Unlike the Bigfoot episode, we actually have a bit of budget here. We see people in Bigfoot costumes on snow and in a forest as Nimoy waxes lyrical about man's fondness for monsters. Remote corners of the Earth, and all that stuff.
And now we're building up professional Bigfoot hunter Peter Byrne. Just a lot of hero shots of him trekking through the forest. Nimoy points out that Byrne has never seen a yeti, but has been looking for one for ages. Nimoy, sitting by a fireplace, talks about how the legend of the yeti came to be known in the English speaking world, brought back by British mountaineers. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E09 The Abominable Snowman"
We open on pounding drums, flute music, a re-enactment of a sacrifice and Steadicam footage of Mexican pyramids.
This episode does right what it says on the tin.
So, guy machete-ing his way through the Guatemalan rainforest. He's identified as a chiclero, a guy who harvests sap from the chicle tree to make chewing gum. Actually, that sounds kind of badass. Could we have a documentary about these guys? No, we're just told that 'often' they're the people who found Mayan ruins in the jungle.
Lovely footage of the Mayan pyramids, which Nimoy call 'the most awesome works of antiquity' which is pretty true. There's some very interesting stuff on the Pyramid of Chalule which, in terms of volume, is the largest building on Earth. It was build by building pyramids on top of earlier pyramids until they had a super pyramid.
We move onto excavations of an Aztec pyramid in Mexico city. Some shots of a model of Tenochtitlan, nice. And then Nimoy, in a white shirt and bellbottoms standing… somewhere outdoors? Which I guess is meant to be Mexico. He taps the side of an Earth mound and calls it a pyramid, but let's be honest, they didn't ship the guy down to Guatemala for a one minute link. Anyway, he talks about how the Conquistadors thought that the Mesoamerican pyramids were tombs, and wondered who was buried there.
Moore footage of the pyramids, noting that there's a temple at the top of each one. He wonders why these temples required such massive bases. We'll come back to this.
We're looking in detail at Teotiuacan. He notes that the local pyramids are smaller than the Egyptian pyramids, and states that it's not possible to know if the builders of Teotiuacan had dealings with the Egyptians. And, of course, this was where it had to be going.
Some stuff in a tunnel under Teotiuacan that leads to a natural cavern, so maybe there are chambers in the pyramid above? Some very pretty footage of the sun rising over the pyramid and suggestion that it was used for timekeeping. And then we're into the end of Teotiuacan. The narration proclaims that 'no other great city left so few traces of its demise' while the camera is pointed at a bloody big pyramid – which is a pretty massive trace of a city's demise, if you ask me. After that, the narration builds up how little we know about the city. Which is probably better than its usual job of trying to impose strange solutions on mysteries.
Now we get to the pure speculation. Nimoy just asks a bunch of questions about what the ancient Mayans were all about, while the camera looks around. Then suddenly wer'e not asking questions about the Aztecs, we're asking about the Maya. They had observatories, you know. They had a calendar.
This part isn't terrible, it's just that they're flipping from topic to topic very fast. In a serious documentaty about Mesoamerican cultures, we'd give a little more space to examine each issue. Anyway, it concludes with the question that if the Mayans were so in death, then why no tombs?
Anywhy, this one archaeologist did find some bodies under a pyramid? Okay, looking it up… Yep! He did indeed find the tomb of the Mayan ruler Pakal. We go into this in quite a lot of detail, and it's probably the most interesting part of the episode. Generally, my understanding is that Mesoamerican pyramids were not generally used as resting places. The interview with the archaeologist, Dr Ruz, is fascinating.
Next stuff about sacrifice, which is sweet. We talk to Dr Ruz again. He talks about how sacrifices took place at the top of pyramids. Nimoy tells us about the Aztec 'skull rack' which is exactly what it sounds like.
After the talk about the sacrifice, we wonder how such an advanced people could be so into bloodshed, which is… yeah, look… Anyway, we have a quick chat about modern Mayan people, then Nimoy's narration really starts building up just how awe-inspiring Mayan cities must have looked when they were inhabited, and Dr Ruz discusses how the Mayan ruling class deliberately used the pyramids to provoke awe and obedience in their people.
More footage of pyramids… Okay, I may have been wrong earlier when I thought it was going to be about the Mexican/Egyptian pyramid 'connection'. We just go straight into the collapse of the Mayan empire. The narration is beautiful and the footage is nice. I really have no complaints here.
In fact, other than the skipping between topics, the brief talk of Egypt and a bit of patronage, it's not bad. It's not a great documentary about Mesoamerican pyramids, but it's not a bad one for it's era and running time.
Nimoy: Pyramids were stairways to heaven – the ultimate in spiritual technology.
We open on a shot of a cross on a hill, presumably swiped from an old biblical movie. We move on to crowds lining up to see the shroud itself. But, surprisingly, we're also introduced to a 'young skeptic' who has a non-miraculous theory on the shroud.
There's some quite interesting footage of the carnival atmosphere outside of Turin cathedral. Nimoy compares people buying religious souveneirs to medaeval pilgrims. Then we look at the shroud itself, looming up out of darkness into closeup. Nimoy's beautiful narration carries this part, as the shroud itself is visually kind of unimpressive.
We interview the Rev Francis Philas (sp?) an American Catholic theologian. He talks with great enthusiasm about the shroud, and how it looks so much better in person and from a distance than you do from up close. If true, this explains a lot of the rather unimpressive shots of the shroud. Francis was part of a team that examined the shroud, subjecting it to 'many tests'. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E07 The Shroud of Turin"
We open on a reenactmentpolooza as a bunch of people dressed Elizabethan-era English colonists do old timey chores. It's the Lost Colony of Roanoke, a genuine historical! Just how did a settlement of woefully underpre
pared people with little support from their government fail to flourish?
We open on a) music with a driving rhythm and b) frikkin' sharks. Nimoy gives a super buildup to the great white sharks, and sharks don't even need a buildup. It's very cool. The visuals are a little ropey by today's standards, but not bad for its time.
Basically, this episode is a documentary on Sharks, sandwiched between the episode on Australian flying saucers and the episode on the lost colony of Roanoke. A lot of it is shot in Western Australia, making me wonder if the producers were trying to get their money's worth when they sent a crew to Australia for the UFO episode. ...continue reading "In Search Of…S04E04 Immortal Sharks"
Now this one is just adorable. Basically, the episode investigates the 'true story' that the movie 'The Amityville Horror' was based on and somehow comes up with something even crappier than the film 'The Amityville Horror'.
We start with Nimoy narrating over a clip from the movie assuring us that this ghost story is real. Then we go talk to the actual people who claimed their house was haunted, George and Cathy Lutz. They talk about how nice the house was, even though it was the setting of a recent multiple homicide.
The re-enactment of the families eating, hanging a crucifix on the wall and having a priest bless the house are beautifully crappy. I tell you, when a show can make re-enactment of mundane tasks look this awkward, it makes me look forward to the more interesting re-enactments. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E03 The Amityville Horror"
UFOs down under! Let's put a shrimp* on the barbie** and listen to everybody's t'hai'la*** Leonard 'Spocko' Nimoy talk about Antipodean UFOs and mispronounce the word 'Melbourne' ****
We open on a literal white dot on a black screen, which proves UFOs. This is in some way connected to a re-enactment of a pilot in flight. Super spooky music, though. Got to give it that.
And then we get into the episode proper. Nimoy wonders if UFOs have been sighted over Australia and New Zealand. There's some lovely old timey photos of flying saucers, and what looks like some leftover footage of the last In Search Of… UFO episode. But this is just to whet out apitites and kill screen time. Standing in front of a radio telescope, his Season 4 moustache still in the picture. Nimoy tells us that most UFO sightings have been in the southern hemisphere.
I've said it before and I'll say it now: In Search Of… is a very weird show. In between an episode about tidal waves and an one about the Amityville Horror comes an episode about Carlos the Jackal. There's some dodgy reenactments but otherwise it's a topic that could have appeared on any legit news/current affairs show of the late 1970s.
To the viewer watching now, it's a bit of an interesting historical oddity. Carlos basically was a terrorist mastermind of the 1970s. Basically, he's portrayed in this episode as a slightly crap supervillain, which is not so far from the truth. These days, terrorists are basically one-shot weapons. They do what they do and either die or get caught doing it. Carlos comes from a day when a single terrorist might strike several times. As such, a terrorist might actually gather a bit of cred in his career. Rather than just being forgotten when the next murderous idiot comes down the pike. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E02 Carlos: the Most Wanted Man in the World"
Hello again, my tens of listeners! My life's taken a busy turn of late and so my In Search Of updates have been a little sporadic. But they're back, with a new, shorter format.
Yay and so on.
I've been looking forward to this one. It's one of the episodes that I remember most strongly from when I watched this show as a kid. At the time, like a lot of Australian youngsters, I spent a great deal of time at the beach. Unlike the shows about Bigfoot or hurricanes, the idea that tsunami could get me seemed real. I actually remember completing a sandcastle one time and looking nervously out to sea, wondering if an underwater earthquake might mess it up. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E01 Tidal Waves"
We begin with a little bumper about Tutankhamun, and then a little travelogue of Egypt. We intercut between people farming and shots of the pyramids. Shots of accountancy firms in Cairo or industrial laundries in Alexandria never seem to get a look in during these things.
The footage is pretty nice, but it comes right out of the “1970s Stock Egyptology Footage” drawer. Nimoy in a white suit gives again a very standard spiel about Egypt, British Empire, Rosetta Stone… Not very interesting so far. There’s some ropey looking reenactments of the court of Tutankhamun shot through a blurry lens for some reason.
Now the standard story of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarveon… Lots of shots of Egyptians carrying stuff through the desert. Same blurry lens. Nothing here that wasn’t in the earlier Tut episode. Disappointing. Music surprisingly pleasant… Opening the tomb… “I see wonderful things”…