Sunn Classic Entertainment may have made Grizzly Adams, but they were really known for four-walling theaters, renting them and making all of the money. The films they showed tend toward conspiracy theories, starting all the way back in 1975 with The Outer Space Connection and continuing with In Search of Noah’s Ark, The Lincoln Conspiracy, In Search of Historic Jesus, The Bermuda Triangle and so many more. They expanded to producing films with Tim Conway, The Boogens, Cujo and this one, based on the late 1970’s fascination with our government’s alien cover-ups (this was a big part of the end of every episode of Battlestar Galactica – “U.S. Air Force’s 1969 Project Blue Book findings that UFOs are not proven to exist and are not a threat to national security.”).
Suffice to say that I was constantly scared shitless of U.F.O.’s throughout 1979, 1980 and into 1981. A big part of that fear was this TV commercial:
There was even UFO Candy that listed out different sighted UFO’s on the inside. Yes, this fat kid got sugared up and then read all about alien abductions and then tried to go to bed. No dice.
Hangar 18 is all about the government covering up an incident where an astronaut is killed on the Space Shuttle, which is witnessed by two other astronauts: Steve Bancroft (Gary Collins, whose show The Sixth Sense was syndicated alongside the superior — and best show perhaps of all time — Night Gallery. Plus, he hosted beauty pageants and talk shows for years) and Lew Price (James Hampton, The Longest Yard).
As the government works to keep things under wraps, the men make their way to Arizona. Price is killed, but Bancroft finally makes it to the Air Force base that has the damaged UFO. On board were two pilots and a woman in suspended animation. Plus, the ships have ancient languages on them and a record of all of the surveillance the craft has done on our planet. Even scarier — this may have been a shuttle and a larger ship is out there.
Darren McGavin shows up, as does Robert Vaughn as Gordon Cain, a government agent who is out to erase all of the evidence. He does so with a remote controlled jet, but Bancroft and a few scientists survive, as they were inside the UFO. This is conveyed via voiceover, which is the least dramatic way to end a movie (there’s also an alternate version called Invasion Force with a different ending).
Interestingly enough, Hangar 18 was one of the very few American films to be theatrically shown in the Soviet Union. As one of the only science fiction and action films shown at that time, it was incredibly popular amongst Russian youth. If they only knew what they were watching was basically a TV movie with little to no excitement!
As for me, knowing that the real Hangar 18 was at Wright-Patterson (originally Wright Field) AFB in Dayton, Ohio — close to my Pittsburgh home — gave me even more sleepless nights and dreams of being taken away to my true home planet.