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First Look presents
Unsolved Mysteries: Psychics (2004)

"Premonitions, visions of previous lives, psychic powers and telepathy. These and other paranormal events are mysteries that science hasn't been able to explain. Unsolved Mysteries: Psychics: reveals some of the most remarkable stories and the possible connections some people may have to other worlds and other times."
- backcover 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: 687797500991
Genre: television


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

DVD Review

If a show like Unsolved Mysteries were to debut in 2005, you know it would have to be on Fox.

If so, it would probably be a garishly lurid event, full of gratuitous nothingness and flashy graphics designed to make us simple viewers think we were getting something more than we really were. Looking back on the real Unsolved Mysteries, which, beginning in 1986, had an impressive 13-year run on three different networks (NBC, CBS, and in syndication on Lifetime) reveals a fairly understated series that every week presented an amalgam of strange cases and weird occurrences. The closest this show came to typical reality show cheese was courtesy of host Robert Stack, who could skillfully turn a simple narration into an ominous bit of melodramatic camp.

First Look has wisely bypassed issuing season sets in favor of four-disc themed boxed sets from the show's long run, and with Unsolved Mysteries: Psychics it should be fairly clear what the subject here is, though in reality there is quite a bit on near-death experiences and past lives thrown in, which in my estimation seems to muddy up the theme a bit. The presentation has each disc running about 95 minutes, with six or seven segments on each; original air dates are never mentioned.

My biggest beef about this particular set is, aside from the vaguely connected near-death content, is the inclusion of the prattling on about the contacting of dead relatives. Folks like prolific author and spiritual medium James Van Praagh, with his parlor trick shtick, is nothing if not questionable, as is the relevancy of Coral Polge's "drawing dead people" act. What this set needed was more stories that dealt with things like "police psychics" Dorothy Allison or John Catchings, and even the pieces on pets who can predict their owners epileptic seizures or the mental connections between twins holds more relevant substance than bits on the emotional manipulations of a Van Praagh.

I understand that this isn't really hard journalism, and it sometimes treads the water between tacky and informative, but as someone who watched the series fairly regularly during its original run, I'll confess that I was rarely bored by the show. Stack had a unique way of narrating a segment that made it seem like the most dramatic thing that has ever happened since the dawn of man, and the blend of interviews and recreations (especially for a collection dealing with psychics and near-death material) is handled with the kind of subtlety generally not seen in the current batch of reality-type shows.

You could probably classify me as a skeptical inquirer, though I've always had a deep fascination with subjects dealing with paranormal. Some of the material here is quite compelling the way it is presented, but if I've learned one thing in my life it is to always question what I see.

After viewing this set I do have questions, but I just didn't find any answers. I guess that's why they're unsolved, eh?

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

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: All episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame, and the image quality varies a bit from segment to segment; that variance isn't really all that unexpected on a collection of material from different time periods. Grain is the most recurrent problem, but overall the segments look presentable, with minimal blemishes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: For a set made up of segments from different eras of the show's long run, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track is remarkably even-keeled. Most of the content, save for the occasional music bed, is front channel content, but interviews and narration (especially Robert Stack's wonderfully deep voice) are crystal clear, with no trace of hiss or distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mayor of the Sunset Strip, Freeze Frame, Perfect Opposites
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by Mike Mathis, David Vassar, Jim Lindsay, John Cosgrove, Raymond Bridgers
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 purple color scheme this time) housed in an angle-cut cardboard slipcase.

There are six segment commentaries on this set (two per disc), from series producer/directors Mike Mathis, David Vassar, Jim Lindsay, John Cosgrove, and Raymond Bridgers. The tracks all offer some additional background not just on the subjects and how they were selected, but oddball random trivia such as that one of the police station-like sets used during Stack's opening narration was the same one used in The Usual Suspects.

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

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

A moderately interesting subject at times, this set of hit-or-miss psychic and near-death tales doesn't answer as many questions as it raises.

First Look has done a fair job assembling a collection of themed segments together, though the wide-ranging presentation of the subject matter is a bit spotty.

On the upside, the relatively short pieces are ideal for quick viewing sessions.

 


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