WAVELENGTH (1983) – This is an unjustly neglected science fiction film that stars Robert Carradine, Cherie Currie and Keenan Wynn in a very unconventional love triangle: both Carradine and Currie are fighting over Wynn. (I’m kidding!)
Robert Carradine plays a moody musician suffering a career lull, Cherie Currie portrays a groupie who becomes a bona fide romantic partner for him and Keenan Wynn barks and snarls in his usual “grouch with a heart of gold” manner. Cherie’s sensitive mind is open to alien brain-waves calling to her from a nearby (seemingly) abandoned government installation. Carradine and his neighbor Wynn help her try to find out what’s going on.
Okay, I’m not going to try telling you this is a classic movie or anything like that. It’s very derivative, the performances of the people playing the military and government personnel are pretty poor and there are so many shots of the boom mike crowding in from the top of the screen it should have received billing as a guest star.
That being said, Wavelength combines story elements borrowed from the Roswell Incident and the legends about alien bodies being secretly studied by the government. It then mixes those elements in with cover-ups, conspiracies and an autopsy on an alien life-form but makes it all seem fresher than you might expect.
Two weeks prior to the start of the movie’s action a spaceship crash-landed in the Mojave Desert and four extraterrestrial bodies were recovered. The Top Secret operation studying the aliens has designated them Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. Our heroes investigate, drawn in by the aliens’ telepathic cry for help to Currie.
It turns out that all plant life near the crash site has been dying and even more alarmingly the zone in which plant life perishes has been slowly expanding, posing a long-term threat to our planet. The government had arrested dozens of witnesses to the crash and its aftermath and they have all been dying of an incurable illness.
On top of all that the scientists studying the recovered bodies have performed an autopsy on one of them, accidentally unleashing a disease that begins killing off everyone in the facility, endangering our heroes, too, since they’ve been nabbed by the security forces.
I won’t throw in any spoilers in hopes it will encourage people to seek out this flick. It plays much more seriously than Close Encounters of the Third Kind and has the disturbing air of a horror film. The events and the characters would fit right into the gloomy universe of the Alien movies. The makeup for the e.t.’s is excellent and very creepy, by the way.
If Wavelength was done today it would probably be filmed as a Found Footage production. I thought that early on and for the rest of the way through the movie I kept reflecting on how – even with a limited budget – straightforward storytelling allows for a much broader tale than the overdone Found Footage approach.
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