In 1995 Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield either pulled off the biggest scam since the Hitler diaries or uncovered a piece of film that would turn the world upside down. This is the dramatised version of their story
Gary is a law clerk, a respectable job for a hard working man, his best friend Ray is cut from the Trotter cloth. He would be Del Boys’ biggest rival if they could ever have met up. He does a roaring trade in pirated videos and manages to stay once step ahead of customs and excise and the law. He dreams of his big score, his money making venture that actually comes off. With this in mind he sells Gary’s pride and joy vintage car, without his knowledge, to fund a trip to Cleveland, Ohio. He has a masterplan to buy Elvis memorabilia there and gets a big response when he places an ad in the local newspaper. The biggest find that turns up is that of Elvis performing live, old B&W; footage on actual reels of film. Ray does a deal with the old man selling it and are overjoyed at their success.
Later on the seller returns, informing Ray that he has some more footage, this time of something that is a bit different but that he thinks the two Englishmen will be interested in.
So begins the tale of the Alien Autopsy movie that caused a stir across the world back in 1995, a piece of footage that showed some
American military doctors performing an autopsy on an alien found in Roswell. A tale of conmen hitting the perfect scam that ballooned beyond their expectations, or maybe, just maybe the tail of two men lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and make the most of it!
The rest of the film follows their attempts to buy this new film footage (they need to raise $30,000 from somewhere to be able to afford it), what happens when they have to restore’ some of the film that is damaged and the follow up to its release to the general public and the furore it causes. The basis of the film being that Ray and Gary are telling the whole story of what happened to a film maker who wants to produce a film about their story.
Alien Autopsy is the first big screen outing for those jovial young presenters Ant & Dec, who haven’t acted since their even younger Byker Grove days. Ant plays Gary um I think, maybe he plays Ray or is that Dec? Who knows I have never known which one is which! Whatever way round it is they do play their parts pretty much as themselves. I cannot say I have really watched them in anything but from the odd presenting job I have seen they come across exactly as the do in this, so possibly no real acting from them at all.
Having said that would we have expected that from the two of them, I know I didn’t, and they have been very clever in picking this. They saw that the characters were close enough to themselves that they could pull it off, which they certainly do do.
Alien Autopsy is like the majority of British comedies these days, Shaun of the Dead apart it is just not really that funny at all. Whether Alien Autopsy is actually meant to be funny may be something to debate. It is really only the stars, and guest appearances by the like of Jimmy Carr, that may lead viewers to think that is what it is going to be, oh along with the trailers that seemed to highlight the more comedic aspects of the film.
In my opinion as a comedy it doesn’t even really get started, as an interesting look into how Gary and Ray pulled of the scam (albeit with some added dramatic licence no doubt!) it is quite watchable. As the story of their footage gets out the way the media trample over themselves to buy the story/footage is just hilarious (though as it was watched by 1.2 billion viewers worldwide maybe they were right to WANT the footage for their own stations! In fact maybe they didn’t care whether it was real or not they just knew everyone would want to see it!)
Having said that the whole making of the remade’ footage is quite hilarious, but no so much because of the script or acting but because they were actually that inept and yet still managed to get away with it and make a fortune! Seeing the almost ramshackle like attempts, and how they did actually do it has you shocked at the simplicity of it all. This is what I did love about Alien Autopsy, its exploration of the media and how easily they, and the public, can be so easily duped.
The scene where they are about to show their film to a collection of shop owners who may sell copies for them, only for Gary to discover that Ray has put a little ad in the paper announcing the showing, and that their chosen location, a suite in the little known Museum of London (scene of many a clandestine meeting!), and thousands have turned up including newspapers and TV crews illustrates how big a story this was back then.
Forget the subplots with the crazed, gay criminal who finances the original purchase of the film form America, forget the allegations that it was all real and about the CIA spying on them, while they add a little spice and tension to the film they are not the real story the real story is that of two English guys who got some footage of an alien being autopsied in Area 51, Roswell back in 1947 and in their own words made a film that “is not a fake it is a remake!”
So the big question is would I recommend this to you? Well yes I would, I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, but like I say above more as an interesting, dramatised, true story look into the media and public perceptions rather than as a comedy. It is not full of belly laughs, though it is amusing in places. Go and see it and make your own mind up if I have intrigued you with this review!