Saturday, 23 March 2013

23rd Century DVD Review: William Shatner's Mysteries Of The Gods (1977, Charles Romine)

"They have been here before. They will come again... SOON!"

I was never good at science at school. In fact I downright hated it. As I have become mature I have realised that was a pretty dickish thing to do. Anyway, I'm not here to bore you with school stories or my ignorance I am here to talk about a documentary that covers a subject that has puzzled scientists for years and. In a time where TV stations  like the History Channel would rather show us reality TV and talk about the Bible it's refreshing to look back at documentaries of the past. Of course, the subject of this documentary was covered recently in Ancient Aliens which of course made the crazy haired Giorgio A. Tsoukalos a household name. So although made in 1976, this piece of celluloid genius is both hilariously dated and relevant at the same time! Let us stop waffling and get on with it shall we?

Mysteries Of The Gods was originally a German production from 1976 directed by Harald Reinl and based on the book of the same name written by Eric Von Däniken. The version I watched was of course the American version directed by Charles Romine and released in 1977. I have no idea what the differences in terms of content (apart from the potential language difference) but what I can tell you is William Shatner is our host and narrator... You need to see this purely for that alone right? Before I continue, I am not going to go in depth about the content and my own personal opinions and theories on the subjects but I am pretty damn sure science has come a long way since this and there have probably been a lot more breakthroughs making the information old but that's the beauty of science!

I went into this one blind and was expecting a low budget sci-fi flick but man was I surprised when I found out this was a documentary! With this realisation I continued to leave my neurotic, disturbing mind well and truly turned off. What I experienced for the next 84 minutes (according to the DVD itself, the IMDB page states it's an 87 minute feature) was just sheer bliss for so many reasons. The first reason was the whole feel of the documentary. What I love for docs of this nature and era is that almost chilling b movie feeling. The film boasts a terrific synth score throughout from a guy called Peter Thomas who I'm sure I will spend many an hour looking for pieces of his work. Another key reason why I loved this was it's almost hallucinogenic and hypnotic use of space photography, illustration and film footage. Oh and come on, William Shatner was in it asking the academics the hard hitting questions in all his campy glory!

There where countless other small touches in this that I wouldn't even be able to touch upon because this would be more of an essay than a review plus, it's another gem (or crystal skull) that you have to experience for yourself. Marvel at some of the characters that Shatner interviews. We have scientists who have more hair on their chins than they do at the top of their heads and people who claim they can telepathically communicate with intelligent life out there. If you love your campy 70's sci-fi movies then this is going to be a real treat. It's a documentary that deals with a genuinely interesting yet unintentionally interesting way. This has cult classic written all over it but I have never heard hardly anyone mention it! Although the subject matter is one that is a hard one for me to really ponder and take in, it did genuinely make me think about the idea that we being watched by another species and my mind is now crammed with potential ideas for future film projects.

Overall, this is a great time capsule that looks backs to a time where scientific documentaries where genuinely interesting and had a theatrical aspect to them. The use of dated editing technology combined with that terrific spaced out synth score is really mesmerising. It doesn't matter if you are here for the intellectual content or if you are here to marvel at a campy, dated aesthetics, there is something here for many people. The transfer on the DVD is another VHS transfer but again it adds to the charm. Again, if you find this in your local pound or charity shop you have to pick it up to experience. However, you can watch this in it's entirety thanks to wonders of Youtube so there's really no excuse! Now if you excuse me... I am off to listen to a bit of Space!

Live long and prosper!


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