Friday, November 8, 2019

Memory, Blog: The MacPherson Tape

A while back I wrote about an alien TV show that scared the pants off me as a kid, Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County. In that post I mentioned that in the UPN special the producers featured "experts" in the fields of Ufology - as well as skeptics - to speak about the as-presented "real" UFO abduction tape.

The interesting thing is that the so-called "experts" weren't really talking about the video that was aired that night.

You see, Paramount (UPN stands for United Paramount Network, by the way) did indeed pay to have Alien Abduction made, but it started out as a movie by filmmaker Dean Alioto under the title The MacPherson Tape and had a fairly different story than what was aired on television.

The basics were there: it featured a family get-together for Thanksgiving, in which the MacPhersons are beset by creatures from another planet, but the producers of the UPN special changed things up.

I actually had no idea about The MacPherson Tape until a few years ago. I was searching for a way to watch Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County on the web, because my folks either taped over or threw out my old recording. I found a copy to download, but when I started watching I realized fairly quickly that it wasn't the show I remembered. There were no title bumpers and no announcer. It looked nothing like a TV show! This was a legit shot-on-video movie.

The original cut runs for an hour and a half, so it's really a feature-length film. The hour long special had a runtime of 45 minutes, which was cut with interviews and recaps, so you can tell that a lot hit the cutting room floor.

Oddly enough, it wasn't just dissected for time, but the beats of the film were all changed, as well. The "ending" of Alien Abduction (seen above), where Tommy is abducted by a dimly lit creature in his bedroom (/me shudders), is actually a scene from the middle of The MacPherson Tape, where he runs to his room to change his pants, is frozen by an alien for a few moments, and then returns to his family unaware of what just transpired.

So, it would appear that this film, The MacPherson Tape, is actually what was presented to the "experts", which makes sense as this version is a fully-fledged found footage film (take that, aliteration!). It's much more impressive than the clips you see hodge-podged together for the TV cut. It sort of seems like an under-handed thing. Some of the individuals that spoke to the film on the TV special were highly-lauded scientists and debunkers. They likely wouldn't have involved themselves with the tape if they knew for certain that it was an out-and-out scam, so it kind of makes the whole thing seem greasy, but who knows? Maybe everyone made a nice cut of the profits and all was well!

I actually still prefer the TV version over the film. It's not just the nostalgia talking, but the ending with Tommy getting abducted in his bedroom is the better edit, in my opinion.

What's also interesting is that The MacPherson Tape predates The Blair Witch Project by a whole year! I know the found footage concept wasn't entirely new when The Blair Witch Project came out, but it's cool to note. The MacPherson Tape doesn't even come close to the quality of The Blair Witch Project, by the way. We're talkin' two different leagues.

Even more interesting is that the film's creator, Dean Alioto, actually got the UPN gig because of a very similar film he made way back in 1989 called UFO Abduction, which predates The Blair Witch Project by a full ten years! But that story is for another time (I promise, I'll at least try to stop typing that).

I hope you got some kind of enjoyment out of all this silly alien TV stuff!