Thursday, March 31, 2016

Get Off the Lawn, You "Damned" Kids!

Village of the Damned (Wolfe Rilla, 1960)  Based on the John Wyndham sci-fi novel "The Midwich Cukoos," adapted by Stirling Silliphant and director Rilla, Village of the Damned* is a curious mixture of sci-fi and horror—a combination of pulp sensibilities, but with a strange sub-text that could be taken as religious, mystical, or invasive, and then has the audacity to not answer any of the questions and leave you hanging as the suppositions swirl through your head. Both it and its sequel are fascinating things to watch, but each in their different way.

In the town of Midwich, professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) is making a call to his brother-in-law Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn) when all of a sudden, he falls unconscious. So does the family dog. Bernard is alarmed at this and can't raise anyone in town, so he investigates and being in the military he doesn't do it subtly. What he finds is that everyone within a few mile radius of city center is unconscious...or will become unconscious (even taking preventative measures like gas-masks) if they enter within that "zone"—aeroplanes flying overhead will have their pilots drop off, the planes crashing.  

It's a mystery
. Why this town? Why this effect? But, two hours later, everyone awakens, mystified. They felt a cold sensation before they dropped, but that was it. The disturbance is forgotten.

Until two months later, when it's determined that every woman "of child-bearing years" in Midwich is pregnant. For Zellaby and his wife (Barbara Shelley), it's a miracle though it's a little late in life for him. But, for the unmarried women in town, and for the women with husbands away, it's not only embarrassing, it has to be some bizarre mistake...and when it's confirmed it makes things uncomfortable, socially. For awhile they're stigmatized, but before long (and with the doctor's confirmation) it's determined that all the women are pregnant...and they don't how.

Out of this mass-immaculate conception, the village is seriously creeped out, but the children appear to be normal, if gestating at an accelerated rate. And all are born on the same night, all premature by normal standards, but all around ten pounds, all with white shocks of hair and something "weird" about their eyes, totally black. The kids grow quickly and they learn quickly, being able to figure out chinese puzzle boxes while still toddlers. Give it to one, and then another, sight unseen, will be able to figure it out, as if by telepathy or shared mental faculties.

And...if things don't go their way, they can influence the thoughts and actions of others, an act apparent when their eyes begin to glow white. The children, as they grow older and become more sophisticated, become even odder—walking as a group by themselves, dressing themselves, speaking in a tone, sophisticated and cold.**

What to do about them...and who "is" them, anyway? No one has any answers, but reports around the world suggest Midwich isn't the only village on Earth to experience this. Some of the places have murdered the children. One isolated village in Russia is trying to instruct the children to the best they can. What is the answer: to eradicate, or to exploit? 

The military doesn't want to do anything subtle, but Zellaby, with doubts as to their origin, staves off their eradication by seeing if he can teach them in their own segregated school (naturally). The trouble is, the children don't want to do anything subtle, either, and these kids are of a mind to stop the problem of bullying by any means necessary.
This is a great film, which doesn't shirk societal issues at the same time it doesn't pin down exactly what the hell is going on here. The fact is the kids are here and dealing must begin. But how, never mind why. Plus, it's a genuine horror-fest, making one web-site's list of "10 movies pregnant women should never watch."
*** Apt. And one curious anomaly about the film is that the strange glowing eyes that signal some heavy brain-work on the part of the children (and figures in the denouement) is only seen in American prints of the film. Interesting, as they seem to appear in the British posters for the film.

But, those curiosities aside, it's well-worth seeing, and pondering.  
One further note, young Martin Stephens who gives such a calmly mature performance as little David Zellaby in this (and The Innocents) left acting while still a child and became an architect. Yes, he has a web-site.

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Children of the Damned (Anton M. Leader, 1964) If Village of the Damned leaves things unexplained, Children of the Damned just complicates the issue, rather than coming up with any concrete answers. The six titular children have the same powers and intellect, but not the same attributes. None of them has the tell-tale white hair or the slightly high browline as the first crop of kids. And there's only one child from Britain; the others, flown in by the UN, come from Russia, China, India, America, and Nigeria and their abilities are only discovered by a UNESCO survey on child development. The lead investigators in England, psychiatrist Tom Llewelynn (Ian Hendry) and geneticist Dr. David Neville (Alan Badel, laconically ironic) are looking into the why's and wherefore's of young Paul Looren (Clive Powell), a child of extraordinary learning skills that are frankly off their charts. A visit to his single mother only ends with her tossing them out and their disbelief in her claiming she was never "touched by a man."
Llewelynn and Neville make an odd duck duo,
**** the shrink earnest and straightforward and the geneticist cracking wise with every line. Their investigations come up with no reason why these kids have these abilities, they just do, and when Britain's Secret Service tries to take control of young Paul, he sets up a distraction and scampers, seeking out the other five children and taking up residence in an abandoned church, with Paul's aunt (Barbara Ferris) as hostage/mouthpiece. The various embassies want each of their children back to exploit them, weaponizing them, in effect. Llewlynn is thunderstruck by the idiocy of that: "As soon as one of them knows your plan, then the others will know it." So much for Cold War secrets.

Neville and Llewelynn, U.N. observers...observing
Still the various countries want their kids back, and the kids want nothing of it, attacking from their stronghold in the church, devising a broadcasting "thingie" using the church's pipe-organ to incapacitate anyone attempting to remove them, leaving their attackers dead or "wishing they were."

Children of the Damned is slightly diminished from its original, but on its own is one of those great science fiction films of limited scope and budget that still manages to evoke the sense of a much larger concept, despite narrowing down what the children "are," while giving the film a sense of cautionary tragedy that the first film doesn't have.  Less a horror film than a story of sociological and political paranoia, Children of the Damned features good performances and an efficiently crackling script (by John Briley—he would go on to write Cry Freedom and Gandhi) and manages to stand on its own terms, apart from the first film, as an entertaining, if very unsettling film.

...and what they're observing. 
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Village of the Damned (John Carpenter, 1995) This updated version of the original follows the same plot structure of the first, with less emphasis on the mysterious circumstances that cause the "immaculate" pregnancies in the town of "Midwich, California," less stigma—it is the '90's, after all, there's even the subject, given the circumstances, of aborting the children—and more emphasis on the children and the violence they mete out on the town. In color, and sporting a good cast of stars (with Christopher Reeve—his last role before his crippling riding accident—Linda Kozlowski—she of the "Crocodile Dundee" series—Michael ParĂ©, Mark Hamill and Kristie Alley), these kids are more pointedly accusatory, speak in archly threatening whispers,***** and action-oriented, and unusually vicious in the way they have their victims destroy themselves—impaled on a broom, blinding an eye-doctor, having one of the parents driving into a propane tank (rather than a brick wall), another performs an autopsy on herself, and the botched military intervention in another country alluded to in the first film is dutifully played out with all the blood-bags the budget can allow—and Carpenter doesn't cut away as the original did. There's no implication here, which (as it usually is) isn't as powerful as leaving your audience's squirming imagination to do the dirty work. 
Christopher Reeve's doctor hates talking to kids.
On the plus side, it's less of a man's world this time out on both sides: the chief investigator of the phenomenon is a woman (Alley, whose a bit cavalier in her dealing with the kids) and the leader of the children is one of the little girls, Mara (Lindsey Haun) daughter of Reeve's local physician and his wife (Karen Kahn).
This time out, the children pair off, boy-girl, with one of the children (Tom Dekker) left partnerless because one of the children is stillborn, and, as a result, being the only one to develop any empathy at all. The other kids are little monsters who, when forced to go up against an adult with any will at all, will have the pinwheels in their glowing eyes go from green to red to white, then, just to stack the deck against them further, their faces glow red into a demon's visage.
In other words, what was subtle and thought-provoking in the first film doesn't have the same effect in this one. And the reason is you're being beaten over the head with it, and rather pointlessly. There's no ambiguity here. There's no mystery. It's just a simple formula: strange is bad=kill it. Carpenter can be a good film-maker and stylist—he wrote the playbook on the post-Hitchcock slasher film (which may not be much of a recommendation—until you compare it with his imitators). Maybe this was just a case of studio expectations for meeting a carnage quotient. But whatever it is, the 1995 remake of the Village of the Damned takes all the fun...and the seriousness out of the story.

And that's a "Damned" shame.

* There is another film done by the Hammer group, and directed by American director Joseph Losey, starring McDonald Carey and Oliver Reed called (depending on which version you see) These are the Damned or The Damned, and are unrelated to this film series, although it does involve children, with special qualities.

** It was odd watching it this time around, as the children, particularly Martin Stephens, reminded me of no one so much as Sheldon Cooper, Jim Parson's character on "The Big Bang Theory."  Sorry, DR. Sheldon Cooper.
*** That article has met its internet death, and with the recent glut of horror films since, Village of the Damned has been knocked off the Top 10 List...but it's still on IMDB's list on the topic...where it's 29.

**** And no, I don't think they're gay, even if they do share a flat in London (separate rooms, mind you).  Both are on assignment from Unesco in London.

***** Unfortunately, the kids' performances are melodramatically threatening, a bit like Patty McCormick in The Bad Seed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949) A long time ago in a film world far, far away (before he was Obi-Wan Kenobi), Alec Guinness was considered "the" comic actor during his run of films with Ealing Studios and in the late 40's/50's, but his tour de force may have been the movie in which he didn't even receive top billing—but merely most of the billing!

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a black comedy—the blackest—about the peerage system in England and how the rules can be applied/disavowed at the whim of the "classy." The humor is "veddy" British; there is not a single raised voice in the entire film and the language is the highest (and snootiest) of tone. But that's where the civility ends, as the protagonist is on a mission of revenge and avarice in which he is the architect of multiples of murders in the quest for the title he feels is rightfully his and to which he has been denied.

London is abuzz on the day the film begins, as something altogether unusual is planned at dawn—the hanging, for murder, of an actual Duke, the 10th Duke of Chalfont. It is so unique that the guards have questions about precedence, how to address the soon-to-be-stretched, and the executioner is preparing a verse for the occasion. For his part, the nearly departed is spending his last night doing what any royalty is concerned with—preserving a legacy. Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini (Dennis Price) is penning his memoirs of how he got to this position—on Death Row, the noose being tailored for his neck-size. Part confession, part explanation, part boast, the memoir frames the flash-back sequences that show the unfortunate circumstances that befell Louis that forced him to rise above through low behavior that includes seduction, cuckoldry, murder and ladies' undergarmets.
Not his fault, initially. His mother (Audrey Fildes) became infatuated with an Italian opera singer and (in the opinion of her family) married below her station and was disowned. When her husband dies, she is denied anything to do with the D'Ascoyne family (including the inclusion of her devoted son, Louis, in family matters or business), even though she believes he should be considered in line for dukeitude that goes with the D'Ascoyne name. When she dies, her final wish is to buried in the magnificent grounds around the D'Ascoyne estate.
She will have to stand in line. In order to achieve that, her son has work to do.
The D'Ascoyne family (Alec Guinness—no, really, he plays the entire family) is an entirely disreputable bunch of entitled prigs, their only saving grace (besides being played by Alec Guinness) is that their grace saves them the punishments that discreditable behavior usually affords the un-gentrified. Even if he hadn't been denied his right, Louis would despise them all. Two things provide an incentive besides that of his mother's dying wish—his childhood friend Sibella (the positively glowing Joan Greenwood) refuses his marriage proposal in favor of a richer man's, and an encounter with the son of a D'Ascoyne banker gets him fired from his job in ladies' finery. That particular D'Ascoyne scion is the first to go, in a manner (as Louis will make a habit of) befitting his interests and peccadilloes.
Joan Greenwood (positively glowing)
Louis makes his way up the ladder of peerage on the rungs of dead D'Ascoynes. He also acquires a more suitable job as a clerk for the father of his first victim (who, of necessity, must be a future one). He also begins an indiscreet dalliance with Sibella, who finds that riches do not make a wholly satisfying life (if Louis weren't taking advantage of it, he might learn a lesson there), and a discreet friendship with the widow (Valerie Hobson) of his second victim. The murders are performed bloodlessly and—for the most part—off-camera, laced with, but not limited to, irony. One could imagine, if Louis weren't in such a hurry, that the victims would have incorrigably gone that way, anyway.
The second of many D'Ascoyne funerals (Guinness has a quorum)
Guinness is a wonder here. He gives each D'Ascoyne their own voice and manner, as well as an individual invitation to hate them. And Price manages to make Louis a charming rogue, while betraying that he also has some deep character flaws, beyond his cold-blooded penchant for murder (even if keeping it in the family). Those flaws are only emboldened the closer he gets to his goal. Thereby lies madness. And the film closes with one of those charming Ealing endings that flirts with shocking your sensibilities but has an added twist that satisfies you (in no small part because it leaves it unresolved or, better put, leaves it for the viewer to speculate on what happens after "The End" credit burns in, leaving you judge, jury, and possibly executioner). It's a little thrill that makes the film linger with wickedness long after it's over.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Richard Fleischer, 1954) One of those movies so popular and so much of "the culture" when I was growing up, that I'm surprised I've never watched it before except in clips and bits and pieces through the years.

This steam-punk version of the classic Jules Verne novel was a "big" film for Walt Disney Studios, its most expensive live action film to date, boasting "A"-list stars and wide screen(Techniscope, borrowed from 20th Century Fox) Technicolor. It had to be spectacular; Disney was moving into television, and if Uncle Walt was going to compete with himself for an audience's attention, he had to put into theaters something bigger and grander than what could glow in grays on convenient living room sets. It was also the first Disney film not to be released by RKO, but by Disney's own distribution arm, Buena Vista.

And Jules Verne's fantastical stories were just the fodder for Disney's live-action fare—at least until he could figure out how to let P.L.Travers let him make "Mary Poppins" (Verne's work, being in the public domain, allowed Disney to do what he wanted with the property).

It is 1868 and the world is in fear of rumors of a sea monster sinking trading ships in the Pacific. In San Francisco, the U.S. government entreats a recently stranded Professor Louis Arronax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant Conseil (Peter Lorre) to join an expedition to track down the monster. Along with them, is harpoonist Ned Land (Kirk Douglas), who's more interested in stopping the beast than studying it, but after months of fruitless search, even Ned is starting to tire of the hunt.
He needn't have worried; he's in a movie, after all. The point being made that the monster is elusive and challenging, the scientists find the monster and an attempt is made to kill it, but before firing the killing shot, the monster turns tail and rams the ship, scuttling it, and sending Arronax, Land and Conseil into a lifeboat to drift in a mysterious fog. In that fog, they see a strange vessel and, boarding it, they find it's a submersible craft, and through a window, they notice a strange ritual—an undersea funeral.
That is never good, and rather than being the next ones so honored, they try to make their escape, but are apprehended by the crew and their strange captain, Nemo (James Mason), who would just as soon drown them, except for his interest in Arronax, whose scientific research he respects. For the sake of Arronax, the three cast-offs are allowed to stay.
Mason is such a good actor that he can provide the inevitable
"You just don't get it, do you?" with just a look.
But Nemo doesn't make it easy. He uses the opportunity of his colleagues presence to explain: a tour of the ship shows off the Nautillus' unique propulsion system, which from its glow must be nuclear—no coal-fueled furnace ever glowed so hot; dinner is a culinary sampling of the sea, even the after-dinner cigars are stuffed with dried seaweed; a visit to the Rura Penthe penal colony explains Nemo's history and his hatred for the British trading ships he regularly attacks. Of most interest to Ned is the huge treasure of recovered riches from the oceans' floors, obtained from explorations of sunken vessels throughout time; Nemo he doesn't trust, perhaps in sympathy with the dead sailors that Nemo has left in his wake, maybe due to his antipathy to Nemo's crusade for vengeance. The two are mutually distrustful. And Ned is looking for any opportunity to leave Nemo's gilded prison.
But life on a submarine is life under pressure. For all the wonders the windows of the Nautilus offers, there are also dangers that Nemo is determined to power through unafraid. But, the addition of the men of science (and Ned) creates a dynamic of tension; his authoritarian genius was good enough for his crew of fellow prisoners, but Arronax is a man of pure science, who may admire Nemo's achievements, but not the manner with which he uses them. Between the military hunting him, his passengers questioning him, and his conflicts with his own demons, Nemo begins to become erratic.
One of matte artist Peter Ellenshaw's amazing blends of live action and artwork.

Nemo's goals are undefined; he has all this amazing technology and the power it can yield, and he has already suffered mightily with the death of his family and his imprisonment to keep it out of the hands of world governments. His solution is to isolate himself from the world's powers, taking his revenge where he can, and living below the waves, out of their clutches. Ned's goals are more myopic—his freedom at all costs, despite the plans and schemes of more far-thinking men. They're id and ego and they're warring in the Nautillus-brain. And as we all know, there are never enough couches on submarines.
Something's got to give. Maybe, deep in our sub-consciousness, that's why the most memorable sequence in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the primeval battle with the giant squid in the midst of a storm-tossed nighttime sea. Nemo's electrified craft can't kill it (and electricity has fried all sorts of movie monsters). So Nemo (being Nemo) decides to be the point-man and take on the thing with his crew. The battle does not go well,* and it is only the intervention of the least likely person who saves the day and the good/bad ship Nautillus.
We'll leave Freud behind for awhile (or this will get really creepy...besides, sometimes a squid is just a squid), but the conflict between Ned and Nemo creates real disquiet in a viewer. Nemo may be murderous; but Ned is a man-child with impulse issues, greedy, a quisling—it's his actions that ultimately cause an organized attack that leads to the destruction of Nemo's island, Volcanis, and his life's work—and a streak of undependability. He is Peck's Bad Boy, Huckleberry Finn without the charm, a dimpled exemplar of America's rebellious its worst. It's hard to peg Disney on how they feel about the military, too. Are they the Cavalry come to the rescue or the bushwhackers setting a trap. One is given the impression that their invasion lays waste to a dream, the result of the actions of the one character kids might relate to in a film filled with "old guys." Old guys who do a lot of talking. At least, Ned gets to play with a seal.
So, 20,000 Leagues ends on a decidedly melancholy note, an interesting end to what most folks consider the usual Disney happy ending (Mary Poppins ends in much the same way, actually). What is the film actually saying: "Dreams die and we should mourn the loss of vision?" "Beware of those with short-term selfish goals?" Given the photo-evidence of natural splendor over riches, 20,000 Leagues might, in some way, be a poetic environmental film disguised as a "Boys' Own" adventure story. Maybe that's what Uncle Walt envisioned all along.
Visionary, maybe. Poetic and entertaining, absolutely. Cautionary in the way the best science-fiction films can be, certainly. But, political? I would hazard a guess "yes." In which case, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea may be the most complex and greatest film the studio has ever produced.
* It didn't go well on-set, either. The film version is the second version of the squid attack. The first one, filmed simulating daylight, looked bad, the squid "fake" and just was deemed an unconvincing sequence. Director Fleischer and Disney screened the sequence that they'd put so much time and money in, and Fleischer said "I hate to say it, Walt, but it doesn't work." "You're right," agreed Disney and ordered re-shoots for a stormy night-time sequence that drove the film wildly over-budget, but made a scene that everyone remembers the movie for.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Don't Make a Scene: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Story:  Saul at the crossroads.  That's what this scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind is.  That would be Saul of Tarses.  As in the Bible, as in the Acts of the Apostles.

And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink.
— Acts 9:3–9, ASV
Saul at the crossroads of Damascus, who biblically and metaphorically "sees the light" and becomes the second Paul to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Religious films and the miraculous made everyday permeates CE3K throughout. At one point DeMille's The Ten Commandments plays on a television in the Neary home, and its cloud special effects recall Douglas Trumbull's billowing eerie clouds around Devil's Tower before the alien ships' arrival.  Revelations are made throughout.  Signs that "mean something" crop up throughout the movie, and the film has fun with "turn-abouts"—where something can influence one way and then turn another—like the head-lamps that turn from car to spacecraft in this scene, or the lovely transition where Roy Neary sleeps in exhaustion in his rec room until it's suffused with a warm, orange-ish glow, not from visiting aliens, as we've previously seen, but from the normal rising of the sun, something of a miracle itself.

Neary finds his mission at this crossroads, like Saul, and his reward at the end of the film is enlightenment, literally and figuratively, as he ascends into the Heavens.

And it's Roy Neary, an Everyman, a line-man who is "chosen."  Spielberg commissioned Paul Schrader to do the first draft of CE3K, which originally had more menacing aliens in it, and Schrader's screenplay had the hero be a UFO investigator at the top of his field—that's who should represent us in Schrader's mind.  But not Spielberg; he wanted an ordinary schlub as our First Contact, our man in Outer Space—Neary is picked out of the line-up at Devil's Tower above trained and briefed volunteers.  Spielberg continued this pattern throughout his "alien trilogy."  In E.T., it is Elliott (Henry Thomas), not "Keys" (played by Peter Coyote)—who has been investigating the landings for years (according to the book, anyway)—who has the contact and study-time with the gardener from the celestial planes.  And instead of a professor (Gene Barry) as in the '53 The War of the Worlds, it is a stevedore, a dock-working crane operator (Tom Cruise) that is the focus of Spielberg's 2005 version.

The Set-Up:  They're he-ere!  Okay, wrong Spielberg movie, but something strange is going on around the town of Tolono, near Muncie, Indiana.  While a team of scientists are globe-trotting looking at an intensifying of UFO activity, line-man Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has been called to work to see why the city is going through an unexplained power outage.  He is about to see the light.


Script deletions are crossed out.  On-set additions are in Green

An eerie light just beneath the dip in the road throws amber shafts through an underbelly of fog.
POLICE RADIO (V.O.) Unit 1-7 Alert.
The light intensifies before a pair of headlights explode over the ridge and pull to a stop. 
NEARY:  Help!  I'm lost!
Neary looks like he's drowning in maps.
NEARY: C'mon, you're gonna cough up a little Tolono, right?
He pulls down a jerry-rigged roll map and sticks the penlight into his mouth...backwards. His cheeks glow pink and for a moment he can't figure why no light is getting on his map.
POLICE RADIO (V.O.) U-five.  Officer Longly over.
NEARY: Cough up Tolono on Interstate Highway 90.  Maybe a little familiar landmark of some sort.
LONGLY's VOICE (V.O.) Responding to that 10-75 on Cornbread Road and Middletown Pike.  I am observing--I'm not sure exactly what, but it's a negative on the Christmas lights I think it's street-lights in the foothills residentials.  We're on our way.  Cornbread Road, South of 20th.
NEARY: Cornbread?
A bright group of highbeams appears over Neary's shoulder out the back window. 
LONGLY's VOICE (V.O.) Sodium favor street lights.  Power must have been restored up there. Couple hundred neighbors in their p.j.'s think its Saturday night out here.
NEARY: Cornbread?
LONGLY's VOICE (V.O.) Dispatch, this is 411.  Do you want me to disregard that Tolono call?
Neary is tearing at maps and absently waves an arm out the side window. 
The automobile headlights pass him and somebody yells:
PASSENGER: You're in the middle of the road, jerkwater jack-ass!
NEARY: Can you tell me where Cornbread is...
OFFICER LONGLY (V.O.) Couple hundred neighbors in their pajamas think its Saturday night over here.
Neary's fingers trace the route.
NEARY: Cornbread Road.  Middletown Pike. D-five.  M-34.
His two fingers meet and he takes off, tires screeching.
He turns into a rutted road, shines his spotlight on the street sign.
NEARY:  834...834...F-27
He checks his map. It confuses him. Neary backs onto the main highway and stops, pulling the map closer, twisting the gooseneck tensor lamp close enough to burn a hole.
NEARY:  M-Mary 10 through M-Mary 12. Okay.
DISPATCH (V.O) 10-47
 A bank of lights from an approaching vehicle can be seen from the rear window.  They draw up close and stop. 
Neary is only slightly annoyed by the glare from the rear and side view mirrors as he pours over the wrinkled map.  He absently sticks out his left hand and begins to signal "go around."
NEARY: Alright, Stoppage in the single circuits will lead you right to nowhere.
For a moment, nothing happens,...
...then, soundlessly, the super highbeams comply...
...rising vertically out of sight leaving darkness behind.
NEARY: M-Mary 10.
Neary hasn't seen this. 
Then there is this noise. 
It is like the rattling of tin. Neary looks around. 
He shines his spotlight on the road sign.
It is vibrating so fast that the letters seem to multiply and super-impose. He looks again with an almost comical "Huuuh?" 
DISPATCH (V.O) Units 2-11, 10-13...
DISPATCH (V.O) ...five-sev-*
On that note, his spotlight, intensor light, and headlights glow a faint amber then black.
CLICK!  The entire area for thirty yards around his car is bathed in the brightest light imaginable. 
Neary tries to look out the open side window but it hurts, 
...his eyes cannot adjust.
He ducks back in and goes for his radio. It is dead. Neary is too scared to budge. 
Just his eyes move. Nothing more. 
Falling open at the hinges, the glove compartment rattles as everything mettalic begins sticking together. 
A box of paperclips comes undone and dozens fasten themselves to the roof of the car. 
 The ashtray empties itself out as though sucked weightless by a current of air from outside -
- and CLICK! 
 The hotlight is gone. 
Paperclips rain down on him from the rooftop. The sign is no longer shaking. A DISTANT RATTLING causes Neary to swing around in his seat. His highbeams, spotlight, lamp, etc. come to life. 
Down the road there is a FOUR-WAY STOP. 
The signs are dancing to and fro, vibrating so violently that the metal around the edges curls against the force. 
CLICK!  The intersection a hundred yards down the road is awash in the same intense light. But only for a second. CLICK! And in the dark, the signs are no longer moving. 
All is still.  Not even a hint of a breeze. 
Click!! His car lights and radio blast back on and Neary screams.
The radio is making noises that sound like overload excitement.
RADIO VOICE (v.O.) I don't know, I'm asking you.  Is there a full moon this morning?
RADIO VOICE (v.O.) What do you guys got out there?
DISPATCH VOICE: That's a negative.  Full moon on the thirteenth.
RADIO VOICE (v.O.) I don't believe this.  My God, it's as big as a house!
RADIO VOICE (v.O.) Get out of here, me and my partner are seeing this thing over Signal Hill.  This is the thing that everybody is screaming about.  It's the moon...(static pause) Wait a sec.  Okay.  It's starting to move now.  West to East.
RADIO VOICE (v.O.) It's shaped like a barn!

UNIT 1011 VOICE: This is Tolono Police 1011.  We are watching it, confirming it is definitely the moon.  Be advised it is not moving.  The clouds behind it are moving, giving it the illusion of movement over...
RADIO VOICE (v.O.) This is absolutely crazy!
RADIO VOICE: Where'd you study astronomy, Tolono?  When did you ever see clouds moving behind the moon?
DISPATCH VOICE: What's your location?
LONGLEY'S VOICE: Just off the Telemark Expressway and East toward Harper Valley.
NEARY: Oh my God. I know where that is!
They dig out two troughs of red Indian earth.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Words by Steven Spielberg (and Matthew Robbins, Hal Barwood, Jerry Belson, and John Hill after a first draft script by Paul Schrader)

Pictures by Vilmos Szigmond and Steven Spielberg

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.