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WAVELENGTH. Directed and written by Mike Gray; produced by James M. Rosenfield for New World Pictures. Starring Robert Carradine and Cherie Currie. Rated PG (casual sex, discreetly implied; some very mild profanity).


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Did you ever wonder what would have happened to E.T. if Elliott hadn't spirited him away from all those scientists? Wavelength gives you a pretty good idea.

It is an interesting and off-beat movie. And in spite of the basic plot similarities, it's not a rip-off of that "other" movie about extra- terrestrials.

Wavelength begins with some standard horror gimmicks. There is a dog who acts strangely fretful around some abandoned buildings. Iris (Currie) also picks up bad vibes from the area. And there is a cantankerous old-timer (Keenan Wynn) who is full of information about the system of tunnels under the buildings. Finally, Iris' boyfriend Bobby (Carradine) insists on investigating.

The horror movie promised by this opening doesn't materialize. But what does follow is more interesting. The Air Force is keeping some aliens on ice—literally—and the beings are communicating their thoughts through Iris.

Throughout the following excitement, the perspective of Wavelength is consistently low-key. It pretty much avoids razzle-dazzle in favor of a more intimate approach.

Carradine and Currie make a comfortable couple. Iris is particularly good. She has a certain worldly wisdom along with her delicate prettiness.

The script tries to make Bobby more complex, giving him the background of a burned-out but recovering rock musician. But his history isn't as important as is his wry sense of humor and his curiosity.

Except for Wynn and Carradine (who had a small but important part in Coming Home) no one in the cast looks familiar, but they are all well-suited to their roles.

There is a documentary look to the movie, especially within the secret government installation. The setting itself in these underground scenes is fascinating. In stark contrast to the scientific complexes in so many other movies, this one isn't slick and futuristic. It seems somehow seedy and makeshift, like the official response to the whole wonderful incident of an alien visitation.

Wavelength's outlook isn't totally negative, of course. Iris, Bobby and their friends are certainly decent folks. And there is enough humor to undercut some of the seriousness.

But the ironic scenario this movie presents of a first close encounter is, unfortunately, more believable than Steven Spielberg's fantasies. Wavelength may not be as much fun as E.T., but it offers its own, quieter pleasures.

September 21, 1983

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