In honor of the release of a film about the 1995 controversy surrounding an infamous bit of footage known as Alien Autopsy called (what else?) Alien Autopsy, we had the opportunity to speak with the real men behind the mania — Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield. Time to separate fact from fiction.
Alien Autopsy is available now from Warner Premiere. Order your copy below.
About the Film:
The autopsy allegedly occurred in 1947 after the Army issued a press release that a crashed “flying disc” had been recovered. Soon after the army reported debris from a classified radar tracking balloon was recovered, and the speculation began.
The case was eventually forgotten but resurfaced in the late 1970s when physicist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel, who was involved with the original recovery and said he thought the military covered up the incident.
Then in 1995 Santilli, a London-based video producer, promoted a 17-minute black and white film purporting to be footage of the autopsy. Fox News used the footage in “Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction”, a TV documentary that caused a sensation and earned the highest ratings of any news broadcast to date. On camera many well-known figures, including Oscar®-winning make-up artist Stan Winston, cinematographer Allen Daviau, forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, and ufologist Kevin Randle said they considered the autopsy procedures authentic but stopped short of declaring the being was an alien. After the airing John Jopsoni, one of the documentary’s directors, claimed he had suspicions the film was a hoax but Fox pressured him to stay silent. Winston and Randle said their observations were distorted in the editing – that they had clearly stated they believed the footage was a hoax.
Cut to 2006 when Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, two of Britain’s most successful television entertainers, director Jonny Campbell, and screenwriter William Davies teamed to tell the true story in classic “mocumentary” style. Bill Pullman and Harry Dean Stanton add their touches in key featured roles. Prior to the opening the bigger-than-life Santilli came clean — sort of — to tease what is revealed in the movie: that because the 1947 footage had deteriorated due to heat/humidity, Santilli and his partner Gary Schoefield had “reconstructed” footage.
Ray: “The basis of the story is absolutely true.”
Gary: “The movie came about because one of my closest friends is a film producer. He happened to say to me that he was looking for a really good project to work on and he had money to spend. He knew Ray as well as myself and all about our video Alien Autopsy when it came out. I suggested that the three of us get together to have breakfast and talk about what really happened during the making of our movie. The true story. He later called me at home and expressed lots of interest, and here we are. That’s how it all came about. It wasn’t like Ray and I were thinking about making a movie based on our exploits. Everything just fell into place. A large part of the movie is accurate and true. The backgrounds of Ray and myself are not at all true. We’re both from the entertainment business, and they wanted to make it more unbelievable by having our characters be more like everymen. The essence, though, especially that bit in which we film it, is absolutely spot on. Lots of other elements were spot on as well including the impact that our video had on the world.”
Ray: “In 1993 or 1994 we saw the footage of the autopsy in its original form and brought it back to the UK. Within that year or so the footage had completely deteriorated. The only thing that was left was a few frames that we could use as reference. We brought in the most brilliant technical expert team to help us bring things together. They were absolutely fantastic, so much so that even the great Stan Winston and others were saying things like ‘We don’t know how they could have done that’. What we did was restore the original footage frame-by-frame over a very long period of time. We set about a program that was just simply restoring what was very damaged film. The footage that we had at the end of it was something that we thought was compelling so we decided to market it worldwide. We weren’t selling it to the broadcasters as fact. We simply said, ‘Look, it’s your decision. You can broadcast it whether you think it’s real or not. We’ll take the video rights. You can have the broadcast rights.’ Everybody won. As a result we had some of the biggest organizations in the world including Fox, PF1 in France, and Canal, etc. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating the footage that we supplied, and they couldn’t come up with an answer. What we did was a restoration. It wasn’t a hoax. It was a carefully constructed restoration of the original work.”
Gary: “Though the film is comedic, there were a lot of dangerous and serious aspects that were occurring to Ray and I, including break-ins, death threats, and all sorts of unpleasant things. The producers and writers figured it would be better to present our story in a lighthearted manner even though it could have easily gone the other way. By doing so, the story becomes accessible to a lot more people and a wider audience. We never set out to make a comedy, but we’re very happy with the results of the film.”
Ray: “In 1995, when we first debuted our video, we got involved with areas of the community that you could not imagine. We had military delegations from dozens of different countries come to visit us, we got summoned to the States, and the Chief of Staff saw the film. We quickly realized that we’d stepped into a really serious situation in which we were upsetting a lot of people. These were areas outside of our normal scope of business that we’d never been to before. Offices broken into. Cars broken into. Eventually things changed, and with a certain amount of help we were able to navigate potential land mines.
You can argue that black is white and white is black. When we were dealing with all this, we met with some of the highest dignitaries in certain areas of science from the senior curator of the National History Museum in the UK to a variety of other people. It was a fascinating experience.”
Gary: “I take away a great sense of pride from the whole thing. From our original footage straight through to this newest movie. I’m very proud of all of it. It was a fantastic thing to have been involved with. This will be the thing that Ray and I will always be remembered for.
I have no doubts about alien lifeforms existing. Ray and I have come across some incredible people. People who have been abducted. People who have been implanted. We’ve met people who tell us stories about how the American government has been interacting with alien life for years. I’ve seen an alien spaceship in the sky personally. It’s an amazing subject, really. Extremely interesting and fantastic if you have an open mind.”
Ray: “Since 1995 when we went public with the film, we had people from every corner of the world contact us with images, photos, and every kind of evidence that you can imagine. As a result we right now control one of the largest libraries of this kind of material. Gary and I have taken the position to not commercialize this subject any further.”
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