JUNE, 2005 e.v.
On the opening day of director Steven Spielberg's remake of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, I attended a 6:30 screening at the Arclight with Adam, Camella, Heather and Kevin Willis. Having seen the original many times in my youth, I was curious to see how Spielberg would modernize the film utilizing CGI among other things, but I was even more curious to see if he was going to include what filmmaker/ufologist Paul Davids (see Flying Saucers over Hollywood) considers to be a coded reference in the original to the alleged Roswell crash/retrieval of 1947.
In the 1953 version, produced by sci-fi filmmaker George Pal, one of the Martian 'meteor'/war machines crashes into a farmhouse where the film's hero, Dr. Clayton Forrester (played by Gene Barry, but based on Dr. Lincoln LaPaz of New Mexico green fireballs fame), and his love interest, Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson), are hiding from the heartless aliens. According to Davids, on two occasions, the location of this crash is given as "southwest of Corona." After their Piper Cub is downed, Sylvia asks Forrester where they are. "Southwest of Corona" is his reply, but he then adds (rather cryptically for students of Roswell) that "There must have been another cylinder down here. They've been through this whole area and cleaned everybody out." In the reality of the film, the Corona referred to is Corona California (Pal chose to set H.G. Wells' story out west), but it is southwest of Corona, New Mexico, where the foreman of the Foster sheep ranch, Mac Brazel, discovered the debris field with anomalous metallic material [and a body?] that many people believe to be of extraterrestrial origin.
When the original War of the Worlds was made back in 1953, whatever had happened near Roswell 6 years earlier had been effectively covered up and all but forgotten (save for those involved in some way). With its association with a crashed alien spaceship, Roswell wasn't the household word that it is today, and, in fact, until the publication The Roswell Incident by Berlitz and Moore in 1980, there was little or nothing published* about the event. Besides the "southwest of Corona" reference, Davids also draws our attention to the shape of machines in the original War of the Worlds. The manta ray-like appearance matches very well with the more recent testimony about the shape of the crashed 'Roswell' craft (although it should be noted that the tripod Martian machines in the H.G. Wells story were considered too difficult to re-create for the 1953 film).
So, if these are in fact coded references to Roswell, then where did producer Pal get such highly-classified information? According to Davids, the most likely answer was through his connection with German (ex-Nazi) rocket scientists Willy Ley and Werner von Braun, a couple of individuals (who served as consultants for the film?) who might just have certain inside information with regards to the Roswell incident. The one thing that Davids missed, however, especially in light of a controversial new book about Roswell by Nick Redfern (Body snatchers in the Desert: the Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story), is the cameo appearance in the original War of the Worlds of a Northrup Flying Wing! And he also didn't make the intriguing connection of George Pal being a native of Hungary † (ala Edward Teller).
"There is no need to believe we are being invaded from outer space. Anyone living outside this troubled globe would be displaying absolute nonsense to come here."
- Dr. Lincoln Lapaz
* I do, however, know of one 'novel' published in the late 1940s that contains numerous veiled references to the Roswell incident, so many in fact, that it virtually gives the game away –and offers a solution that few have ever considered.
† It has been claimed by insiders that most people connected with the reverse engineering of alien technologies at AREA 51 speak Hungarian.
Quickly realizing that the remake was set in New Jersey (the location of the Martian invasion in Orson Wells' famous radio broadcast in 1938), I doubted there would be any mention of a crash "southwest of Corona." Okay, but what about the scene with priest? Both Adam and I had wondered if Spielberg would include one of our favorite scenes from the original, that in which a Xian priest approaches one of Martian war machines, believing that even they wouldn't harm a man of God, only to be incinerated seconds later. As it turned out, Spielberg substituted the Xian priest with a church itself, showing it crumbling as a result of one of the alien tripods, with the steeple crashing onto street. But, as I watched the film, to me, the most interesting thing about the remake of War of the Worlds was the lengths that Spielberg went to correct a 'mistake' from his past, that concerning the plot of his 1977 epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In Mad magazine's parody of CE3K (see MAD MAGAZINE, JULY 1978 "Clod Encounters of the Absurd Kind"), at one point during the 'Devil's Tower' scene, the Roy Neary character says to the Jillian character "I must go with them (meaning the aliens), the trip will give me a mystical and religious experience." To which the Jillian character responds: "But you're leaving your wife and kids behind. Don't they give you anything?" Neary's reply is "Yeah... a pain in the ass!" Although this was meant to be humorous in MAD's sophomoric fashion*, in reality, the idea of the film's main character leaving his wife and kids to climb aboard glowing, pulsating nirvana did, in later years, come to 'haunt' Spielberg, and he has been quoted over the years saying that today he would have made a different film – one that allowed Neary to fulfill his destiny without abandoning his family. Although some people see what even the film's writer, himself, (Spielberg) still doesn't see, that Roy Neary "wasn't chasing his dreams when he left his family, but was responding to an implanted, uncontrollable obsession by the aliens", it seems to me, at least, that the idea of Neary abandoning his wife and kids haunted Spielberg (after getting married and having children, himself) to such an extent that it was, itself, a major factor in his wanting to direct the remake of War of the Worlds. Seen in this light, War of the Worlds is the antithesis of CE4K.
In CE4K, the main character, Roy Neary, is married with children, but after encountering an alien presence he begins behaving in an irrational, some would say irresponsible manner, and soon abandons his family to take a journey on the mothership. In the remake of War of the Worlds, we have the complete opposite. The film's main character, Ray Ferrier, is already divorced when the film begins, and from what we are shown (the back story), he acts rather immature (at the very least, irresponsible) and has alienated both his wife and children. However, once the aliens invade the planet, he instantly matures, becoming a responsible parent who wants to protect his family at all costs. The difference between the Roy Neary and Ray Ferrier characters is never more evident than in one of the more dramatic battle scenes when Ray's son pleads with his father to let him go because he needs to see that which lies just out of sight. To this, the father begs for his son to stay with him, saying something along the lines of "I know you think you need to see this... but you don't!" Compare this to the 'Devil's Tower' scene in CE4K when Roy Neary tells Jillian that he can't stay with her – that he needs to see (what is just out of sight). I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but if you watch CE4K and then War of the Worlds, you should see how the latter is more about a filmmaker's personal redemption than anything else, even if it is, at times, faithful to the original H.G. Wells story. And as for the stereotypical Hollywood happy ending, in true Spielberg fashion, the kid's grandparents are played by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson of the 1953 original.
* Another example of the writers at MAD having a little inside fun while chiding Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the scene where they give the global coordinates (i.e. converting the film's now familiar musical tones into numbers) as G-47 N-33 O-72 B-12, no doubt indicating a device that many movie-goers back in 1978 used to enhance the film's dazzling special effects.
A couple of days prior to watching the remake of War of the Worlds in Hollywood, I drove to Las Vegas with a girl whose initials are also BMB (the twenty-something girl with the Tool 'Angel-Baby Doll' tattoo near her ass if you must know). It had been about three years since, together, we tried our luck at Mandalay Bay, and we were both looking forward to beating the odds. Little did I know when I pulled into the hotel/casino parking garage with screaming tires and a half-empty traveler margarita that I would be checking into a room on the 23rd floor of the Luxor with something most people could hardly imagine – something I'm now warning you about. My first clue should have been all that goddamned luggage that she brought. With the silver Coleman occupying the trunk of my car, the back seat was piled high with huge duffle bags bursting at the seams from all the clothes stuffed in them. And then there were the assorted plastic bags filled with golden sandals, makeup kits, curling irons, slightly different golden sandals, etc.,ad infinitum. Seven different purses and twelve pairs of shoes for TWO DAYS, a shoe-box (at least I know where she got that) containing hundreds of shiny toes-rings, all of which we had to haul through Mandalay Bay, Mandalay Place and the finally the brightly-carpeted Luxor, itself, just because I wanted access to the contents in the silver Coleman, namely a better margarita mix than their bartenders seem capable of making.
We didn't go to bed until about 5:30 the first night, having spent most of the time in the casino where even a straight flush couldn't save us, or back in the room, sipping Coronas while gazing at the variegated brilliance of the Los Vegas strip. Upon waking up a few hours later, I heard the water running... running for at least twenty-five minutes when my friend finally opened the door and asked if I needed to get in there before she took her shower. Shower? What hell had she been doing for the last twenty-five minutes! After about another hour or so in there, she finally emerged, looking great, except that, strangely enough, her newly-applied green fingernail polish already seemed a bit chipped up. Once she finished ironing something for another twenty-minutes (which turned out to be a slinky chartreuse blouse about the size of an average wash rag), she told me that we could do whatever I wanted this day, but the only thing that she was insistent on was that she could buy me her favorite tropical drink (a green Python, it was called) and lunch at the Rainforest Café. This was something that she "HAD" to do, and then we could do whatever.
A couple of hours later, with a 'what god did I offend?' head-ache (hangover if it makes you feel better), we walked into the jungle-themed restaurant in the MGM, being escorted to our table by a khaki-clad, grizzled old safari guide past animatronic gorillas and dripping Spanish moss as jungle noises and strobe-light thunderstorms brought out the dour one in me. At the relative safety of our table (or so we were told by the guide), the female BMB wasted no time ordering the green-colored, sugary tropical whatever it was (with girly Midori, no doubt) and a crab dip that was sure to excite any heathen near-vegan (not). It was while WAITING for our drinks that I first noticed those that I'm about to warn you about. There were a few at one table across from us... and a couple of more at another table... and a few more at the next table... and DOZENS of more entering the Rainforest café from the MGM casino. Glancing around, there must have been at least fifty of them already in the restaurant with more on the way. What the hell was with those ENSEMBLES? What I saw were elderly (and middle-aged) women, all of them wearing different types of thrift shop-vintage RED HATS. There were red fedoras, and cowboy hats, red bowlers and sombreros. I swear one was even wearing a red Balaklava helmet! And not only that, all were wearing purple outfits!
After picking at our lunch and waving off the ubiquitous volcano dessert, we went back to our room at the Luxor where I claimed to be tired and suggested that she go shopping (even though for this walking wardrobe closet, the idea seemed crazy as Vacation Bible School). As soon as she was gone, I got on the lap-top and googled certain key-words such as elderly (and middle-aged) ladies, red hats, purple outfits. Within seconds I had my answer: THE RED HAT SOCIETY... started by Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, California... who now calls herself the Exalted Queen Mother of the Society. There are now numerous chapters of ladies who meet for tea... and lunch (and most surely brunch)... and at conventions all over the world, always dressed in full regalia... "Sue Ellen's fondest hope is that these societies will proliferate far and wide..." WORLD DOMINATION!.. "Fun and Friendship", my ass! World domination... so that's the plan. The invasion wasn't coming from bases under sparkling glaciers in Iceland or by tripod war machines buried beneath New Jersey. No, the Draco-reptoid shape-shifting aliens were disguised as elderly (and middle-aged) ladies outlandishly attired and wearing red hats, the kind of women you'd see in the audience of Oprah, or Marie Callenders, or the MGM Grand. I felt a chill run down my spine, and felt like I needed a drink... Yes, I sure wished I had big swig of a Green Python right now.
As I continued to gather intelligence on the Red Hat Society's various queens, their recruiting methods, membership "dooze" for purple perks and the society's curious by-laws, suddenly my friend returned from shopping, her only purchase being a purple shot glass she got for me from one of the Luxor's gift shops (she didn't even buy a bigger shopping bag like I suggested, one to stuff the smaller shopping bags full of clothes into). Fortunately (because of what I soon found out), she didn't ask what I was looking at on the computer, but, instead, began searching through the piles of clothes strewn about on the bed and floor. Returning to the computer screen, I next discovered that although a woman had to be 50 years or older to join the Red Hat Society, a woman under the age of 50 who wanted to join could do so, but she would be what was called "A Lady in Waiting." When I glanced over to see what the female BMB was doing, I noticed that she had changed into a lavender skirt and was now searing a pink baseball cap. What's up with that, I wondered? Being from the Bay Area, she was a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, and normally displayed their black and orange livery. It was at that moment that I read the following: "Ladies in Waiting" were called Pink-Hatters, and they were required to wear pink hats and... lavender outfits! My God... She knew all along that they'd be there, and had led me right into their nest (called by some a convention)!
People, don't be fooled. If you're ever at the "Early Bird", look for flaking green nail polish. It's NOT paint! Listen to their Friday broadcasts... to time-sensitive information. Decipher their message... and be warned... about the real invasion.*
* It is now rather obvious to me that the late Hunter S. Thompson had somehow 'perceived' this threat years ago (see "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.")