The other day new fave bad movie site the Agony Booth published a detailed and hilarious vivisection of one of the most horrifically bad films I’ve ever seen, Overlords of the UFO. About fifteen years back, I taped this and a similar if slightly less focused counterpart, Mysteries From Beyond Earth, off TV one night — at the time I was pretty dedicated to scrounging the TV listings to find out exactly what weird crap was being shown to kill the late night hours, and amassed an enjoyable collection of sludge as a result. These two, however, were particular winners, and the Agony Booth review prompted me to dig them out again after many years to see what they were like again.

I have no idea how popular these kind of movies were outside of America, but they slotted into the kind of documentary-format/created-on-drugs/exploitation-market creations that have a serviceable history in the twentieth century. These movies’ general approach — whether in terms of film quality, stock-footage editing, weird music, tackling *anything* paranormal and popular — had so many cousins and parallels, including the In Search Of series on TV, that when the Blair Witch Project dudes created their backstory archival material, they included a sequence supposedly taken from just such a movie, featuring a very seventies male witch talking about his art. There was a vague technical ability applied to these films, but only so much.

The more generally professional is Mysteries From Beyond Earth, whose narrator, erstwhile Star Trek associate Lawrence Dobkin, was an actual character actor and seemed like he knew what to do in front of a camera. Looking, as friend Remy put it, like Sean Connery’s older body double, he smugly rambles his way through what’s purportedly a film about UFOs but ties in everything from cloning and axolotls to Kirlian photography and Bigfoot (and, indeed, witches). Smoothly professional with his gravelly voice, his hilarious highpoint has to be when he’s filmed after a sequence featuring the Church of Satan emerging from screen left in the tres seventies home office he’s most often found in, complaining about how some dullards cling to ‘sterile rituals’ — in comparison to the sensible discussion about telekinesis he’s about to explain to you.

Overlords of the UFO, well, where to begin. The Agony Booth link above really says it all more fully — to an insane level, but such is its charm — than I ever could, but suffice to say that the sheer combination of ambition, incompetence and head-shaking WTF rivals that of many similar film-gods-in-reverse working strictly in fiction. Lead narrator/writer/etc. William Gordon Allen apparently was a dedicated enough Seattle-area TV reporter who wanted to preach the UFO gospel to all who could hear, but his case wasn’t going to be made here as well as he could want. One of my favorite moments has to be the completely out-of-nowhere ‘conversation’ between two ‘airline pilots’ (one of whom is Allen) about the dangers of all those crazy UFOs disrupting flights. The killer touch is that this is only an audio track, delivered over a series of stock footage shots of a Boeing 747 in flight — necessity may have been the mother of invention, but frankly this was a step too far.

(This post continues on Proven by Science.)