Arthur C Clarke Collection (2013)
The complete original series on 8 DVDs (50 episodes): Mysterious World; Mysterious Universe; World of Strange Powers
Host: Arthur C. Clarke
Studio: Millennium/ ITV Studios VE 6470 [7/9/13]
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: English PCM stereo
Length: approx. 1315 min.
This may be the quintessential TV sci-fi documentary series, if you want to spend 22 hours on it. Clarke, who was both a science and science fiction guru of import, is most famous for the book that inspired the unique Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the sequels to it, and also for inventing the space satellite. From his base in Sri Lanka he hosted three separate series of half-hour programs (actually a bit over 20 minutes on the DVDs) beginning in 1980 and running thru 1995, each one focused on a singular mysterious thing in the world, and it’s mind-blowing how many there really are.
It’s interesting how many of these episodes begin in Sri Lanka, since that’s where Clarke lived, and the producers were not going to send him all over the world for every episode. For example, the one on Mayan mysteries opens with Clarke on a boat going thru the Sri Lanka jungle, then he talks about the similar jungle in Mexico and Honduras where the Mayan temples are found, and we then go there, but without Clarke. There is a similar exposition by Clarke talking to the camera at the start of each episode, and at the end he wraps up everything back in Sri Lanka, usually with the idea that whatever it is is all in people’s heads and not really happening. Of course Clarke had an amazing imagination, so in a way that fits in with the whole project.
While I knew something about some of the many subjects, such as UFOs, the Siberian explosion, ghosts, ghost photographs, haunted houses, fire walking, ESP, reincarnation, The Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, zombies, spontaneous human combustion, crop circles, pyramids, curses, visions of the Virgin, and sea monsters, I was amazed at some of subjects, namely: The perfect 8-ft. diameter stone balls of Costa Rica, the hundreds of large granite open jars in Laos, the preponderance of stone circles and runes in the U.K. and their meanings, the really big cats in some regions, the crystal skull that is used as the logo for the TV series, the possible use of a battery in ancient Iraq, and the baffling bombardments of fish, frogs etc. that have occurred in some places.
And then there are some just plain unexplained happenings, such as the two couples who were on their way to a vacation in Spain and stayed at a very old inn in the south of France where others staying there wore 19th century garb and the bill for everything was only a pittance, all the photos they took of the inn disappeared entirely from the camera, and when they tried to find the inn again it had also disappeared. That one had even Clarke scratching his head. Now I have to go see the balls in Costa Rica.
In general each of the presentations is worth watching. Clarke or the writers seem to have a rather strange structure to each one, with footage from various places around the world showing the bizarre phenomena, and then Clarke explaining or even showing how some of them could be hoaxes or how people can imagine almost anything—such as alien abductions. But then he usually includes one or two examples that just don’t seem to have any explanation, even from him. One example that stood out was the poopooing of the crop circles, Clarke obviously leaning in the direction of hoaxers going to a lot of work pressing down the crops in patterns. But how to explain the impossibly intricate designs he shows—some of them fractal in nature— that nobody could have created, as well as the circles that suddenly appeared with people watching the area and not seeing anyone? A surprising omission was noticed in the episode on the writers who claim to be writing books dictated to them by famous dead authors. Yes, none of the books have been good enough to be published as yet, but Clarke totally ignored the most famous writer (or any) of similar music compositions from dead composers: Rosemary Brown.