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MonsterQuest: The Complete Season
New Video/A&E Home Video
DVD Released: 5/27/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/28/2008
I'm not sure why, but the 1970s were the heyday for mysterious and unexplained phenomena. Bigfoot, UFOs, The Loch Ness Monster, and all sorts of ghosts were very popular, and as an imaginative child growing up in that era, I was captivated by the subject. (My elementary school library had a surprisingly nice selection of books on the various topics listed above.) This craze spawned a TV show entitled In Search Of... which ran from 1976-1982 and was hosted by Leonard Nimoy. The show examined dozens of odd happenings and was very effective. In the 1990s, The X-Files offered a short-lived resurrection in interest of unexplained phenomena. Now, there is a new show, MonsterQuest, which is poised to bring back this sort of programming.
MonsterQuest airs on The History Channel, and offers a very modern look at cryptozoology (the study of mysterious creatures) and occurrences which can't be explained. With the exception of a few episodes, the show focuses on subjects from North America. Each episode begins with an overview of the topic, which is accompanied by eyewitness testimonials, re-enactments, and extensive footage and/or photographs of the geographical location in question. Then, the show becomes more of an investigational piece, as scientists visit the location to investigate the subject. Using a massive amount of photographic equipment and laboratory expertise, the members of the MonsterQuest team (which is never consistent, as it's specific to the show's topic) attempt to find scientific evidence to prove or disprove the existence of the creature or event in question.
The episodes includes in MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One are:
America's Loch Ness Monster
Giant Squid Found?
Lions in the Backyard
Gigantic Killer Fish
Russia's Killer Apemen
Unidentified Flying Creatures
The Real Hobbit
One's enjoyment of MonsterQuest is going to depend solely on what one hopes to get from the show. If you want a MythBusters-esque show which relies on a scientific approach to its topic, then you will like MonsterQuest. Fortunately, the show doesn't take a cynical approach to its subject matter. The assumption is that the myths and legends are true and that the eyewitness' are telling the truth. From there, the experts presented on MonsterQuest approach the topic from a rational point of view, collecting samples and attempting to capture the creature/event on film. The show is very thorough and really walks the viewer through the process.
However, if you're like me and wanted an In Search Of... for the new millennium, then you'll be disappointed in MonsterQuest. Anyone who grew up in the 70s will tell you, In Search Of... was a scary show. When an episode focused on Bigfoot, a water monster, or ghosts, it did so in a very sensationalistic and scary way. (I think...it may have just seemed that way since I was a kid...) MonsterQuests's cold, rational approach to its subject matter left me wanting more. The eyewitness accounts do have a creepy air to them at times, but otherwise the re-enactments and computer-generated creatures aren't the least bit disturbing. At an average of 40 minutes, some of the episodes drag as we wait for the team to collect their data and come to a conclusion.
With a new X-Files movie on the horizon, this may be the time for a new generation to become interested in cryptozoology and UFOs. With the growth of outlets like YouTube, people could easily distribute videos of odd phenomena. MonsterQuest should help fuel a new interest in the unexplained, but don't plan on being frightened by the show.
MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One leaves massive footprints on DVD courtesy of New Video/A&E Home Video. This four disc set contains all 13 episodes from the show's first season and it comes in a various nice steelbook case. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.85:1, but they are not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Thus, for those with a widescreen HDTV, this is a cramped viewing experience. That aside, the image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image is never too bright or too dark. There is some mild video noise at times, but this is certainly do to the documentary nature of the shows. The DVDs carry a Dolby Stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As the show get rather talky, it's important that we be able to hear the speakers and that's no problem here.
The MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One DVD set contains only one extra. "Behind the Scenes" (16 minutes) offers additional pieces from some of the episodes. A crew member describes his experiences while working on the "Sasquatch" piece. A scientist discusses the lack of bone evidence for Bigfoot. We see a possible attack by Bigfoot while an interview is being done. A camera is attached to a squid. Producer Doug Hajicek talks about re-creating a giant bird attack, complete with on-set footage. We get additional footage of the search for the Lake Champlain monster. The finale piece is a cryptic 911 call.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long