AGFA (aka: American Genre Film Archive) announced this past week that they, in association with OCN Distribution, Vinegar Syndrome and Bleeding Skull, will be releasing a Blu-ray edition of director Dean Alioto’s 1989 production of The McPherson Tape (aka: U.F.O. Abduction), on Apr. 28.
The “found footage” sub-genre began in 1989 with this indie-film from a first time director. It went unnoticed at the time, but has now become the touchstone of the “found footage” sub-genre … a full decade before filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez hit the goldmine of indie film releases with The Blair Witch Project.
With U.F.O. Abduction, Alioto came up with a limited-budget project that he could produce quickly use as a calling card for future work. This “calling card” turned out to be an inspired indie classic and a worthy addition to any serious DVD and Blu-ray sci-fi and horror library.
The story is simple, which makes it all the more remarkable. Michael Van Heese (played by Dean Alioto, so that he could control the cinéma vérité presentation of the story in one-take) is videotaping (8mm video stereo format — cutting edge at the time) his niece’s fifth birthday party when the party attendees suddenly find themselves in the middle of an alien encounter.
Shot in one take, just as if it were actually happening (yes, Alioto reports that the amateur cast rehearsed what they were going to do, much like a stage production), we witness the family discover “something” outside, they investigate, spot a ship and three space visitors, shoot one, drag it inside and, well, the remaining aliens come knocking. What follows proves to be a hopeless defense … and the Van Heese clan vanish.
One take, perfect … Alioto has his calling card and actually cuts a VHS distribution deal. This is where the history of U.F.O. Abduction gets really squirrely. VHS Screeners of Alioto’s film were actually sent out to a few retailers (aka: rentailers) at the time.
Meanwhile, Axiom Films — the company that he had the distribution deal with — had a “warehouse” fire and the master and all of Alioto’s artwork for the film were lost. True story.
A few years later, Alioto had moved on, but he gets a phone call from some television producers who want to talk to him about using the footage from his film. What?
It seems that one of the VHS rental stores, which had received one of those screeners, edited off the credits and began sending around copies of the mysterious tape to various U.F.O. aficionados as the real thing.
This found footage tape of an actual U.F.O. abduction was screened at the International U.F.O. Congress Convention in Las Vegas in 1993, which was six years before The Blair Witch Project was released theatrically.
Now, for the first time, The McPherson Tape (aka: U.F.O. Abduction) is available for viewing … you can see what all of the U.F.O. buzz was about. Alioto had the original master, Axiom had the replication master, and AGFA has been able to access Alioto’s copy for the Blu-ray debut of the film that started it all.
Bonus features include commentary from director Dean Alioto, the 2017 director’s cut, the “Encounters” television segment that featured Alioto and the Q&A session from Fantastic Fest.