanton T. Friedman, Kevin Randle, etc. spent decades interviewing eyewitnesses to Roswell, a legendary 'UFO crash retrieval" in which, in July 1947 (Independence Day, ironically) rancher W.W. "Mac" Brazell found a debris field of strange wreckage that the sheep wouldn't cross.

It consisted of a weird sort of tinfoil that could be wadded up, and that would unfold without showing a crease. There were weird "fiber-optic" threads you could shine a light through. And "I-beams" with "hieroglyphic writing" on them. Mac contacted the Air Force, and they sent out a Major Jesse Marcel to investigate and gather debris. Major Marcel was later made the fall guy in the cover-up.

Major Marcel took a box of the stuff home to show his kid, Jesse Marcel Junior and was pretty much convinced they now had their hands on wreckage from what at the time was referred to as "flying saucers" (archaic). Later, he snapped some shots looking mortified, holding the remains of a weather balloon. Because he was instructed to do so. He went to his grave decrying to be made the "fall guy" for what he claimed were actual pieces of wreckage from an alien craft. Or, at least, from some craft "of unknown origin."

The official Air Force press release put the kibosh on any flying saucer recovery, but the witnesses to various aspects of the story (including the witnesses to the actual recovery of the actual downed craft, along with "little hairless bodies") were plentiful, and Roswell became the Holy Grail of Ufology. The town itself boasts the International UFO Museum, and a UFO festival, as well as having placed a memorial to the "dead alien" UFO astronauts, whoever they might have been, from wherever they might have come from.

And all of that would have been just another blip on the map of American folklore, another unprovable assertion celebrated by a small, close-knit, kooky community as their local version of Sasquatch or Mothman, if not for the recent testimony of an intelligence officer named Mr. Grusch, under oath, in front of the U.S. House Subcommitee on National Security (nice title) about the real government programs to retrieve crashed UFO (now referred to as "UAPS," or "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena") technology to aid in the development of more weapons of mass devastation and destruction. (Don't go getting any ideas about free energy or any other benevolent uses of that technology, ya' hear me? Goddamn pinko.)

If I went into all of this in greater detail you'd all forget this was supposed to be a movie review. Suffice it to say, Hangar 18, a movie the poor kids in commie land apparently loved during the Cold War Eighties (there were so few sci-fi films being produced in the Soviet Union that the youth latched on to this one, the government allowing it to be shown most likely because it put the U.S. government in such a negative light), a movie derided as shlock, is based in fact. Mr. Grusch's testimony, for my money, was one of the most incredible series of revelations in the last couple of decades; most people seemed to miss that, perhaps being too much in psychological shock after battling the Pandemic for three years, with the attendant, gradual social reconditioning.

David Grusch testifies before the U.S. House about secret UFO retrieval programs.

The movie starts with John Hampton ("Lew Price") and Gary Collins ("Steve Bancroft"), two shuttle astronauts who witness a UFO in space, right before a freak accident with the launch of a satellite hits the side of the thing killing a third astronaut, who headless corpse is shown, much like Frank Poole in 2001, floating past the cockpit window; which is very graphic and shown twice.

How, with their super-technology, the aliens managed to let themselves be hit by a satellite is anyone's guess. but the thing comes down in Arizona, where it is discovered by Sam (Stuart Pankin), a guy who seems to have wandered in from a Smokey and the Bandit sequel. At any rate, the government scoops it up and takes it to the "lunar receiving station" at Hangar 18. Forbes (Darren McGavin), the former boss of Price and Bancroft, is tasked with being the overseer of the research on the UFO.

Meanwhile, the scheming President's bag man or whatever, Cain (Robert Vaughn) and Frank (Joseph Campanella), try to put the lid on the whole affair, and turn the spooks loose on Price and Bancroft, who go out West to find the crashed aliens. They get the old "I got no brakes!" routine from the G-Men, but then they commandeer a truck carrying fuel and blow up some CIA dudes, and Price is shot and everybody is happy again.

Meanwhile, the dead aliens are revealed to be sort of bald dudes with weird, glowing silvery eyes and heavy metal leather jackets that look as if they escaped from the set of David Lynch's Dune. (Maybe the Spacing Guild?) The craft itself is black, and, as some other critic observed, "looks like a toy that might have been made in Taiwan." Also, someone put some designer porta-potties on the rim of the thing. Of course, the outer surface is ringed by round lights.

The movie hits all the right notes: ancient astronauts, alien abduction (a woman is found aboard the saucer floating in a tank), and the "Return of the Space Brothers." Performances are about what you'd expect from a movie of the era, considering who is in it (Darren McGavin plays Darren McGavin, for instance), and it is a movie for the D&D and pocket-protector set: there's no steamy romance, no subplot of any kind; do Price and Bancroft even have families? Hangar 18 is strictly cold, hard (if wonky) sci-fi, as weird and inhuman as a leather-jacketed, bald alien with weird silvery eyes.

The ending will make you laugh.

On the whole, though, it's a great entertainment from childhood. One which is slowly being revealed to be less fiction and more science.

But if you can't keep watching the screen, at least, keep watching the skies.

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About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.: http://tombakerbooks.weebly.com

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Comments (4)

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  • Edward German3 months ago

    I watched this one on cable back in the early 80s. I thought of it as a good B-grade sci-fi movie It is good to watch again late at night with your favorite beverage.

  • I don't believe I've ever seen it, either. But perhaps once I get home from running errands this afternoon.

  • JBaz3 months ago

    Hey Tom, somehow this movie was not on my radar back then. I don’t remember hearing about it at all. But believe I will give it a go. P.S. you may want to review the beginning of paragraph 3. Typo.

  • Lana V Lynx3 months ago

    Thanks for the memory lane trip, Tom! I was one of those poor kids in the commie land who watched Hangar 18 in video salons multiple times at the end of 1980s. It was one of the first American movies we saw after Gorbachev started the perestroika in 1985. Still remember it vividly.

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