Bobby Sinclair (Robert Carradine) was a folk singer who had not enjoyed a great day so far, having woken late in his cabin in the Californian countryside, then driven off alone as his dog Frank refused to go with him, and when he reached the recording studio he was ordered to pay up his fees which he'd allowed to lapse, something which angered him so much he smashed his guitar. After all that, he went to drown his sorrows in a local bar, where things began to look up: he met Iris Longacre (Cherie Currie) there, they got to talking and wound up back at his place. But what was that strange noise?
Not that Bobby can hear it, yet for Iris there's a definite sound to be heard out there on the hills, and she persuades Bobby it's worth investigating, which leads from these apparent relationship drama beginnings to what was actually on writer and director Mike Gray's mind, which was aliens from outer space. Wha? That's right, this was a science fiction movie, though oddly how much of this was actual fiction and how much was based in truth was a bone of contention, and remains so to this day. The events depicted here were supposedly what happened when a spacecraft of otherworldly origin was shot down by the U.S. Military, retrieving the occupants in the process.
Although there's nothing in the film itself to indicate this was a true story, no confessions at the end or captions at the start, there are those who will tell you Wavelength (not to be confused with the sixties art movie/endurance test) was uncannily accurate in its relating the tale of Bobby and Iris doing their level best to rescue the aliens, yet quite how much was drawn from an actual yarn and how much was based on what had been seen in this movie, after the fact, was none too clear. Some would have said, and did at the time, it was more inspired by the success of Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extraterrestrial the previous year, though even then this didn't quite fit that template, being closer to some hippy-dippy seventies space brothers item.
That said, the three aliens here aren't exactly cute and cuddly, and neither do they have much to offer Planet Earth, mainly wanting to get the hell out of there before even more experiments are conducted on them. As in the supposed authentic narrative, they looked like little bald kids, probably because in this case that's who was playing them, adding a note of unease which was more seeing them wandering around in the buff in the middle of the night than any supernatural aspect they may have elicited. They say not a word but communicate telepathically with Iris, not that we hear that either except through a weird electronic tone on the soundtrack, but this does lead she and Bobby, with the help of his old prospector friend Keenan Wynn, to an apparently abandoned base near his home.
Once they enter through a panel, Iris and Bobby creep down a corridor and suddenly she starts screaming - one of the aliens is having a medical examination which has him cut open by a scientist, and she is picking up the creature's distress. Naturally this exposes them and they are captured by the soldiers, which sees them sidelined so that we in the audience are privy to the discussions between the government men as they try to make sense of what they have and work out what to do about the toxicity of both the aliens and their craft: don't touch them or you're at risk of death. Eventually, after a selection of scenes designed to add some kind of authority to a plot many would be finding hard to swallow if it was indeed intended as a true account, our hero and heroine escape with the aliens and this begins to resemble John Carpenter's Starman, particularly in its final stages, far more than it does E.T. True or not, there's a weird integrity to Wavelength which lifts it above much low budget sci-fi; if anything, it takes itself too seriously, even ponderously. Music by Tangerine Dream.