Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: MonsterQuest - The Complete Season One (May 27)

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for another mini-DVD review! This week we take a look at A&E Home Video's MonsterQuest. MonsterQuest is an original History (formerly The History Channel) documentary series that premiered on October 31, 2007. The program deals with the search for various cryptozoological creatures reportedly seen around the world. Cryptozoology is the study of, and search for, animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological catalogs. See my mini-DVD review of MonsterQuest - The Complete Season One:

MonsterQuest - The Complete Season One

MonsterQuest - The Complete Season One (A&E Home Video, $39.95)

The search is on for earth's most elusive and mysterious monsters! Each episode of MonsterQuest launches an expedition to uncover a famous mystery creature. Scientists use modern technologies like DNA testing and digital photo analysis to evaluate decades of physical and photographic evidence, while field researchers search for the beast itself. Bigfoot, aquatic dinosaurs, giant squid, mutant canines, man-eating catfish, and more will be investigated like never before.

MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One includes all 13 original episodes on 4 DVDs. The set comes in steelbook packaging. The cover art features the MonsterQuest logo with the eyes of a mysterious beast in the background. In the top right corner, there is the History logo. On the back of the case, there is a short synopsis of the series, a listing of the episodes and the DVD specs. The four discs are held in two embedded plastic holders. Discs 1-2 and 3-4 overlap each other.

Unfortunately, there are no episode summaries listed anywhere on the packaging. It would have been nice if they included a sheet or booklet. Here are the episodes you are getting. Episode summaries are courtesy of the official site. Running times are noted in the parentheses.

America's Loch Ness Monster (44:44) - Does a giant prehistoric creature lurk in Lake Champlain? Locals call it Champ. Generations of eyewitnesses rumor to have seen the creature, a dinosaur like animal, 15-25 feet long most resembling the extinct plesiosaur. Examine the mystery surrounding Lake Champlain as specially designed cameras search for the monster. Existing photographic evidence will also be put to the test.

Sasquatch Attack? (44:49) - Does Canada have its own Bigfoot? Owners of a fly-in fishing cabin report attacks by an unknown creature. Can DNA tests on blood and tissue from the alleged beast reveal its true identity? The test results will surprise you. One-part history, one-part science and one part monster, discover the truth behind these beasts and take a scientific look at legendary creatures around the world. The best evidence available will be examined, from pictures and video, to hair and bones. Scientists will be brought in to tell viewers what the evidence reveals. Ultimately the evidence will reveal the truth....or in some cases continue the mystery.

Giant Squid Found? (44:50) - Is the legend of the Kraken, a tentacled beast as large as a whale, based on myth or a real creature? Take an expedition to the Sea of Cortez, Mexico where fishermen regularly claim to encounter large schools of giant squid. Watch as squid expert Scott Cassel uses lures with built-in cameras in an attempt to video a Kraken-sized squid 1,000 feet below the ocean. What Cassel and his team discover will make history. One-part history, one-part science and one part monster, discover the truth behind legendary creatures.

Birdzilla (44:50) - Native Americans have long revered huge birds called Thunderbirds. There was a rash of giant bird sightings in Illinois, Texas and Alaska back in the 1970's. A giant bird with a 15-foot wingspan allegedly attacked a small child in Illinois. Could there really be a giant bird or is it mass hysteria? Take a scientific journey and follow the many eyewitnesses' accounts across the country and examine the most compelling evidence.

Bigfoot (45:20) - Bigfoot has been sighted in Washington State more than any other place on earth. Join an all-female expedition as they try to lure a Bigfoot within range of their cameras. The 1967 Patterson footage will be reexamined using digital microscopes that could reveal details that might prove if the beast is real or a hoax.

Mutant Canines (44:49) - Something strange is killing Fido. In 2006, a number of pets were killed in Maine and Minnesota by a beast locals describe as a mutant--one of these creatures was hit by a car. The body of this strange looking creature will be DNA tested to see what it really is. Two expeditions will be launched to trap other dog killers still at large.

Lions in the Backyard (45:19) - Mountain lions do occasionally attack humans, and when they do it makes headlines across the country. However, it has been reported that people are seeing something else--attacks by large black cats. Pictures and law enforcement encounters prove a big black cat is out there, while it resembles a mountain lion, there is no such thing as a black mountain lion. From Texas to Minnesota to West Virginia, follow the eyewitness accounts and physical evidence of these demon cats. Bones from a carcass that eyewitnesses claim was a huge black cat will be put to the DNA test.

Gigantic Killer Fish (45:18) - Are monster fish lurking in freshwater lakes and rivers? From the Arctic Circle to the Amazon, follow an expedition to find the biggest and nastiest giant fresh water fish, from catfish large enough to swallow children whole to trout as large as a boat. Scientists will deploy giant lures and underwater cameras in a search for monster fish.

Swamp Beast (44:52) - Are the vast swamps of Louisiana and Florida hiding a beast? The locals believe so and call it, "The Swamp Creature." It is said to be 7-feet tall with red hair and a rotten egg smell. The beast even has a nickname--The Skunk Ape. For the first time, bloodhounds will be used to track the elusive creature, and sexual ape pheromone chips will be used to guide the bloodhounds to their prey. Scientists will be brought in to tell viewers what the evidence reveals.

Russia's Killer Apemen (44:54) - In 2006, The New York Times revealed a sinister plan by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to create monsters by crossing humans with apes. Travel to Russia to find out if this was true and if so how far did he get? Take a look at the many efforts, both by man and Mother Nature, to combine the strength of apes with the intelligence of man. This real Frankenstein story involves everything from head transplants in the U.S. to cases of ape on human attacks.

Unidentified Flying Creatures (45:18) - For decades, cameras have been capturing images of a flying, torpedo-like creature so fast it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Some think it is a military weapon; others believe it may be a creature from another dimension known as "Rods." Super high-speed photography, physics and even a wind tunnel experiment will be used to shed light on what these images are.

The Real Hobbit (45:17) - MonsterQuest travels to the interior of Sumatra, in Indonesia, looking for what locals call the Orang Pendak, translated as: Man of the Woods. Could this strange mystery ape, with its human face, be a surviving ancestor to the Flores Man, dubbed the Real Hobbit in 2004, when skeletal remains were found on the neighboring island of Flores? An expedition is launched deep within the rain forest, where locals claim to see the creature with regularity...and they find footprints of an unknown upright walking beast. Will camera traps reveal its identity?

American Werewolf (44:48) - The werewolf is a centuries-old legend based on myth, not a real animal. However, local eyewitnesses in Wisconsin and Michigan report seeing a dogman--a tall hairy man-beast. Professional hunters and trackers armed with tranquilizer guns will be deployed in an area of recent sightings to find this creature. For the first time polygraphs and hypnosis will be used on eyewitnesses with astonishing results.

When you first insert a disc, they show about 15 seconds of the opening credits with the instrumental theme and no narration. This leads to the main menu where they have the mysterious beast's yellow eyes and the show logo. The episode titles are listed vertically in white at the bottom. The highlighted episode you choose is in yellow and turns gray upon your selection. This takes you to another sub-menu where there is a drawing of the creature that is featured in the episode and a listing of the scene selections. You can choose a scene individually or use the "Play All" button to view the entire episode.

As you would expect for a series that just aired in recent months, the video and audio quality is outstanding. The episodes are presented in widescreen. Most of the on location shooting and interviews look excellent. Some of the submitted video varies depending on the source. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes. The total running time is approximately 10 hours, 11 minutes.

The bonus Behind the Scenes featurette runs nearly 16 minutes and can be found on Disc 4. This extra includes deleted/expanded scenes and some behind the scenes/making of footage. I would have to loved to see some more in-depth featurettes and audio commentaries, but this was interesting to see. One of my major complaints about the show is that do a lot of recapping after coming back from commercial breaks. They could have included some of this footage originally.

Behind the Scenes (15:54) is broken up by episode:

Sasquatch Attack (2:30) - A young crew member recounts a story about a Bigfoot attack in Canada. I remember seeing this footage as a promo on the official site, but it didn't make the final broadcast.

The Swamp Creature (1:58) - Research/Historian Christopher L. Murphy answers the question of where are the Bigfoot bones.

Bigfoot (2:26) - A film crew is attacked while shooting an interview. Pretty spooky.

Giant Squid Found (2:37) - The full version of the footage captured with the Humboldt squid cam.

Birdzilla (1:49) - Producer Doug Hajicek discusses the making of a bird attack.

American Loch Ness (2:52) - Stormboarding's James Lyne and Rachael Miller are on Lake Champlain near Thompson's Point.

Mutant Canines (1:40) - An extended version of a 911 phone call in Washington state in 1996. This call was used at the start of the Bigfoot episode.

Final Comments: I've had an interest in cryptozoology since I saw some segments on Unsolved Mysteries many years ago. These MonsterQuest episodes go into a lot more detail. I like how they mixed the history, science and evidence to make an entertaining hour of television. In my opinion, the most interesting episodes on this set are the Bigfoot related programs. There seems to be the most evidence that Bigfoot could be out there.

Overall, this a pretty decent release. If you missed the episodes the first time around, you can catch up with them on DVD. This set could have benefited from more bonus material and audio commentaries for the die-hard fans. Watch the second season premiere on "Hogzilla" on Wednesday, May 28 at 9pm/8c on History!

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
MonsterQuest Official Site
MonsterQuest TV.com Page
Cryptomundo.com - for Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and More

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