Before "Unsolved Mysteries" and after "In Search Ofâ€¦" there was "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" a 13-episode miniseries intended to be an all encompassing overview of the many strange places and events that captivate the imagination of a 20th century audience, including but not limited to Sasquatch, UFOs, and the Tunguska Explosion. Hosted by Arthur C. Clarke himself, the series makes no false claims regarding the validity of the stories presented, instead offering first hand eyewitnesses to tell their stories and experts (some believable, some quite less so), to offer claims and evidence. Clarke himself acts as a voice of reason throughout, introducing the subjects, popping up sometimes mid-episode to not so slyly let the audience know he thinks some wild claims are hokum, before only reappearing a final time to wrap up what's been presented. The series holds up quite nicely, approximately 30 years after its first airing and makes a nice introduction to the "Arthur C. Clarke Collection," which gathers three separate Clarke involved productions tackling subjects as mundane as Stonehenge and other rock formations along the English countryside to investigations into ESP and the existence of zombies.
Following "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World," a second 13-episode series delving into far more paranormal topics, "Arthur C. Clarke's Strange Powers" is arguably the lesser of the three series in the collection. The shows are far less sensational than "In Search Ofâ€¦" or "Unsolved Mysteries" which allows for the viewer to ponder the intelligent approach some episodes take to merely presenting evidence, but there are times when things get so "out there" that the dry presentation makes one long for a poorly staged reenactment and ominous narration. The highlight of the series is 100% Clarke himself, who is much more blunt in his assessment of some topics, stopping short of telling viewers they wasted 25-minutes of their time listening to claims of nonsense. In the final episode of the series, Strange Powers: The Verdict, Clarke offers his own opinion on the validity of each prior episode and chances are logical minds will be right on board with his assessment.
The final series, produced a decade after "Mysterious World," is the most comprehensive of all, consisting of 43 episodes that follow a format fairly identical with the prior two offerings. In "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe," Clarke introduces and wraps up each episode, with a narrator providing calm narration as expected. The topics are a strong mixture of the believable but confusing (codes, ancient archaeology, and feats of human physicality) to the tantalizing, fantastical, but more easily dismissed as nonsense (crop circles, ghosts, alien encounters). Viewers of the previous two series are going to see some familiar ground tread, but in this outing, the pacing is speedier, covering breadth rather than depth. Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, all three series' have something to offer you and the less-sensational approach to wild topics is quite refreshing. At the end of the day, the "Arthur C. Clarke Collection" offers 69 episodes that at the very least are entertaining exercises in nostalgia for a more simpler time in television production and a noble effort from a respected author to tackle issues deemed as silly in a serious manner.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is a reasonably visually pleasing presentation considering the age of the program; each disc contains a disclaimer referring to quality of archival footage, which truth be told does look rough from time to time. The footage filmed for the series though does hold up quite well, colors aren't perfectly natural and detail is average at best, but there are few issues with compression artifacts and source material damage is kept to a minimum.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 audio holds up shockingly well for such an aged documentary series. The narration is clean and never overbearing; opening and closing title music feels a bit jarring in terms of its mix.
The "Arthur C. Clarke Collection" is a must-own for aficionados of vintage television related to the "unknown." I'd rank it second only to "In Search Ofâ€¦" in terms of sheer entertainment value and the involvement of Clarke keeps the whole tone of the series far more grounded than expected. Provided you can tolerate some occasional episodes of nonsense, the "Arthur C. Clarke Collection" raises some intriguing questions and is well worth the sizable time investment to get through all 69-episodes. Recommended.