Inside a less-insidious, more sci-fi Scientology
Unarius does not describe itself as a religion, even if much of its make-up would suggest that it certainly is one. Led by Ruth Norman, an elderly woman with a tendency to dress like a Vegas drag queen, who calls herself Uriel and claims she can channel messages from beyond, the group has all the hallmarks of a kooky UFO cult, including prophecies and a belief that otherworldly beings are going to come to Earth to save humanity. As several "students" of Unarius soberly describe the history of the group, the story--which involves Queen Elizabeth I, Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla, among others--becomes increasingly convoluted, sounding like bad fan-fiction.
The only attempt to get an outside perspective of any kind comes in an interview with Diana Tumminia, an author who's written about alien-based religions, and her participation is limited and focused mainly on explaining the group's background. Otherwise it's just an oral history of the organization, revealing a group made up of a specific demographic whose heyday was a few decades back. And for some reason, it seems that almost everyone involved remembers some sort of experience as Nazis in World War II. It's in revelations like this that the film's lack of analysis is a weakness. Allowing info like this to go by without commenting on it makes it seem like the film is passing up on opportunities to really explore the world of Unarius, rather than just allow the students to spread their gospel.
If there's anything that makes Unarius truly unique versus other alien cults, it's the effort that was placed on filmmaking, as Unarius created a number of intriguing movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s; cheesy masterpieces featuring insane costumes and makeup (and some decent special effects) which are represented through a healthy pile of clips. These make up what is easily the best, most entertaining and most memorable portion of the film-- compulsively watchable throughout thanks to their madness. Combined with the group's unusual artwork and quirky celebrations, the footage offers viewers a chance to decide how they feel about people who have spent a large portion of their lives in a group that once predicted an alien landing, only to find a handy excuse when it didn't happen.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track here offers traditional documentary sound, with clear dialogue and sufficiently strong in the new interviews, while the older clips can sound a bit muffled (likely due to the source materials.) Everything is presented straight down the middle, with good separation in the mix. It's nothing special. but there's nothing wrong.
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