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All’s Not Well That Roswells: Sci Fi Short Riffs on Legendary 1947 “Incident”

Ed Rampell: The 11-minute short Land of Enchantment is an enchanting period piece set in 1947 around the time of the famous purported Roswell Incident involving a supposedly downed UFO and space aliens.
Land of Enchantment

Randy Vampotic (far right) direct​s​ Mac (Neal Polister, in truck)​ on location near Indio, California

Land of Enchantment Film Review

The 11-minute short Land of Enchantment is an enchanting period piece set in 1947 around the time of the famous purported Roswell Incident involving a supposedly downed UFO and space aliens. The two-hander features Andre Tenerelli as Jim, a hitchhiker in the middle of nowhere who is picked up in the New Mexico desert by Mac (Neal Polister), a rancher driving a vintage ’40s yellow truck, gun rack and all. Much of the action is inside the vehicle as it ambles along while the laconic Jim dodges and deflects the inquisitive Mac’s questions about, among other things, a futuristic gizmo which Jim claims is a Navy compass.

The well written, witty dialogue by Mike Sorrentino and Randy Vampotic, who also share producing credits, cleverly references Roswell. The first lines set the scene for the personality clash to come between the silent passenger and talkative driver; their chance meeting is a bit like when worlds collide. A copy of Popular Science magazine on the seat indicates that Mac is more than a mere sodbuster. His mention of Pat Garret, which flies over his passenger’s head, reveals Jim’s no Westerner -- although he may not exactly be a greenhorn from way back East, either...

Land of Enchantment

Jim (Andre Tenerelli) ​on location in the desert at what is supposed to be near Roswell, New Mexico.

After an object streaking across the sky crash lands in the desert hills the truck comes to a halt and the characters get out to investigate, although Jim manages to climb on a hilltop by himself to view the crash site. When Mac inquires whether it was an aircraft from a nearby military base, Jim replies that it was a “weather balloon” -- which will ring bells and raise smiles for those in the know about the Roswell Incident.

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The short is adeptly acted by Tenerelli, who is clad a bit like Indiana Jones, and the blond, grizzled Polister. His cowboy hat presumably hides the antennas which must be up due to his passenger’s evasive answers and the strange aerial crash. Jefferson Loftfield’s crisp, clear camerawork enhances the sense of place, although Land of Enchantment wasn’t actually shot in New Mexico but at Indio, in California’s Inland Empire. (If you’ve seen one desert, you’ve seen them all!) The twangy original music by Lance Mugleston and Don Schiff likewise adds to the Southwestern atmospherics.

Sorrentino and Vampotic have been friends since attending Riverside High School in Buffalo, N.Y. The two relocated to the L.A.-area, where they’ve teamed up to co-write several screenplays, including 2002’s I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, an enjoyable made-for-TV comedy co-starring L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernson and Connie Sellecca

In his deft directorial debut Vampotic acquits himself well as a helmer able to direct both thesps and action scenes. This low budge short convincingly uses special effects to buttress the underlying science fiction vibe. The imagination of the co-creators succeeds in summoning up that which CGI and high tech FX often do for big budget studio productions. In that sense Land of Enchantment epitomizes the possibilities of indie shorts, and is for aficionados of that format, as well as fans of the sci fi and fantasy genres.

Although Land of Enchantment is self contained in the short form format as a standalone work, this reviewer was so enchanted by it he pondered what happened to the characters and where the rest of the story would take us? One imagines to “a galaxy far, far away”, and with their engrossing short the Sorrentino-Vampotic team leaves viewers with, in the very best sense, wanting more -- as a feature length production for the big screen. It is the desert dessert before the entrée.

ed rampell

Land of Enchantment is in the process of making the film festival rounds. To request a link to view it contact: loe1947@earthlink.net.

Ed Rampell