Original release date 1986
Directed by Jim McCullough, Sr.
Written by Jim McCullough, Jr.
Peter Brown as Temple Ferguson
Jack Elam as Charlie Henkins
Carol Bagdasarian as Alain Peebles
Dottie West as Irene
Mickey Hays as the Spaceman
Mindy Smith as Sue Beth
Carly McCullough as Ginger
Tracy Kuehnert as Becky
Will Mitchell as The Ranger
George McFarland as Governor
Big Boi Ridgeback as Moon Dog
This odd little cross-genre western/scifi movie is very loosely based on reports of a supposed alien sighting in the little Texas town of Aurora. It opens on the funeral of Ben Peebles, the owner of the local newspaper. His daughter Alain is the local school teacher and the Sheriff's girlfriend. She plans to add newspaper woman to her resume and keep her father's paper going. The Sheriff, also called Temple, is a little skeptical of her ability to handle all those roles. But she's portrayed as a dynamic "modern" woman who rides a bicycle and is an enthusiastic school teacher who encourages girls as well as boys to get a good education.
Three of the female students figure heavily into the story, especially Sue Beth.
Jack Elam is Charlie the town drunk who sells an alcoholic elixir for a living. When he tries to get Alain Peebles to give him a bigger ad in the paper, she reminds him how much trouble her father had collecting the payment for the small ad.
Alain knows she needs a hot story to get the paper back on it's feet. Of course, the landing of an alien craft is just such a story. The first to spot him is the Widow Irene who finds him peeking in her window.
Temple is clearly skeptical about the imaginings of a lonely widow living on her own. Alain smells a story. Alain finds a circle that looks like a mysterious landing spot. Temple is still skeptical.
Temple warns his sweetheart not to print anything until she has hard evidence. They have words over this but when she asks him if she'll see him that night, he utters what becomes the affectionate assurance between them, "One thing has nothing to do with the other."
The next sighting is by the ever curious Sue Beth. She sees the little alien get into his ship and finds a prism/crystal he left behind.
Charlie is at home drinking his elixir and playing checkers with himself. The alien drops by for a game of checkers...and a little of the elixir.
Sue Beth shows Miss Peebles the crystal, but won't let her keep it.
Alain waxes eloquent on the subject of space ships. Temple overhears and applauds her efforts. But he doesn't think she should print anything until she gets some hard evidence.
She announces her intention to go to the governor to get a statement for the paper. Temple finds her exasperating but has a "what can I do, I love her" attitude.
Alain gets an audience with the governor on the pretext of being a reporter from the New York Times. She asks him for a statement about the alien ship seen in Aurora. When he has no comment, she writes that down as though it was a meaningful response.
After Alain leaves, the governor calls in his private Texas Ranger and sends him to Aurora to check things out and expose the story as a fraud. In the unlikely event the story is true, he is to dispose of the problem. It's not clear why he thinks an alien would be a barrier to his political ambitions but apparently he does.
Alain comes home bubbling with pleasure over the simple "no comment" statement which she intends to use to benefit the story. Temple doesn't think that's right or that she has the evidence to justify the story of aliens landing in Aurora.
Trouble in the person of the Governor's Ranger comes to town. He questions Charlie. Charlie returns home to again entertain the alien who trades him a dog he doesn't want for his hat.
In the meantime, the three girls go exploring and fall into a cavern which has mysterious writing on the walls. While a cave-in threatens the girls and cuts off their exit, the alien then goes to the aid of the trapped girls, apparently signaled by the crystal and uses his powers to levitate them out of the cavern.
The sheriff goes out and reinterviews the widow and appears to be more perplexed than ever.
When Alain hears the story of the girls' rescue, she has an idea about the prism/crystal. She starts taking prisms off a lamp in her office. As she's trying to explain her plan to Temple and the girls, the Ranger comes in making inquiries about the alien.
Temple recognizes him as a Ranger and asks him what he wants. The Ranger says he's going to run the story to ground and if there's anything to it, he's going to take down the alien. Temple tells him, "Not in my town."
Alain gets the whole town out holding prisms to the sky and waiting for the ship to respond. Temple maintains his skepticism but is supportive of his sweetheart. When something does appear in the sky, he's amazed, as is the whole town.
However, as the little alien walks out to greet Sue Beth who goes forward to give him the crystal, a shot rings out. Temple turns gun drawn and confronts the Ranger who fired the shot. The Ranger puts his hands up but the damage is done.
The little alien is dead. For some unexplained reason (probably related to shooting schedules, not plot) it's now night. And so the story ends as it began, with a funeral. Only on this occasion we see some kind of unexplained glowing light which suggests the alien's soul or spirit is returning to his place of origin.
NiteOwl Review: This was a harmless, silly, not very interesting, low-budget movie. It had the simplicity of a Disney movie but without the charm despite the appearance of Jack Elam and Dottie West. It was more disappointing to us because it was Peter's only full length western (unless you count the movies made from Laredo episodes for overseas distribution). Of course, it was nice to see him in western garb, riding a horse (briefly) and drawing his gun (once) but it just reminded us that he still had what it takes to make a western and made us long for a real one. Anyone who saw Peter compete in cowboy mounted shooting or in team penning would realize he retained his equestrian skills long after Laredo bit the dust.
Cast Notes: The most interesting part of the movie is the boy who played the alien with not much added to make him an alien except some ear prothesis. Mickey Hays was a personable, upbeat little boy suffering from progeria, a genetic condition which virtually guaranteed he would not live to see twenty. He appeared on Phil Donahue several times in the mid 1980s wearing a baseball cap and cheerfully answering questions about his condition. During his second appearance, other children suffering from the same condition also appeared. We think there was a third appearance promoting this movie. According to Peter, Mickey's family and the producers were close friends. His appearance in this movie was most certainly the highlight of his short life. Peter said that during the scene where he carried the alien, it was like picking up a bird because Mickey's bones were so light (as the result of osteoporosis).
Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome is an extremely rare genetic disease that accelerates the aging process to about seven times the normal rate. Because of this accelerated aging, a child of ten years will have similar respiratory, cardiovascular and arthritic conditions that a 70-year-old would have. Currently, there is no cure for this disease and because of its rare nature, no definitive cause can be pinpointed.
Progeria affects between 1 in 4 million (estimated actual) and 1 in 8 million (reported) children, with a total reported incidence of just over 100 cases in the century since it's been identified. Children from all races and cultures from around the world have been affected. Some physical features of Progeria children include dwarfism, the look of aged skin, baldness and a pinched nose. Mental growth is equivalent to other children of the same age. Most children with Progeria live no longer than their early teenage years, though one or two have lived to be as old as 20 or 21.
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