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Your Paracast Newsletter — February 11, 2024

Free episodes:

Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
The Paracast Newsletter
February 11, 2024


Enjoy Film Pop Culture at its Best, Classic "B" Movies and Movie Serials Presented by Keith Walker on The Paracast!

The Paracast is heard Sundays from 3:00 AM until 6:00 AM Central Time on the GCN Radio Network and affiliates around the USA, the Boost Radio Network, the IRN Internet Radio Network, and online across the globe via download and on-demand streaming.

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This Week's Episode: Gene and cohost Tim Swartz present an entertaining pop culture look at "B" movies and movie serials with Brian Walker, creator and webmaster of Brian’s Drive-In Theater. He's been keeping memories of drive-in films and their stars alive since February 1, 1998. His love of films began in childhood with his first Super 8mm projector given to him by his grandmother who also bought him his first film, a four-minute excerpt of a W.C. Fields comedy. Over the last 50 years, he has assembled a film collection from such genres as horror and science fiction, comedy, and action with a special emphasis on B (low budget) movies. Currently calling Morgantown, West Virginia home, Brian is fortunate to live in proximity of a number of still-operating drive-in theaters in the southwestern Pennsylvania area and loves taking his convertible to the drive-in during the warm summer months. All told, this episode will provide a great look into pop culture over the decades, and its impact on society. As listeners to The Paracast know full well, the conventional memes in the UFO field about the origins and purpose of the phenomenon are infused in our culture, and sci-fi "B" movies, such as "Earth Versus the Flying Saucers," play a large part.

After The Paracast — Available exclusively for Paracast+ subscribers on February 11: Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear with vintage film aficionado Brian Walker. He explores such fare as "B" movies and serials on his site, Brian's Drive-In Theater. In this episode, he talks with Gene and cohost Tim Swartz about old fashioned drive-in theaters, whether any are still in business, such classic sci-fi fare as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Forbidden Planet," and even his and Gene's car experiences. Over the last 50 years, Brian has assembled a film collection from such genres as horror and science fiction, comedy, and action with a special emphasis on B (low budget) movies. Professionally, Brian spent more than 35 years teaching and working with students on the college level, retiring in 2023. That said, he’s still in the classroom, teaching a couple of business courses each semester at West Virginia University, and watching and learning about his favorite movies in his spare time.

Reminder: Please don't forget to visit our famous Paracast Community Forums for the latest news/views/debates on all things paranormal: The Paracast Community Forums. Visit our new online shop for great branded merchandise at: https://www.theparacast.shop.

The Uneasy Relationship Between UFOs and Sci-Fi
By Gene Steinberg

In the 1940s, Ray Palmer, famous, in turn, as a sci-fi fan, writer and editor before becoming a founder of the UFO field, committed the cardinal sin. In the pages of Amazing Stories, he began to publish stories from one Richard S. Shaver, most of which told of an ancient civilization existing beneath the Earth’s surface.

At first, they were presented as fiction, but Palmer later claimed them to be based on fact. In short, Shaver really did have encounters with two subterranean races that were descendants of ancient Lemuria, known as the dero, the bad guys, and the tero, the good guys.

While the magazine’s sales soared as the stories attracted many readers who weren’t otherwise into sci-fi, Palmer and Shaver got burned with criticisms from regular fans who resented such possible craziness.

When the stories — and eventually Palmer’s employment —ended, it’s reported that Amazing’s circulation returned to its former level.

After starting his own publishing enterprises, which included being co-founder of Fate, one of his new titles was Other Worlds, his effort to restore the glory of Amazing Stories, which also included a new round of Shaver yarns.

Over time, Other Worlds morphed into Flying Saucers From Other Worlds, and finally Flying Saucers. Fiction vanished — or at least stories that were presented as fiction — and coverage of the bourgeoning UFO movement was enhanced.

So much for sci-fi and UFOs.

In the late 1950s, a saucer ‘zine, published by researcher Lee R. Munsick, UFO Newsletter, also attempted to publish both sci-fi and fact-based UFO material in the same issues. But avid sci-fi fans bolted. Many clearly did not want to deal with any claim that some of the elements of such stories might manifest as fact.

Indeed, well-known authors of science fiction, including Isaac Asimov and even Carl Sagan, were, over the years, quite dismissive of the possibility that UFOs represented an enigma that involved truly unexplained flying things from, well, somewhere.

I made a similar effort myself in the mid-1960s, inspired by my attendance at a World Science Fiction Convention in Washington, D.C. My lifelong friend, Kan Alpert and I were working on a new magazine. We decided to include a serialized sci-fi story, one chapter in each issue.

The magazine later folded; its subscribers were taken over by Jim Moseley’s Saucer News. The sci-fi material, however, was essentially abandoned after ending with a cliffhanger.

In 1999, my son, Grayson (then 13 years old) and I talked about that unfinished story, and used it as the basis of a new novel, which eventually became “Attack of the Rockoids.” To honor its origins, we adapted some elements of the original piece, turning it into a time-spanning space opera adventure.

Grayson and I largely escaped the potential ire of sci-fi fans by not including the novel with any of our factual material.

This is not to say that the UFO mystery hasn’t been influenced by sci-fi and vice versa. The classic film from 1951, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” has the protagonist, the alien being Klaatu, landing in Washington, D.C. in a flying saucer. In turn, Klaatu’s basic appearance, his silvery uniform, was incorporated into claims by flying saucer contactees of meeting ETs. His message, that Earth needs to get its act together and give up the machines of war, was adapted.

Well, except for one critical element.

You see, Klaatu’s message to Earth scientists was not just a wish for peace, but a frightening stick. If we didn’t straighten up, his people from “the other planets” will destroy planet Earth.

An early entry among sci-fi B-movies was “Earth Versus the Flying Saucers” from 1956. It featured good performances from its stars, and then state-of-the-art stop motion special effects from Ray Harryhausen.

All well and good, but sort of buried in the credits was the fact that it was “suggested by” a factual book, “Flying From Outer Space” by Major Donald E. Keyhoe, published in 1953. An interesting side-note is that Keyhoe, in one of his later books, referred to his embarrassment at his Hollywood experience. Evidently he was naive enough to expect a documentary not a relatively inexpensive aliens-on-the-loose film.

But that’s Hollywood for you. If you are lucky enough to have a literary property optioned by a studio or production company, don’t expect to see the completed film, if there is one, resemble your original concept.

But other UFO events have been made into films that offer a greater fidelity to the original. A good example is “The UFO Incident,” a TV film released by Universal in 1975. It was a docudrama heavily based on the abduction experience of Barney and Betty Hill, portrayed by James Earl Jones and Estlelle Parsons.

The success of Whitley Strieber’s best-selling book, “Communion,” resulted in a 1989 adaptation for which he wrote the screenplay. Call that the ultimate step in creative control. In turn, Christopher Walken portrayed Strieber, and I’ll leave it to you readers to determine how well he played the part. I didn’t see any resemblance.

A 1993 movie, “Fire in the Sky,” was based on the Travis Walton abduction matter. Walton was, in turn, portrayed by D.B. Sweeney. Other players included James Garner and Robert Patrick.

With a screenplay from Tracy Tormé, early scenes maintained a reasonable amount of fidelity to the original book, Walton’s “The Walton Experience,” but it fell down big time with its lurid portrayal of his alleged experiences aboard a spaceship. Later, Tormé said that the movie company, Paramount, evidently insisted on changes because they found the real event too boring and too close in concept to another film.

So maybe it was factual, but you shouldn’t have two films with similar plot details, even if one supposedly involves reality.

More to the point, the director Robert Lieberman, never believed the story, reportedly saying, “My gut feeling had it that Travis was so much smarter than those other guys, that it started out as a gag. They probably laced their beer at the end of the day with a little acid or something and then they put on a show for these guys and they believed it.”

Now someday maybe there’ll be new films based on the these real-life encounters and others, but maybe not. That a project is in the works does’t mean it’ll ever see the light of day.

On the documentary front, however, productions from such producer/directors as James Fox and Ron James do make a usually successful attempt to present factual material in a compelling fashion to keep the public entertained and informed.

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