Just when a down-on-his-luck photographer thinks he’s hit bottom, his career takes a turn for the surreal when he buys a Brownie camera at a Bakersfield yard sale, develops the film inside and discovers he’s unwittingly found the El Dorado of space-alien photos. The wacky adventures that ensue create an irreverent telepic, complete with comic cameos by Rod Steiger, Bobcat Goldthwait and June Lockhart (“Lost in Space”).
Pic opens as two deer hunters find themselves caught in the headlights of a UFO circa 1969, and abruptly shifts to present day with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Delbert Mosley (Bill Campbell) peddling photos to an irascible editor (Goldthwait), who rejects Mosley’s work for its lack of drama. Despite earning a Pulitzer for capturing a human tragedy on film, Mosley’s most famous picture haunts him, causing his editor to accuse him of losing his nerve.
A despondent Mosley happens upon the Brownie loaded with photos depicting the abduction of the hunters, and tries to get the military to investigate. The pictures, however, are dismissed by Col. Buck Gunner (Steiger) as phony. “I wish they still made them like this,” he says.
Undaunted, Mosley next attempts to gain legitimate media attention, and grants an interview to a reporter (David Rasche) who turns out to be from a supermarket tabloid, which publishes the alien pics as if they were Mosley’s own , and Mosley finds himself besieged by a UFO fanatic (Julie Brown). Feeling as though his once-respectable name is besmirched, Mosley storms the tabloid offices, only to meet Paige Davis (Wendy Schaal), whose father was one of the abducted hunters. Mosley agrees to help find her father, and subsequent quest dominates rest of pic.
Both Campbell and Schaal give appealing perfs, while Brown and Bill Cobbs (as the witness to the abduction) provide delicious comic turns. A last-minute appearance by Paul Dooley is welcome. Conclusion is especially clever, with director Sam Irvin grounding the bizarre plot turns to make them amusingly plausible.
Camerawork and production design are the obligatory quirky (a similar feel to “Repo Man”), with high angles and stark sets providing pic with alien quality. Praise also goes to decision to run credits underneath a version of Stan Ridgway’s “Mexican Radio,” played on accordions.