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Friday, December 14, 2012

IN SEARCH OF...THE COMPLETE SERIES -- DVD review by porfle




For those of us who caught it during its first run, almost every episode of "In Search Of..." was a guaranteed dose of pure "sense of wonder."  Each week, host Leonard Nimoy explored the world's most tantalizing mysteries with an open mind, allowing us to bask in their intoxicating strangeness in an atmosphere free of rigid, buzzkill skepticism.

Now, Visual Entertainment Inc. (VEI) has collected all 152 episodes of this classic show, which ran from 1976-1982, in their 21-disc DVD collection IN SEARCH OF...THE COMPLETE SERIES.  I reviewed a screener with two half-hour Nimoy episodes, "In Search Of...Mayan Mysteries" and "In Search Of...UFO Coverups", both pretty representative of the show as a whole. 

Low-budget photography makes this independently-produced syndicated show look older than it is, but it was that way even when it was new.  No matter, since the fascinating subject matter and wealth of both exclusive film footage and well-chosen stock shots easily make up for this.  Nimoy, one of the finest narrators of all time, lends the show much-needed gravitas even during its most outlandish forays into the unknown. 

The Mayan episode poses a series of teasing questions about this mysterious ancient people such as: why, if they incorporated the wheel into their children's toys, didn't they employ it for practical purposes?  How did they conceive such complicated systems of mathematics and astronomy, among other things?  And why did they suddenly disappear from recorded history?

Even more up my alley is the look at UFO cover-ups, which opens with some familiar footage of a possible flying saucer but focuses mainly on the famous Roswell, New Mexico incident.  Actual interview clips of Air Force officer Jess Marcel, a major participant in the purported saucer crash investigation, and footage of Hangar 18 itself, where the wrecked saucer and alien bodies are said to have been housed, make this of special interest to UFO enthusiasts. 

There's also a first-hand account from a scientist who claims to have been taken to the crash site by U.S. Air Force officials and is only now breaking his silence.  As usual, the show is aggressive and non-apologetic in its insistence that anything is possible regardless of how farfetched it may seem to the skeptically minded.

In addition to the 152 regular series episodes, the VEI collection also includes two Rod Serling-hosted "In Search Of..." specials which aired in 1972, plus the entire eight-episode run of the 2002 reboot with "The X-Files" star Mitch Pileggi.  The screener I watched contained one from 1972 and one from 2002.

"Twilight Zone" creator and host Serling takes us on an exploration of ancient astronauts that covers all the familiar territory in highly compelling fashion, including the baffling stone heads of Easter Island and the enigmatic Nazca lines in Peru.  While the Serling episode is quite similar to the later Nimoy series, the flashy Pileggi-hosted show from 2002 is the sort of lurid exploitation fare you might see on SyFy, with gruesome stories about stigmata, Haitian zombies, and murder scenes haunted by restless ghosts.

While I can't speak for the entire collection as a whole, the picture and sound quality of the 4-episode screener I watched was good for a low budget syndicated series from the 70s.  You may be bugged by the VEI logo in the lower right hand corner but I forgot it was there after awhile.  

Being a loyal viewer of the show back in its heyday, I can personally attest that, content-wise, the rest of "In Search Of..." is chock full of fun and often spooky stuff about the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, conspiracy theories, unsolved murders and disappearances, bizarre phenomena both natural and supernatural, and just about anything else that this weird world has to offer.  While learned astronomer Carl Sagan may consider the subject at hand to be unsupported by "a smidgeon of compelling evidence", you'll probably find an avalanche of it in IN SEARCH OF...THE COMPLETE SERIES.


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