Television Reviews

DVD Review – Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base – Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

Deep in the heart of the Nevada desert, in a barren desolate valley, there exists a place that the United States government would rather you not know about: a military base so secret the Pentagon refuses to admit it exists; a place that has been the launching site for the most advanced aeronautical technology the world has ever known. The base itself has a buffer zone estimated at over 12 miles. There are no gates, but those who stand guard have permission to shoot anyone who attempts to penetrate its border. The people who work here are sworn to secrecy. They fly in every morning on jets with no markings and the windows are painted over. A base, so secret, it doesn’t even have a name, at least an official one. In the past, aerospace workers referred to it as Groom Lake for the dry lakebed adjacent to its runways. Some know it simply as “The Ranch.” The air traffic control tower at the base uses the codename “Dreamland,” but most know it by the region’s designation on an obscure U.S. Geological Survey map, which places the world’s most secret military base on a grid marked Area 51…

The documentary Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base tells how the U.S. government took over this piece of land, bigger than the size of Switzerland, during the 1950s for a variety of military testing operations. The main function seemed to be nuclear, but there was another, more secret, purpose to the base. The U2 plane, designed to spy on the Soviet Union, was first tested here.

Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base does agree the government is hiding something but what it actually is hiding is up for debate. The only landmark for miles is a black mailbox belonging to a local rancher. Some investigators claimed to have witnessed UFOs in flight from this spot. Getting much closer to the base will generally get a person detained by guards who seem to appear out of nowhere in unmarked Chevrolet Blazers.

Details are given about one of the first former workers at Area 51 who spoke out in 1989. Bob Lazar was interviewed on television in 1989 and told the story of working on UFOs and prototype copies of UFO aircraft. There are arguments pro and con supporting his claims and it’s hard to find records of his employment or schooling. There’s some discussion of where the alleged UFO material came from and its possible relation to the Roswell incident.

Some of the projects and experiments conducted at Area 51 are known. Besides the U2, there’s the Aurora Project.

All of this material is covered in the first portion of Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base, and when it’s doing that it’s fairly interesting. When it turns more to a discussion of footage shot above the base and elsewhere, it descends into something that resembles a hokey episode of The X-Files than a documentary with supporting material.

There’s footage taken of the skies above Area 51 that shows objects and mysterious lights in flight. People who live in the area talk about what they have seen and what has been reported in the area. It’s hard to listen to testimony from people who have a financial gain coming from luring more tourists to the area and take them seriously. Some of the footage is unbelievable as well and seems to be crafted as if whoever was shooting it specifically didn’t want people to be able to see what was really up there in the sky.

One skeptical critic makes the point that when you want to see a UFO, that’s what you will see. There is some testimony from skeptics, but it mostly seems to be from believers and aimed at believers and those on the fence to make the case for what is really happening at Area 51.

Sometimes Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base gets boring and drags. Listening to people tell similar stories over and over again wears thin after a bit. It goes off on tangents such as how the town of Rachel got its name and what happened to the person it was named for, although all of this has nothing to do with Area 51.

Included on the disc is extra footage of UFOs not used in Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base. There’s footage included in this from something called Strange Universe, but there’s no sound included which makes it kind of hard to understand what it’s about.

All in all, this is something I would expect to see in the wee hours of the morning on the Sci-Fi Channel. It could have been better had they stayed on topic and shortened Area 51: America’s Most Secret Base, cutting out the extraneous material. It makes a good case for something going on out there and lays out what is generally accepted about the base quite well, but never quite gets beyond that.