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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » In Search Of... The Complete Series
In Search Of... The Complete Series
Visual Entertainment // Unrated // December 11, 2012
List Price: $149.99 [Buy now and save at Myshopify]
Review by John Sinnott | posted January 5, 2013 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer's purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine." - spoken at the conclusion of the opening sequence for every episode
 
The Show:
 
Ahh, 1976.  The United States was celebrating its 200th year of existence, we were just getting over or fascination with Pet Rocks, and elephant bell bottoms and mood rings were in fashion.  It was also a time when Americans, by and large, were infatuated with pseudoscience (after reading the preceding sentence, is it any wonder?).  UFOs, pyramid power, and the Bermuda Triangle were all the topics of hot-selling books, movies, and TV specials.  A few years earlier the Academy Award nominated German documentary Chariots of the Gods, based on Erich von Däniken's book of the same name, was dubbed into English with Rod Serling acting as narrator.  The name was changed to In Search of Ancient Astronauts and it aired on NBC in 1973.  The movie garnered good ratings, a sequel followed which also did well, and in 1976 the TV series In Search of... was born. 


 
I was a middle school student at the time and a huge Star Trek fan, so when I heard that Leonard Nimoy was going to be hosting a show that investigates unexplained phenomenon, I was excited.  I still remember watching the very first episode and catching as many of the others that I could.  No, I wasn't taken in even at the wise age of 12 by everything theory that the show touted, but it was a lot of fun wondering what if.  It also opened my eyes to a lot of history and information that I hadn't previously been exposed to, which was a good thing.  The show has continued to air, sporadically, on independent stations and cable channels ever since it first debuted, and now it's finally available on DVD, thanks to Visual Entertainment Inc.  They've released the entire six season of the show, the 2002 remake series, as well at the two original Rod Serling TV specials in a very attractive 21-disc set.  That's 146 total episodes which run over 55 hours.  It's enough to keep fans of the unexplained happy for a very long time.
 
The series is hosted by Leonard Nimoy and over the course of the show they look at just about every strange phenomena, paranormal event, supernatural happening, pseudoscientific theory, urban-legend, and modern-day myths that you can imagine.  Everything from the abominable snowman to witch doctors and everything in between is touched upon. 
 
It's this wide variety of topics that makes the show so much fun.  Have trouble swallowing Animal ESP?  Don't worry, the next one will be about something else, maybe the gigantic explosion near the Tunguska River in Russia in 1908 (that knocked down all of the trees for a five mile radius) that may have been caused by a comet striking Earth, or an exploding space ship.  And isn't either explanation really cool?



Most of the shows, especially in the earlier seasons, are devoted to more common pseudoscience beliefs:  ESP, Atlantis, ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot all make early appearances.  These shows rely on a lot of conjecture and leaps of logic, but that's a lot of the program's lure:  throwing rigor out the window and thinking "but what if they're right??"  One of my favorite tactics that the show employs is to ask viewers to accept an unproven supposition and then make a small intellectual leap from there:  "If Bigfoot does exist, isn't it possible that the creature is migratory and doesn't stay in one place for very long?"  They're careful not to actually state that Bigfoot exists.  They let the viewers jump to that conclusion themselves.  It's a nice way to lead people to a conclusion.
 
The one thing I honestly appreciated was seeing the "investigators" who research the various topics that are examined.  These people were all very devoted and passionate about their fields.  That doesn't mean that their conclusions have any more bearing on reality than someone who isn't obsessed, but the people watching for the Loch Ness Monster or hunting ghosts did have an infectious love for their oddball area of expertise.  Getting to know some of these researchers is one of the reasons In Search of... is so enjoyable to watch.
 


The show doesn't always take to side of the unusual or supernatural either, something I had totally forgotten from watching it when it first aired.  It's pretty rare, but occasionally they'll opt for a more rational explanation that doesn't involve something outside of the realm of science.  The best example of this comes from the third season, when they did a show on very recent (at the time) disappearances of large private ships in the Bermuda Triangle.  They related a few stories about wealthy people sailing for pleasure in the infamous area who disappeared and were never heard from again, but then they came up with an interesting theory:  they were attacked by pirates.  More specifically, drug dealers who wanted to use the boats to smuggle contraband. That's really not out of the realm of possibility. 
 
As the show progresses more and more episodes are devoted to historical mysteries that aren't necessarily supernatural in nature.  The above-mentioned Tunguska event is one, but there are many other occurrences and people that are discussed:  the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the historical Dracula, Jack the Ripper, the origins of Sherlock Holmes, and the fate of Jimmy Hoffa are just a few.  The show is at its best when it's looking at these type of cases, and they can be very informative.
 


One of my favorites was the program on the Oak Island Treasure.  As the story goes, in 1795 a teen discovered a depression in the ground on an uninhabited island off of Nova Scotia.  Above the depression he noticed a tree limb that had rope burns cut into it, as if someone had used a block and tackle to lower a heavy object.  He brought two of his friends back to the spot with some shovels and they started to dig.  At ten feet they discovered a platform constructed of old logs and ship tar.  Beneath that was more dirt, but 10 feet later they found another platform.  And another, and another, every ten feet down to 90 feet.  When they finally got that far, after years of digging, the shaft they had made filled with water which caused them to stop.  Every few years someone else would take up the task of digging up what was thought to be a valuable treasure.  There were digs started in 1850, 1893, and 1909.  The latter included a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but none of them were successful.  The shaft kept flooding or collapsing though tantalizing evidence was discovered along the way:  a stone tablet with unusual runes was found and deciphered to read "Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds Are Buried," three small gold link were discovered clinging to an auger that drilled deep into the hole, and there were channels lined with coconut husks leading out to the sea that were causing the pit to flood.  While each expedition dug a bit deeper, nothing was ever found.  It's quite a mystery, and while the show didn't mention the fact that the carved tablet and other artifacts that were found in the pit are now lost, they basically got the facts correct.  It's interesting to note that even today there are people who are still looking for the treasure.
 
The DVD:

 
The 146 episode collection arrives in a sturdy, attractively illustrated box.  Opening the box at the top reveals the 21 DVDs, each season in its own single-width keepcase.  It's a very nice looking package.
 
Audio:
 
 The show was broadcast in mono, and that's what we get here.  The sound was about what you'd expect from a show from the 70's that hasn't been restored.  The narration comes through clearly, but it's not as crisp as a current show and the dynamic range is on the anemic side.  Overall it's a fine sounding collection.
 
Video:
 
The full-frame color image has not been restored, and while it is showing its age, it generally looks good. The colors aren't as bright as you'd find on a syndicated program today, everything looks just a little muted, and there are a few instances of dirt but it's generally easy on the eyes.
 
Extras:
 
There are only a couple of extras, but they are fantastic.  The final case contains three DVDs which include the entire revival series.  Originally broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2002, this remake featured Mitch Pileggi (X-Files, Stargate Atlantis) as the host.    Pileggi is a very good replacement for Nimoy, he has a similar SF pedigree and his voice is a bit creepy which fits in well with the tone of the show, but this version takes a more shotgun approach to the subject matter.  Instead of devoting an episode to one a subject, each hour-long installment (around 45-minutes after you cut out the commercials) has 3-4 topics that aren't related at all.  One, for example, deals with mummified human remains in catacombs in Sicily, Bigfoot, Devil Worship, and earthquake predictions.  They don't really flow from one topic to the next gracefully.  It's a bit more eerie than the original though and it was nice that all 8 episodes were included.
 
The final disc is reserved for the original two television specials, In Search of Ancient Astronauts and In Search of Ancient Mysteries, both narrated Rod Serling.  It was the popularity of these two specials, the first one based on the best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Däniken, that led to the creation of the series.  Serling was intended to host the show, but his untimely death in 1975 (at the age of 50) prevented that.  These shows, hokey and filled with inaccuracies though they are, are great fun as well as some of the last work that Serling did.
 
Final Thoughts:
 
This show is nonscientific and just about always jumps to the most outlandish (and entertaining) conclusion possible.  But it's an extremely fun program even if you're not quite won over to their point.  I'm a huge skeptic when it comes to any of that pseudoscientific stuff, but I still had a blast watching this show.  If you are at all interested in otherworldly topics such as UFO and ESP, you can't go wrong with this impressive set.  Highly Recommended.
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