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First Look presents
Unsolved Mysteries: Bizarre Murders (2004)

"Go behind the police tape, into the forensics labs and beyond..."
- tagline

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 03, 2005

Stars: Robert Stack
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 06h:05m:00s
Release Date: January 25, 2005
UPC: 687797501196
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C+B-B B

DVD Review

First Look has once again issued a four-disc themed boxed set (others center on psychics, UFOs, miracles, etc) from the strange-but-true archives of the long-running series, Unsolved Mysteries, and this time it burrows into the true crime realm, with 32 segments on all sorts of death and tragedy. As with the other sets in First Look's series, the presentation has each disc running anywhere from 85 to 95 minutes, with seven to nine segments all narrated with a perfectly serious tone by the late Robert Stack.

The titular "bizarre murders" cover all sorts of crimes, from murders-made-to-look-like-accidents to suicides-that-some-say-are-murders to murders-allegedly-caused-by-government-conspiracies, as well as coverage of such high-profile types as Albert "Boston Strangler" Salvo, the Zodiac Killer and the Unabomber. The one depressing constant throughout the just over six hours worth of death is that for all the general talk about the lack of the so-called perfect crime, a staggering number of murders actually do go unsolved.

There are some fragments of good news sprinkled here and there, as some of the segments feature follow-ups (in some cases years after the original broadcast) on the capture of alleged murderers, and so like the far more garish America's Most Wanted, there is some sort of pseudo-legitimacy to the watching stories about horrible crimes because there is the slim chance that some random viewer might actually have a clue or know the culprit.

Truth is that the odds of me knowing who killed two Kentucky prostitutes in 1994 is probably a real longshot, but someone probably does, so hearing about their tragic end is somehow made to seem like news I can use. To its credit, it is something the Emmy-winning Unsolved Mysteries did very, very well during its run.

I would have preferred more of the high-profile material, as the revelations about The Boston Strangler, or the connections between the infamous Zodiac Killer and the Unabomber, just seem to have more of a longterm relevance than a story on the 1984 disappearance of a California prison guard. I realize that comment probably just made me sound sort of callous and uncaring, which I'm really not, but at some point the overload of death just becomes too much. One has to categorize and cutoff the misery somewhere, and while I want to believe that all of these murderers will someday be brought to justice, I doubt it. If anything, it just reinforces the fragility of daily life.

I understand the need for First Look to continue the already established themed sets concept, and while things like UFOs might merit the occasional repeat viewing, I can't imagine ever wanting to revisit a crime scene.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: First Look has issued this set in its original aspect, and over the course of four discs culled from different time periods the image quality varies. Colors are not overly vivid, falling somewhere on the muted side of things, with a recurring veil of grain evident on most segments.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, and most of the content, save for the occasional music bed that makes the rear channels active, is all front channel content. Interviews and narration are presented clearly, with no trace of hiss or distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mayor of the Sunset Strip, Freeze Frame, Perfect Opposites
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by Jim Lindsay, Bob Wise, John Cosgrove, Stuart Schwartz, Mike Mathis, David Vassar
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: As with the other sets in the series, First Look has done a spiffy job with the Unsolved Mysteries series packaging, with four slimline Scanavo cases (with a burnt orange color scheme this time) housed in an angle-cut cardboard slipcase.

There are six segment commentaries—two per disc— from producer/directors Bob Wise, John Cosgrove, Stuart Schwartz, Mike Mathis, David Vassar and Jim Lindsay (though Lindsay's name is misspelled on one of the menus). Cosgrove shows up on a few of the tracks, and his interplay with Vassar on Texas Most Wanted is almost fun, if the subject wasn't so serious. Interesting background information on the cases, or how segments were shot gets discussed, as well as pointing out cameos by upcoming "stars" like Matthew McConaughey.

Each disc is broken down into either seven to nine chapters (depending on the disc), and there is a Play All option.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

While these are in fact both "unsolved" and "mysteries", the longterm mass appeal entertainment value of hearing about decades-old murders is questionable at best. The stories are genuinely tragic, but this set is just too relentlessly grim for its own good.

 


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