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Sunday, October 19, 2014


Some movies can pretty much divide a roomful of people in half. That is, one half will sit in rapt attention while the other half flees the room in all possible haste to escape paralyzing, soul-crushing boredom.

IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES (1973) is one of those movies. Many viewers will find its dry, pseudo-scholarly tone, glacial pace, and static images of crumbling ruins and desolate landscapes to be the absolute opposite of entertainment.

And yet, those who used to sit fascinated week after week by every episode of the subsequent television series "In Search Of" (1976-1982, hosted by Leonard Nimoy) will most likely be riveted to the screen from beginning to end.

The open-mindedness of this film's producers and writers--which skeptics would no doubt find excessive--is what allows host/narrator Rod "Twilight Zone" Serling to pose baffling questions about ancient civilizations and then offer theories involving alien visitors from outer space and other paranormal phenomena.

Most of the now-familiar subjects are touched upon, from the mysterious lines carved into the vast Nazca plains of Peru--which Serling supposes may have been a landing field for alien aircraft--to the gigantic etchings of people and animals seen here and in England which can only be discerned from the air. Were these created for the benefit of our ancestors from the sky?

The ruins of Inca cities and other wondrous sites such as Troy and Jericho are examined for further evidence of such visitors sharing their advanced knowledge with ancient humans. Serling, along with various scientists, historians, and other experts whose credentials may or may not be impeccable, endeavors to explain why we should suspect an alien influence shaping much of our shared history as citizens of Earth.

In a seemingly stream-of-consciousness manner, Serling whisks us from Peru to the Bermuda Triangle for a quick retelling of the famous tale of disappearing military planes, and then it's off to search for the fabled lost city of Atlantis.

Unexplained artifacts are examined as well, including human skulls that display evidence of successful brain surgery, intricately designed machines created seemingly ahead of their time, and painted or sculpted images that resemble modern-day astronauts or aircraft.

Serling follows all of this up with some NASA-related anecdotes and a tale of unexplained radio waves received from outer space, again told by guest "experts" whose reliability we must either accept or discount. More interstellar speculation wraps things up, unsurprisingly, on an inconclusive note.

The DVD from Film Chest is in full screen (4 x 3) with original mono sound. Running time is 53 minutes. No subtitles or extras. The picture quality varies between okay and "ehh" (some of the stock footage shots in particular look like somebody's home movies) but then again the "In Search Of" shows always looked like that and it never really made that much difference.

While I don't know how every diehard skeptic will react to IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES, I'm pretty sure the less patient ones would rather skip it altogether. But if you've ever entertained the notion that we've been visited and indeed colonized by aliens throughout history, you may find this documentary's earnest "what if" tone to be both intriguing and fun.

Buy it at


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