By now, Dan Brown should be a household name and chances are very good that one of his novels has graced your coffee table at some point. His most recent success, The Da Vinci Code, has garnered widespread attention and is even on its way to be a motion picture that is being released next year, starring Tom Hanks. Before Brown's better known book found success, another novel of his, Angels and Demons, laid out the pattern of things to come.
Both stories follow the exploits of the character Robert Langdon, who is a Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University. While the Da Vinci Code has Langdon solving the murder of a curator at the Louvre, it quickly turns into a mystery full of cryptic messages hidden in da Vinci's works. In Angels and Demons Langdon has to stop the Illuminati from destroying the Vatican with a powerful antimatter explosive. Both of these books are obviously fictional works, but the fascination for organizations like the Illuminati, Masons, and the Knights Templar is widespread.
With all of this in mind, it's important to realize when sitting down to watch Dan Burstein's Secrets of Angels, Demons & Masons that we're talking about a fictional book here. Talking about factual history versus something that an author wrote to help further an interesting story is a little asinine, but if you take it with a grain of salt the documentary is interesting. If you haven't read Brown's book, then chances are good that you will be lost, because much of the material here references events and ideas that Brown crafted.
In Angels and Demons, Brown offers up the idea that Baroque Bernini and Galileo conspired together to create the Illuminati. This notion gets picked apart by various "experts", but it all comes off as kind of corny because it's not as if Brown wrote a history novel claiming all of these events to be truth, but I digress. In this section of the documentary the information is interesting and it really fleshes out some of the concepts that Brown created. While much of what is discussed seems to be done so in an attempt to discredit the novel, it is pieced together in an entertaining and informative manner.
The second half of the DVD is dedicated to Freemasonry and loosely talks about stuff in reference to Brown's novels. The focus of this section basically centers on the Illuminati again and how they could have infiltrated the Freemasons. The feature goes on to discuss about the role Masons may have had in the foundation of America, and some of the other conspiracies surrounding the organizations history. I found it interesting how they also brought up the Vatican Bank scandal, since I have never really learned much about that prior to.
If you've ever had an interest in conspiracy theories or any of Brown's stories, you can't go wrong by checking out Secrets of Angels, Demons & Masons. Narrated by John Cullum, the 96 minute feature pulls together a wealth of information that is hard to bite into at times, but overall is entertaining. There may be some element of truth to the topics that are discussed here, but what is going to be believed is strictly up to the viewer.
Secrets of Angels, Demons & Masons is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and looks generally like a documentary should. Much of the video material here is stock footage, so the quality varies widely and many scenes are used repeatedly. Some of the image contains trace amounts of aliasing, while others have some speckle and grain. The interview segments offer up even more diverse image quality with some difficult lighting situations and some stark contrast. Overall though, the picture is very nice for a TV style documentary, but nothing to wildly impress.
The DVD is presented with a 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track, so the soundstage is obviously limited to the front channel. There is some slight directionality in place, but it's hardly noticeable unless you are really listening for it. The quality receives some decent marks with a clean sounding track that is free of distortion. There are no subtitles and the only language for the documentary is English.
Apart from a trailer for the documentary and two minutes worth of a photo gallery, Secrets of Angels, Demons & Masons offers up a little more in the bonus material department. There is a four part feature that spans over the course of twenty minutes and it covers some topics of interest.
The first portion is about the Dan Brown phenomenon and just what makes his books so appealing. The second is a look at God, Religion and Conspiracy, while the third looks at everything being Fact or Fiction. The last is a Behind the Scenes portion that actually just has some of the crew talking about what it was like working on the project, not actually any behind the scenes imagery. In every one of these bits (apart from the last) people from the documentary itself talk at length about the topics on hand. They prove to be a valuable addition to the feature, though really some of the material feels a little redundant compared to comments made during the documentary.
If you've enjoyed sitting down with one of Brown's novels you may find a lot of the concepts discussed here interesting, though for the most part they appear to be ripping on him for embellishing on history. There is a lot of stuff here that will tickle the conspiracy theory bone inside of you (if you have one that is), and even though a lot of it seems to be far fetched, it is entertaining. In the end though, this documentary is really meant (and recommended) for fans of the Angels and Demons book or anyone who buys into the whole Illuminati thing, everyone else can pretty much skip it.