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  UFOria Starry-Eyed Surprise
Year: 1981
Director: John Binder
Stars: Cindy Williams, Harry Dean Stanton, Fred Ward, Beverly Hope Atkinson, Harry Carey Jr, Diane Adair, Robert Gray, Ted Harris, Darrell Larson, Peggy McCay, Hank Worden, Alan Beckwith, Andrew Winner, Pamela Lamont, Joe Unger, Charlotte Stewart
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sheldon Bart (Fred Ward) is something of a drifter, travelling through the Southern states in his car, funding his lifestyle and the upkeep of his vehicle with the cash he steals from vending machines. Not only that, but he has no qualms about shoplifting from supermarkets in the belief he'll get away with it because he thinks he looks like country singer Waylon Jennings, but today, while carrying out his petty crimes, he meets Arlene Stewart (Cindy Williams), a cashier who pricks his conscience...

The story with this little film goes that it was completed back in 1980 and shown to a meagre amount of punters before it was decided by the studio that they didn't really know what to do with it, so shelved it for the next five years. It was believed there was no market for it, so why it was finally released in 1985 is unclear, other than Universal thinking they might as well try to get some money out of the thing, though there was not exactly a huge public clamour for it to come out. When it did, just as the suits had predicted, UFOria did very little business.

However, a small cult built up around the film, so while you could go through life without meeting a fan of this movie, they are around, much like the space brothers Arlene fervently puts her faith in, as far as the plot went. This muses over the nature of religious doctrine and compares Christianity to the worship of space aliens, if you could call that kind of thing worship, though writer director John Binder evidently did. This was to be his only film in that capacity, though he worked in the industry for many years afterwards, just not on anything all that blockbusting, with his script for odd cattle mutilation thriller Endangered Species his highest profile effort.

If you can call that high profile, but he obviously had an interesting sensibility in how he approached character and the situations he placed them in. If UFOria had been a hit, who knows what kind of projects he might have offered the world, but in truth what he had here was rather mild as a comedy, slight as romance and none too substantial as science fiction. Actually for most of it you could be forgiven for not noticing it was sci-fi at all, as its attitude towards Arlene's ideology - Jesus was an alien, Adam and Eve were ancient astronauts, that sort of business - is more a lovable facet of her personality rather than to be taken seriously.

Sheldon and Arlene get to know each other as she spots him faking an injury at the faith healing sessions of charlatan Brother Bud Sanders (Harry Dean Stanton) to part the faithful from their cash, and rather than this turn her off Sheldon completely she ends up going to bed with him almost immediately. One thing leads to another, and he starts to fall for her, even if he does find her kooky at best, yet once Arlene begins to make plans to be taken up into a flying saucer out in the desert, Brother Bud sees an opportunity to make more money, much to her dismay. Will Sheldon follow his heart or his wallet, is the question that presses on the viewer's mind, but this was so goodnatured that the bad behaviour on display barely registered, mixing country music with a just plain folks sensibility then working hard not to send them up, yet still remaining at a distance both benevolent and mellow. It wasn't a lost classic by any means, but it amused. Music by Richard Baskin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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