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The Hills are going to Hollywood. Variety reported last week that Bryce Zabel –producer of the TV series Dark Skies— and his wife Jackie –who wrote the story for Disney’s Atlantis— are teaming up with Gotham/Principal to bring one of the most famous alien abduction cases to the silver screen.

The movie will be based on the book ‘Captured!’ [Amazon US & UK] co-written by Stanton Friedman and Kathleen Marden, the niece of the late Betty Hill, who had an alleged encounter with humanoid entities along with her recently-wed husband Barney; the beings took them aboard a wingless, circular craft to perform a series of medical procedures on them, on the night of September 19th. 1961.

Producers plan to make the film in a context of both Cold War paranoia and the country’s struggle over race relations.

“Captured is a true story that explores the birth of modern UFO lore through the eyes of the first Americans to report that they were kidnapped by aliens,” said Eric Robinson, who will also produce the film on behalf of Gotham/Principal. “This is an exciting story that is as intriguing, timely and ripe for adaptation today as it was 54 years ago when this incident occurred.”
Stellar CEO Jackie Zabel said the Hills were unique in a number of aspects.

“They were an interracial couple in a country that still had segregation laws, and they lived in a city that was next door to a bomber base bristling with nuclear weapons,” she noted. “What they knew and why they were targeted will make for a phenomenal film.”

Not only is the Hills case the first documented example of what would be later known as the ‘alien abduction’ phenomenon, but it has also been one of the most heavily debated. All sorts of theories and hypotheses have been proposed by people on both sides of the UFO camp to explain the incredible account of this interracial couple; from notable skeptic Philip Klass claiming the Hills were spooked by the planet Jupiter, to pro-UFO researchers speculating on whether they might have been the subject of some kind of military experiment –Betty and Barney had members of the Air Force among their closest friends, and it was in fact one of them who suggested the Hills the use of hypnotic regression as a way to solve the problem of the ‘missing time’ they experienced during the night of the UFO sighting, which had been causing a lot of anxiety on the distressed couple.

But what both skeptics and believers seem to be in agreement, is that the Hills were *not* charlatans or attention seekers; they were two honest, hard-working people who were reluctantly driven to worldwide fame after their story was leaked to the press, and were telling the truth as they perceived it. Dr. Benjamin Simon, the psychiatrist and hypnosis expert who treated them –who also had connections with the Army– believed the story that emerged in the sessions was the result of Betty’s dreams, which had ended up influencing Barney’s recollections. The Hills never accepted that theory, and were adamant they had been physically taken inside a circular craft while under the influence of some type of mind control –here’s important to remember a large portion of the experience was consciously recalled by the Hills, including the several times Barney stopped the car to take a look at the object in the sky which seemed to be following them and getting nearer, and how he used his binoculars to observe humanoid figures clad in black Nazi-like ‘uniforms’, who seemed to be observing him inside the craft with a malevolent expression.

This new project will not be the first time the Hills case has been dramatized into a movie, though. In 1975 James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons starred in the TV film The UFO Incident, based on John G. Fuller’s book The Interrupted Journey. As a movie fan I can only say it will be tough to surpass James Earl Jones’ masterful performance, especially in the scene in which Barney is in Dr. Simon’s office, hypnotized and re-experiencing the terror he felt that night when he realized they were about to be captured, and suddenly stands as if wanting to storm out of the room while yelling “I gotta get my gun!”; this is in my humble opinion one of the best moments in his acting career.

Considering there’s never been a good abduction movie come out of Hollywood studios —Fire in the Sky is passable, but The Fourth Kind is just atrocious– here’s hoping Captured! manages to become the exception. I also hope the Zabels manage to show a glimpse of the high-strangeness which haunted the Hills after their abduction, as portrayed by Marden and Friedman in the book –even though I get the feeling they’re not planning to deviate too much from the typical ETH scenario.

We will keep you up to date regarding this story, and inform you when a release date and an official title is announced*

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(*) With at least 6 movies bearing the title ‘Captured’ in IMDB’s database –not to mention all the *ahem* gay romance books available on Amazon– I think it would be wise for the producers to seek a more original name for their new film… how ’bout ‘A Star Map for Two’? 😉