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He will have a few questions to answer from a host of instant film critics. Why does the film go so conveniently out of focus at crucial moments? Why is the camerawork so jumpy, in the modern ER fashion, instead of having the smoothness that even World War II combat cameramen aimed for? Why hasn't the original film stock been submitted to Eastman Kodak, which has a standing offer to do a chemical analysis that would verify if it was indeed manufactured in 1947? Why are there film cuts, suggesting a lapse in time, that return to the same continuous incision? Judging by shots of a wall clock, an autopsy of this importance took only 2 1/2 hours? It's no wonder that nearly all special-effects artists think this is bogus. Says Toronto-based Gordon Smith (Natural Born Killers, JFK), thought by some pros to have built the "alien": "A lot of us think it came out of England, from a B-grade studio."
Part of the show's appeal is its pretense of objectivity. "We remain skeptical," Frakes intones, summing up the opinions expressed by a number of expert pathologists and cinematographers. But the evidence is loaded to suggest that the film is genuine. At least two experts insist that their critical observations were deleted. One is Kevin Randle, whose investigations into the 1947 event inspired last year's provocative Showtime film Roswell. Randle believes that extraterrestrials did land there but that "the alien-autopsy film is a hoax"--a suspicion the Fox show doesn't make clear. Steve Johnson, a movie-effects designer who created the aliens in Roswell (and worked on The Abyss and Species), viewed the autopsy footage at the Fox producers' request and told them it looked "pretty phony." His comments were not used. Says effects expert Stan Winston (Aliens, Jurassic Park), whose on-camera interview suggests otherwise: "Do I think it's a hoax? Absolutely."
This weekend, perhaps somewhere in England, a small group of effects artists could be having a quiet giggle and counting their cash. But it's a big universe out there, big enough to harbor canny hoaxers, true believers, wily debunkers--and lonely time travelers. So in some alternate universe, Marvin and Mindy Martian just might be sitting down to watch Human Autopsy: Fact or Fiction? Whether that is likely or not, one point is beyond debate: the show will be on Fox.
--Reported by William Tynan/New York