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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > TV on DVD Reviews > Unsolved Mysteries

 

Unsolved Mysteries

Ghosts and UFOs (First Look-2004)

RETURN TO TV ON DVD BOX SET MENU

Copyright 2004   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 10, 2004.

Description:
Unsolved Mysteries was one of the Granddaddies of reality TV.  Actually, if you get technical, it's pretty much a variation on Leonard Nimoy's 70s syndicated series In Search Of.  Still, the show has always been compulsively enjoyable.  It takes interesting and inexplicable stories and lies them out for public consumption in little bite-sized nuggets.  It is perfect for our world of low-attention-span theater, tell a good story and then move on.  These are the first two DVD box sets (with more to come) of the long-running series, and they are probably two of the better subjects to hit on.  Personally, I found the ghost stories more interesting than the UFO ones, but that probably says more about me than the stories. 
What's Good About It?
It is no wonder that this show ran for fifteen seasons.  (The packaging actually sort of hints that it is still running and refuses to acknowledge that host Robert Stack passed away last year.)  They take some fascinating stories and boil them down to 10-15 minute segments.  The stories come from all over the world, some are well known, some aren't.  Wonderful ghost stories include those of Resurrection Mary, a specter near Chicago who appears on the side of roads looking for rides to her graveyard home, the dead woman who inhabited an acquaintance to implicate her murderer and the haunt who will not leave the lakeside resort where her lover took her life.  The coolest UFO sightings are probably the ones by an airbase in Bentwater, England and the one which horrified a group of campers.
What's Bad About It?
This themed "greatest hits" format does not really do the show any favors.  One of the cool things about the series is that they'd follow a murder with a ghost with a corny lost-relative story.  It kept things lively, kept things different.  Here it is one type of story over and over, which is great if you are passionate on the type of tale.  However, ghost stories and particularly UFO sightings do have a tendency to be kind of similar.  Future box sets are coming on things like Miracles and Murders; murders I could see being endlessly fascinating, but how many miracles can you really see?  Also, one of the complaints about the series throughout its run... and it's a somewhat valid one... is that the reenactments they do of the stories tend to be a little cheesy.  Not to mention that the actors used almost never look like the actual people who are interviewed.  One last minor quibble is that because these segments are culled from over fifteen years worth of stories, the production values (as well as clothing and hairstyles) vary wildly.
What's Missing?
One of the fun things about watching reruns of the show on cable is that sometimes you run across slumming future stars in the "reenactments."  Recently, for example, I saw a repeat where Matthew McConaughey was a murder victim.  It would be fun if they used some of these "before they were stars" moments, but I didn't notice any.
PopEntertainment.com final grade: B-
The show exudes a strange fascination.  It's like potato chips, you can't watch just one story, you keep thinking, well, I'll see what this one is about.  Yet, it is such an embarrassment of riches that you also can pick it up and put it down as the whim moves you like a true-crime book.  If you watched four straight DVDs on either of these subjects it would be way too much, way too similar.  In a way, it is like a magazine as compared to a novel... terrific in short bursts but not necessarily something you want to follow all the way through. 

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2004 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 10, 2004.