The UFO Incident
Made-for-Television Movie | Starring James Earl Jones, Estelle Parsons, Barnard Hughes | Written by Hesper Anderson & Jake Justiz | Based on the Book by John G. Fuller | Directed by Richard A. Colla | Originally Aired on October 20, 1975
What exactly happened to Betty (Estelle Parsons) and Barney Hill (James Earl Jones) while driving on a desolate stretch of New Hampshire highway on the night of September 19, 1961?
Although suffering from a temporary amnesia around their experience, the anxiety produced by dream-fueled partial recollections lead the couple to Dr. Benjamin Simon (Barnard Hughes). Under a program of hypnotherapy, the Hills are finally able to unlock their memories and recount a horrifying tale of alien abduction.
Remembered events unfold at a deliberate and talky pace. James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons dominate the screen time, in what is essentially a three-character play. Leisurely close-ups during the hypnotherapy sessions allow the actors to run the gamut from a modulated recital of actions, to nearly histrionic reactions to the horrors being revealed under hypnosis (plus the N’Hampshah accented cries of “Baaaaaaahneee!” when Betty refers to her husband).
The first full hour allows the dark New Hampshire roadside, and the prospect of what the couple has encountered, to establish an evocative mood. When the alien reveal finally occurs, their screen time is wisely minimized, often intercut with the character recounting the story. Less is definitely more in the blinky-rubber-alien-head department.
The film depicts the couple as sincere about their belief regarding their abduction, but grounds both characters with an emotional foundation that offers a number of factors–including personal stress, the tension accompanying being an interracial couple in 1960s America, and the overall paranoia and anxiety from a potential Cold War era nuclear attack—that could possibly imprint themselves onto a shared fantasy.
Two decades before the X-Files claimed “The Truth is Out There”, this film suggested the truth is <points to head> in here.