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New Video presents
Weird U.S. Volume I (2005)

"Across America, weirdness is all over the place."
- Mark Sceurman

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 28, 2006

Stars: Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman
Director: Vincent Kralyevich

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: February 28, 2006
UPC: 733961745122
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BB-B D-

DVD Review

Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman have spent 12 years probing the weirdness of their home state of New Jersey, publishing a local magazine documenting the little known, strange, and bizarre that they have investigated and unearthed. This eventually morphed into a series of books tracing the weirdness found in other states, and that eventually led to this wonderfully offbeat History Channel series hosted by Moran and Sceurman.

Each one-hour episode has the pair bouncing around the country, loosely following a theme, covering three to five different weird stories that they attempt to uncover the truth about. Instead of a season set, these are single-disc compilation releases, each containing just two episodes. The episodes run just under 44 minutes without commercials, and Volume I features the pilot, Strange But True, and the premiere, Road to Weirdsville. The biggest negative, however, is that there seems to be some padding to stretch the material to 45 minutes, and the habit of recapping after each commercial break is even more distractingly evident on the DVD.

The thematic ties that would be more prominent in later episodes doesn't really come into play here, and the stories are more all over the map, with Strange But True covering everything from the legend of a human skin wallet made from the flesh of murderer Antoine LeBlanc to hidden nuclear missile silos and tracing the history of the Appalachian Melungeons. The best comes from a visit to the unofficial winter home of countless carnival/circus people—Gibsonton, Florida—and features an interview with sideshow legend Ward Hall.

Road to Weirdsville follows suit by traversing to New Orleans, Washington D.C., Coney Island, and Las Vegas in search of genuine tourist destination weirdness, the very loose thread that connects the collection of stories that take them far off the beaten path. There's a history of voodoo, a truly disturbing visit to a ventriloquist convention, and a fun look at the modern-day sideshow. In my household we've been known to take strange vacations, and we've begun using Weird U.S. as the equivalent of a travel guide.

I question the marketing of these two-episode discs as opposed to a full season set, but that's not really my problem, I guess. Moran and Sceurman are likeable hosts, and the series is certainly fun and unusual, but there isn't anything new here to hook those that have already watched the series on television.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Both episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Colors are generally clean and bright for the interviews, but some of the on location segments appear a little oversaturated. The purposeful color corrected or grainy stock footage used in between these on location segments varies in detail levels, though any image variations seem intentional.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in 2.0 stereo, and the presentation delivers clear, hiss-free narration. Basic, but solid.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues
Music/Song Access with 0 cues
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras to be found, unless you still consider "interactive menus" and "scene selection" as supplements, as the backcover does.

Each episode is split into six chapters.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

This debut release of the series Weird U.S. contains the pilot and the premiere episode, and as it turns out these are probably two of my favorites of the entire run. Plenty of dark, strange, and weird stuff abounds, from the legend of human skin wallets to the mystery of the Melungeons.

Not sure why there isn't a season set, but meanwhile this still is bizarrely cool.

 


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