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As the PR scuttlebutt for the Mel Gibson crop circle movie ‘Signs’ begins to mount, the inevitable rumours are already filtering through that a series of tie-in man-made formations are going to be commissioned in the run-up to its release, as ANDY THOMAS reports…

Coming as little surprise to anyone, industry insider journals and popular movie magazines are hinting that a series of publicity crop formations are likely to be made to attract attention to the forthcoming Hollywood thriller ‘Signs’, starring Mel Gibson and directed by M Night Shyamalan (who made the spooky Bruce Willis vehicle ‘The Sixth Sense’).

The UK title ‘Empire’, in its issue dated February 2002 (no.152), carries a photo of Mel Gibson standing in a field of maize looking pensive, and states “Disney may (or may not) be hyping the flick by planting fake crop circles in South Africa”. Quite why South Africa should be singled out isn’t clear. Perhaps this is where some of the filming has taken place? Clearly plankers laid down crop circles at some point for the purposes of the story, but who, why and where is being kept under wraps for now. In ‘USA Today’, Shyamalan simply jokes: "We actually made them all in the fields - we contracted out to some guys a couple of galaxies away."

However, in a piece entitled ‘Coming a Cropper’ (ho ho), one industry newspaper reports an Australian paranormal researcher, Tim Bull, as having accused the Disney studios of planning PR stunts by making crop formations in fields all around the world. Though a Disney spokesperson, Heidi Trotta, is quoted as denying this, it does seem fairly unlikely that eager marketing departments will be able to resist the idea for long, so we can almost certainly expect some extra movie-sponsored planking hi-jinx this summer to accompany the mass of uninformed baloney about crop circles we will doubtless see in the media, as the profile of the phenomenon is raised accordingly, for good or for ill.

The film will at least get the public talking about crop circles again, after years of dismissal (though the director himself is a sceptic – see below), and responsible croppies should be poised to provide some positive and reliable sources of information for the newly-curious to combat the sceptic propaganda and ignorance which will doubtless also rise to the occasion. Already, the tone employed by some of the magazines reporting the film is resolutely tongue-in-cheek, and at least one publicity photo shows Mel Gibson’s face carved as a crop formation (see picture)!

As for the movie itself, only time will tell whether it will help or hinder interest in the phenomenon. Though the tone appears dark, and the poster tag-line is “It’s not like they didn’t warn us”, it would seem that there is a spiritual element to the story, at least, with Gibson starring as a clergyman (!) finding himself questioning his beliefs after his wife is involved in a serious accident. His character encounters subsequent strange happenings, prominently involving crop circles, which, presumably, are not proven to be made by unemployed rogues or there won’t be much of a story. However, disappointingly, speaking again in ‘USA Today’, director Shyamalan deflates things rather by saying: "Although I think they're hoaxes, crop circles are intriguing and seemed like a nice starting point for a creepy story."

Rather worryingly, a trailer for the film, as available on the official website, seems to forget that England, the circle capital of the world, has ever experienced the crop circle phenomenon (!!!), as a series of digitally-fuzzed formations - nearly all classic UK designs in actuality – are variously captioned as being in different places around the world, not one of them being England! Okay, this is fiction, but… (Will croppies soon be involved in a scenario similar to the furore caused by a recent US movie’s claim that America broke the Nazi ‘Enigma’ code, instead of the English..?!)

The formation which directly attracts Gibson’s attention in the film seems based on an old-style early 90s pictogram and doesn’t actually appear that well constructed in the images available. The posters show the Earth’s surface with a large shadow of the same symbol across it.

The dialogue-free images in the web trailer seem scary and moody, but we’ll have to reserve judgement until the film arrives in the US in the summer and the UK in September.

The official website for the film is:

Plus, there is an unofficial site worth checking out (devout sceptic-haters beware, it’s run by ‘The Circlemakers’/Team Satan bunch, but it seems pretty balanced):

(Thanks to Mike Leigh and Colin Woolford)



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