UFOs have been a popular theme in Hollywood movies ever since flying saucers became a household phenomenon. UFO film scholar and expert, Robbie Graham joined George Knapp to update us on the history of UFOs in films, Hollywood's relationship to disclosure, and how the US military has played a role in the cinematic depiction of unidentified craft. The first Hollywood film to treat the subject, The Flying Saucer (1950), was released just a few years after the first sightings of the modern era. Filmmakers use real ufological research as creative inspiration for their projects, inserting some fact-based material into fictional scripts, and in the process popularize the subject for cinema and television, he explained.
Yet, by putting some factual information into a fantastical genre such as science-fiction, what is real is often obscured by the sensationalizing of the material, Graham noted. For the 1951 film,"The Day the Earth Stood Still," the US Dept. of Defense denied corporation with the filmmakers, he reported, though it's suspected the CIA may have had input, and interestingly a number of creative people involved in the project such as producer Darryl Zanuck came from a military/intelligence/propaganda background.
Through the 1940s and 50s, the military had an active policy to debunk or demystify the UFO phenomenon, and present it as a non-serious topic, and this vision took hold in pop culture in the ensuing years, Graham remarked. Certain filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg have had a long term fascination with the UFO/alien subject, and his films such as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) served to galvanize interest in the topic. He did not receive cooperation from the Air Force or NASA as he requested, (his script portrayed a cover-up and disinformation efforts). In turning him down, NASA sent him a 20-page letter asking him not to make the movie at all, as they feared that it would be to UFOs what Jaws was to sharks, Graham cited.
In the first hour, Michael Madsen, director of the new film, The Visit, an investigation of the cultural impact to the disclosure of intelligent alien life, and Prof. Sheryl Bishop, a social psychologist featured in the film, joined the program. The basic question of 'what is a human being?' is explored in the The Visit, "because by meeting something different, we would be perhaps able to see our own selves and world in a new light," Madsen commented. Having access to the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs lent gravitas to the project, Bishop added.