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Jonny Campbell
Declan Donnelly, Anthony McPartlin, Bill Pullman, Harry Dean Stanton, Götz Otto, Morwenna Banks, Omid Djalili
Writing Credits:
William Davies

The truth isn't out there.

In 1995, mysterious top-secret black-and-white footage, supposedly filmed during the 1947 Roswell incident, was broadcast around the world. It showed the autopsy of an alien lifeform. The men responsible for the discovery of the footage, buddies Ray (Declan Donnelly) and Gary (Ant McPartlin), are thrown into intense media scrutiny. But the guys have an even bigger secret. And it’s not very pretty. Based on true events, Alien Autopsy is the alternately bizarre and frequently quirky story of the two unlikely lads from London who become icons in UFOlogy with a discovery that stunned millions who’ve long searched for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Bill Pullman and Harry Dean Stanton join a cast of intriguing characters in the tale of the mystery that, in one sense at least, was truly out of this world.

Box Office:
$10 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 9/21/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Jonny Campbell
• “The Making of Ant and Dec’s Alien Autopsy” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Alternate Opening
• Outtakes


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Alien Autopsy (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 12, 2010)

Back in 1995, a special called Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction? aired on Fox. As it purported to show the dissection of an actual being from another world, it inspired a big hubbub, even though it was patently, absurdly, abundantly fake.

The creation of the show becomes the inspiration for a feature film entitled Alien Autopsy. Set in the mid-90s, young Londoners Ray Santilli (Declan Donnelly) and Gary Shoefield (Ant McPartlin) decide to move out of their dead-end lives. Perpetually scheming Ray insists that they head to America to explore what he perceives to be a big business opportunity: he wants to get previously unseen concert footage of Elvis Presley and sell it for big bucks.

Along the way, Ray discovers something even more provocative: footage that appears to show a true alien autopsy from 1947. He purchases the film for $30,000 but gets a shock when he checks it out in London: the old reel has essentially evaporated and destroyed the image.

Ray got the money from a psychotic investor (Götz Otto) and fears for his life now that he has nothing to show for it. Rather than suffer the consequences, Ray comes up with a plan: they’ll stage a recreation of the footage he saw. Thus he and his pals endeavor to fake this real autopsy and pull off a hoax of sorts.

At its core, Autopsy boasts an intriguing premise, as it comes based on a “true story” of questionable veracity – extremely questionable veracity, in this case. The real Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield acted as executive producers on the film, so don’t expect it to veer away from the company line.

And as of 2010, what is that company line? In 2006, Santilli admitted that the film shown on TV was a fake, but he stated that he really did remake actual footage he’d seen. I did a little poking around on the Internet, and this appears to remain his claim. I have no idea how many people believe him, but I sure don’t.

Autopsy plays a bit fast and loose with various verifiable facts. Some are simple anachronisms; for instance, when Ray sells bootleg videos, many of the titles – such as GoldenEye and Toy Story - hadn’t been released yet.

In a broader use of dramatic license, the film radically reworks the backstories for both Santilli and Shoefield. They were older than depicted here, and both were established in the entertainment industry as of 1995. Santilli had promoted musicians since 1982, so he certainly wasn’t selling pirated videos and living in his gram’s flat 13 years later.

Which means Autopsy probably works best if you ignore its attempts at factual accuracy and simply enjoy it as a romp. In that regard, it does little to stand out as particularly novel or inventive, but it does entertain.

Autopsy qualifies as a comedy, though not as broad an example of the genre as one might expect given the outrageous subject matter. Chalk that up to British sensibilities. Normally I favor the subtle side of the comedic coin, but in this case, I think the movie could’ve used a little more wildness. It comes with such a wacky tale that its restraint seems a bit out of place.

Still, the story does keep us engaged, as we’re curious to see where Ray’s shenanigans will take him. Donnelly and Partlin provide perfectly acceptable performances. Both roles are pretty cliché – we’ve seen loosey-goosey schemers paired with uptight partners many times – but the guys manage to make the roles enjoyable.

We find a few moderately big names along the way, and they give the project a little more heft. Bill Pullman shows up as the filmmaker asked to document the 2006 admission of the truth, and Harry Dean Stanton plays the original photographer of the dead alien. It’s nice to see them, and they contribute to the project.

In the end, Autopsy is a moderately entertaining comedic effort. Despite its novel “kinda sorta based on true events” premise, it doesn’t manage to stand out as anything particularly clever, but it’s an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Alien Autopsy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For a standard-def DVD, the transfer looked pretty good.

Sharpness seemed fine. A few examples of softness and jaggies cropped up through the film, but these were minor. Overall definition looked solid. I noticed no shimmering, and edge enhancement was minor. No source flaws marred the presentation. Some mosquito noise occasionally interfered, but not to a substantial degree. (The “modern day” shots with the documentarian did look uglier, but that was intentional.)

Don’t expect a broad palette here, but within the design parameters, colors looked acceptable. The film tended toward a chilly sensibility that made sense for its subject, and it displayed reasonable clarity. Blacks seemed dark and full, while shadows were reasonably smooth. Some interiors came across as a bit dense, but those instances weren’t problematic. Nothing excelled, but the image was more than acceptable.

I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Autopsy was perfectly decent. I didn’t expect fireworks from the soundscape, and it remained generally subdued. It was a front-heavy affair that usually didn’t offer much more than general ambience and stereo music. A few sequences broadened moderately to the surrounds, but those remained infrequent.

No issues with audio quality occurred. Speech was consistently distinct and concise, and I detected no problems with edginess or intelligibility. Effects played a modest role and never taxed the system. They displayed decent accuracy, though. Music was a more prominent participant. The track boasted good life and definition to the various tunes, as those showed solid clarity and depth. This was an unexceptional soundtrack, but it was fine for this sort of film.

Given the film’s obscurity – and bargain retail price - Autopsy comes with a surprising number of extras. We open with an audio commentary from director Jonny Campbell. He provides a running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, music, cinematography and visual choices, recreating the original “autopsy” footage, and other production areas.

Though not uninformative, Campbell delivers an awfully dry track. Locations remain his main focus; it often feels like he does little more than tell us where they shot various scenes. Other info does emerge, and we learn a decent amount about the production, but the presentation remains rather slow, so the track doesn’t become engaging.

The Making of Ant and Dec’s Alien Autopsy runs 30 minutes, 55 seconds. Hosted by actors Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, it also includes remarks from Campbell, writer/producer Will Davies, the real Gary Shoefield and Ray Santilli, producer Barnaby Thompson, alien maker John Humphreys, and actors Bill Pullman, Madeleine Moffat, Götz Otto, John Cater, Omid Djalilli, Andrew Greenough, Lee Oakes and Harry Dean Stanton. “Making” provides a brisk run through aspects of the production and its premiere. Along the way, we get a few decent behind the scenes elements, but the show exists for laughs and promotion more than anything else; it does precious little to inform us about the movie’s creation.

Next we find a collection of 12 Deleted Scenes. These fill a total of 23 minutes, 42 seconds and mostly expand on characters and situations. The majority come from the third act, and the longest digs into the contentious Gary/Ray relationship when their endeavors go sour. Some of the shorter ones have some value, but the most extended ones really drag.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Campbell. He gives us some of the same basics in his main commentary – hello, locations! – but also throws in some other info about the clips. He doesn’t always do a great job of explaining why he cut the sequences, but he covers them in a decent manner.

We also find an Alternate Opening. It goes for 47 seconds and shows documentarian Morgan Banner as he arrives for his meeting. It’s not interesting or memorable.

Finally, the disc includes Outtakes. These occupy two minutes, 31 seconds and display the usual allotment of goofs and giggles. Nothing terribly amusing surfaces.

(Note that although we see parts of the Jonathan Frakes-hosted Alien Autopsy special from 1995 during the movie, the DVD doesn’t include it as an extra. That’s a missed opportunity.)

With its “truth is stranger than fiction” story, Alien Autopsy provides moderate entertainment. The film tends to explore its tale in a pretty ordinary manner, but it still keeps us occupied. The DVD offers fairly good picture and audio as well as an acceptable set of supplements. This isn’t a great movie or DVD, but it does okay in both regards.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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