Monday, November 19, 2012

Man Chased by a UFO, aka Man of Ganimedes (Spain, 1976)

As movie titles go, Man Chased by a UFO is about as descriptive as they come. The film is the product of Spanish amateur filmmaker and UFO enthusiast Juan Carlos Olaria, who shot it in 16mm over the course of a few months in 1972, using a park in the scenic Garraf region of Barcelona for most of his locations. The film then remained largely unseen for several years, only finding distribution in 1976 once Olaria had spiced it up with some nudie and soft core footage. Why it is today known by the alternate title Man of Ganimedes I can’t say, but I mention it here because that’s the only way you’re going to find it on IMDB.

Man Chased by a UFO kicks off with a flying saucer heading toward Earth with its crew intent on abducting a human being. For reasons undisclosed, the hapless schmo they’ve set their sights on is Alberto (Richard Kolin), a middle-aged author of pulp fiction in the middle of one of those episodes of writers’ block that movies think suffice as character development when dealing with writers. And so the chase begins. Unfortunately for the aliens, Alberto is from the Bloody Pit of Horror School of writing, and is just as willing to bring Jack Johnson and Tom O’Leary to the party as a steno pad when confronted with extraterrestrial aggression. (“I gave them a good beating”, he later tells an interlocutor.)

Rather than dirtying their hands with the whole abducting business, the aliens delegate the task to a team of “mutants”. These are basically a bunch of guys in turtlenecks and slacks with what look like plastic shopping bags tied over their heads, and their first order of business is to undo the parking brake on Alberto’s car and roll it off a cliff. To further punk Alberto, they then take off with his car and set it adrift in space, so that when he returns to show the authorities what happened, there is no evidence to support his story. And this is central to Alberto’s dilemma: despite his distinguished bearing and all around tweedy-ness, no one believes him when he tells them he was “assaulted by aliens” who want to abduct him. WHY WON’T THEY BELIEVE HIM?

On a positive note, Alberto does seem to find a sympathetic ear in police detective Duran, who’s played by the director’s dad, Juan Olaria (Juan Jr., for his part, can be seen playing the pilot of the UFO). While not buying all of what Alberto’s selling, Duran suggests that he retreat to his summer cottage to wait things out, which Alberto does. Once there, he’s unexpectedly joined by his mistress, Carmen, whose open marriage with Alberto’s friend Ricardo seems to have Alberto as its primary beneficiary (just in case you forgot this was a European movie from the 70s). This sets the stage for a Night of the Living Dead style siege upon the cottage by the mutants, and finally those scenes of Alberto being chased around by a flying saucer that the movie’s title has lead us to expect -- or, dare I say, demand.

Man Chased by a UFO was Olaria’s first feature length film, following upon a series of 8mm shorts that he made throughout his youth. Because of this, it will likely surprise no one that it’s an amateur affair, as evidenced by its dopey special effects, unfathomable editing choices, numerous under-lit shots, and leaden dialogue. On this last count, Olaria displays one of the common weaknesses of novice screenwriters: never knowing when to stop writing words into people’s mouths. As a result, we get a lot of expositing about things that don’t need to be exposited. Until, that is, the final act, when the aliens finally divulge to Alberto their reasons for wanting to kidnap him. This involves something about the alien’s planet being a mirror image of Earth, as well as something about “anti-matter”, and ultimately ends up sounding like something that should be scrawled in very tiny writing on a sandwich board.

In a recent interview with Fantastique magazine, Olaria reconciled himself to being referred to as the “Spanish Ed Wood” by noting with approval that Wood often sacrificed quality for the sake of fun and entertainment. And in this I think he is spot on; while Man Chased by a UFO doesn’t provide much evidence that Olaria is capable of quality, it nonetheless continues a tradition of which he should be proud.


TheDoug said...

Good to see that this is available for viewing via YouTube under its Spanish title, HOMBRE PERSEGUIDO POR UN O.V.N.I., EL.17

Kikokun said...

Thanks for the review, and Doug for the youtube tip, I got to finally see the movie that as a kid in Spain, I was too young to be admitted in.
BTW, the first words the alien utters are "Klaatu Berata Niktu" (with spanish accent).

Todd said...

Thanks, Kikokun. That quote makes the film that much more adorably nerdy.