In his underground favorites Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Across America and Spectres Of The Spectrum, filmmaker/collagist Craig Baldwin has combined archival footage, low-budget B-movie recreations, and only somewhat tongue-in-cheek paranoid ramblings into amusing, oddly persuasive alternate histories of the United States. Baldwin’s Mock Up On Mu deals from the same deck. Beginning on Earth’s moon in the year 2019, Mock Up On Mu looks back at nearly a century of Americana—or, more specifically, Californiana—through intertwined, lightly fictionalized versions of the lives of demagogic pulp author L. Ron Hubbard, notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, New Age guru Marjorie Cameron, and jet-propulsion pioneer Jack Parsons. Baldwin has actors stiffly playing the principals, but since their dialogue is overdubbed and their scenes are shot through multiple distorting filters, they fit nearly seamlessly into Mock Up On Mu’s cleverly pieced together snippets of old noir, science fiction, Westerns, monster movies, home movies, newsreels, TV commercials, and industrial films.

Baldwin’s repurposing of the familiar loses its novelty fairly quickly, and his this-connects-to-that structure is so loose that viewers could walk away from Mock Up On Mu for 10 minutes and come back without being too lost. But that isn’t necessarily a flaw. Though Mock Up On Mu does have a narrative of a sort, the movie isn’t really about its story, any more than it’s about Baldwin’s stylistic gimmicks. It’s more about creating a sense of vague familiarity, whether from apocryphal anecdotes that have worked their way into popular culture, or from a soundtrack that nicks shamelessly from well-known TV and movie themes. Some of Baldwin’s mash-ups come off as a little haphazard—almost like the cinematic equivalent of a Girl Talk CD—but then he’ll slip in a segment of the 1956 educational film “Our Mr. Sun” that describes the phenomenon of global warming, or footage of old rocket tests, or a detailed memory of a satanic orgy, and suddenly the idea that we’ve been missing important information all our lives seems plausible. Maybe not “There’s a secret underground race of mutants” plausible, but plausible.

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Key features: A mumbly Baldwin commentary track and a few minutes of footage of him directing his actors.

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