Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blog DVD Review: MonsterQuest - Season Three, Set One

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the weekly Blog DVD Reviews. This week we take a look at A&E Home Video's MonsterQuest. MonsterQuest is an original History 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 - Season Three, Set One:

MonsterQuest - Season Three, Set One

MonsterQuest - Season Three, Set One (A&E Home Video, $24.95)

Throughout history there have been countless sightings of mysterious creatures, from Megladon, the father of the great white shark; to gators in the sewer, a result of the rising gator populations clashing with human encroachment; to the Snow Beast of the Colorado Rockies that is thought to be hunting the elk population while fleeing man.

Most of what we know of these creatures comes from campfire stories, blurry films and grainy photographs. In Season Three of MonsterQuest, History brings science and technology to bear on these creatures of legend and seeks confirmation of their existence. Combining open-eyed historical research, state-of-the-art equipment, and high-tech expeditions, each episode examines the best evidence available, from pictures and video, to hair and bones, to actual eyewitness accounts.

From pilots to policeman to ship captains, a number of seemingly credible people have seen things they can't explain. One part history, one part science and one part monsters, MonsterQuest discovers the truth in these sightings, and the legendary creatures behind them.

MonsterQuest Season Three, Set One features 8 mysterious episodes on two DVDs. The packaging for this set is a standard Amaray movie-style snap case. A mysterious creature's eyes are on the cover. In the top right corner, there is the History logo. There is a steel background with the set title printed. On the back of the box, there is a short synopsis of the series, a listing of the episodes and the DVD specs. The discs are held in embedded holders with one disc in the middle holder and the second on the back case. Each disc contains 4 episodes. The same drawing of the mysterious creature's eyes and the show logo are on the discs.

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 an alligator 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 and in their original broadcast order. These are the first 8 episodes of season three. Most of the on location shooting and interviews look excellent. Some of the submitted video varies depending on the source. I really like the narration by Stan Bernard and the music they use. It gives it a certain level of creepiness and drama. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes. The total running time is approximately 6 hours, 10 minutes. Running times range from 44:25-44:53.

Unfortunately, there are no episode summaries or original airdates listed anywhere on the packaging. It would have been nice if they included a sheet or booklet. Here are the 8 episodes you are getting. Episode summaries are courtesy of the official site and iTunes where you can also purchase the episodes. Running times and original airdates are noted in the parentheses.

Death of Loch Ness (02/04/09 - 44:53) - The search for the Loch Ness Monster has captivated the world for decades, but now a startling realization about "Nessie" might shatter this age-old myth. Could the Loch Ness Monster be dead? And do its remains lie hidden at the bottom of the lake? Robert Rines, a world-renowned inventor and explorer has spent much of his life searching for Nessie. He believes he may have seen the remains of this mythical beast while mapping the lake floor with sonar. Now he is on a mission to find scientific evidence to prove it. Rines, who says he saw the creature surface in the lake in 1972, now believes that the images explain the recent decrease in sightings, and that they can only mean only one thing: Nessie is dead. MonsterQuest's search team travels to the lake looking for evidence and deploying the latest technology including remote operating vehicles (ROVs), sonar and specialty cameras as we search for Nessie's remains.

Cattle Killers (02/11/09 - 44:25) - Something mysterious and violent is killing cattle of the North American plains, but what is behind these gruesome attacks -- satanic cults, an unknown predator, or something previously unknown to man? For 40 years, there have been thousands of cases of cattle found mutilated under abnormal circumstances; these livestock are found dead, often with their blood drained and organs or body parts removed from their bodies. Abnormally high radiation levels have been detected in the soil near the dead animals when they are found, and the deaths often do not match the pattern of known predators. With no apparent footprints or tracks leading to or from the carcases and strange circles near the site, the mystery only deepens. A MonsterQuest team will gather samples and head to a laboratory to scientifically analyze the most compelling evidence.

Swamp Stalker (02/18/09 - 44:53) - In the marshy swamp land of Texarkana a legendary beast has hunted the residents of a small Arkansas town. Their story was immortalized in a well-known movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek. The real events were a series of violent nocturnal attacks that left behind not only fear and panic, but also remarkable tracks. But the evidence is not just confined to history. Scientific clues continue to emerge to this day, and point to a malevolent monster that stalks the Deep South, with physical encounters by trained trackers and discoveries of tracks and scat. The strongest evidence will be examined using the latest scientific testing and two MonsterQuest teams will isolate the search area using both kayaks and horses to penetrate deep into territory that may the hold the swamp stalker.

Devils in New Jersey (02/25/09 - 44:53) - For over 250 years a frightening winged beast has been menacing the residents of New Jersey. The Jersey Devil is described as a winged half-bird half-horse, with hoofed feet, a reptilian tail and a penetrating scream that echoes through the forests of New Jerseys Pine Barrens. During one phenomenal week, more than 1,000 individuals were terrorized: A trolley car was attacked, schools were closed and panic gripped the area. Wildlife experts claim that a misidentified but known animal may be responsible for the encounters, but recent witnesses who have seen the beast are scared for their lives, and say the scientific evidence will prove there is a monster. MonsterQuest launches an unprecedented expedition, sending detectives to question witnesses and 60 men into the forbidding forest, in search of the Jersey Devil.

Gators in the Sewer (03/04/09 - 44:53) - What if one of the most famous and terrifying urban legends was not a legend but a frightening fact? History tells us that the idea of alligators lurking around in the sewers of New York City is based in truth. In the mid 1930s three teenagers pulled an eight-foot alligator from a storm drain. Reports persisted until a skeptical superintendant of sewers, Teddy May, was forced to investigate for himself. What May found shocked even him--swarms of alligators alive beneath the busy main street of Americas biggest city. Crews were sent in to kill the deadly reptiles, but the stories of the gators in the sewers lived on. Experts, however, are divided over whether it is scientifically possible for alligators to continue to exist in the sewers, so a MonsterQuest team sets out to search for modern evidence of these monsters. Herpetologists and underground explorers join forces and use the latest in remote-operated camera technology to delve into the depths of New York's sewers.

Snowbeast Slaughter (03/11/09 - 44:54) - The most compelling evidence for the creature known as Bigfoot may be the increasing close encounters that are frightening witnesses in rural America. Historic stories have told of violent interactions that range from objects being thrown to frightening abductions by hairy beasts. As extraordinary as these stories sound, people continue to recount physical interactions with creatures that they cannot explain. Witnesses from Minnesota and Washington State have all had frightening run-ins with the monsters while driving; another witness in rural Indiana talks with terror of the night that he was grabbed by something very powerful out in a forest. MonsterQuest will investigate whether witness are seeing known animal or the same Bigfoot creature that has been spoken of throughout history. MonsterQuest employs polygraph examinations, DNA analysis and bite force tests to discover what monster is turning up its aggression.

Mega Jaws (03/18/09 - 44:53) - Sharks have terrified people for centuries and deep within the forbidding waters of Mexico's Baja Peninsula may lurk a mammoth sixty foot monster. Could it be a new giant species or some living relic, hidden in the sea? In prehistoric times, huge carnivorous sharks, more than twice the size of a great white, ruled the waves. Marine experts claim these giants went extinct, but evidence may challenge that. Meanwhile, frightened Mexican fisherman talk of being stalked by a 'Black Demon;' and sailors report close collisions with a shark unlike anything that they have encountered before. In a search for answers, MonsterQuest uses a combined air and sea search for this monster shark that may be prowling the last unexplored frontier of our planet.

Monster Close Encounters (03/25/09 - 44:53) - Sharks have terrified people for centuries and deep within the forbidding waters of Mexico's Baja Peninsula may lurk a mammoth sixty foot monster. Could it be a new giant species or some living relic, hidden in the sea? In prehistoric times, huge carnivorous sharks, more than twice the size of a great white, ruled the waves. Marine experts claim these giants went extinct, but evidence may challenge that. Meanwhile, frightened Mexican fisherman talk of being stalked by a 'Black Demon;' and sailors report close collisions with a shark unlike anything that they have encountered before. In a search for answers, MonsterQuest uses a combined air and sea search for this monster shark that may be prowling the last unexplored frontier of our planet.

Previous seasons on DVD have included some additional footage or featurettes. Unfortunately, there are no extras included on this set. I would have thought with this volume being only 8 episodes that they would have included some additional footage/deleted scenes, featurettes, behind the scenes material or audio commentaries. The special features on the first two seasons weren't outstanding, but they did add some value to those releases.

Final Comments: There's really not a weak episode in this bunch. My 3 favorite episodes of this group are the Devils in New Jersey, Gators in the Sewers and Mega Jaws. As they got to season three, I thought they would have run out of ideas. They are still coming up some very interesting episodes and new angles on Bigfoot, which they have covered already many times.

My only complaint about this set other that the lack of any special features are the split volumes. CBS DVD/Paramount seemed to start this trend in recent years. If they could release all 20 episodes of season two of MonsterQuest on one set, why couldn't they do the same with the 23 episodes of season three? You are getting the first 8 episodes sooner than you would on a complete season set, but these split volumes are only going to cost consumers more money. It looks like it will take three sets to complete season three unless they include 15 episodes on a second volume. Even a 12 and 11 episodes split would have looked better.

Tune in for the season three finale on "The Real Moby Dick" on Wednesday, August 26 at 9PM ET/PT on History!

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

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Related links: Full DVD Reviews Page
MonsterQuest Official Site
MonsterQuest Page - for Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and More

New on DVD/Blu-ray (September)

The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Ninth Season Newhart - The Complete Sixth Season 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Fifth Season Family Matters - The Complete Eighth Season Modern Family - The Complete Season 7

09/06 - Coach - Season One (Mill Creek) / Season Two / Seasons One and Two
09/06 - South Park - The Complete Ninteenth Season (Blu-ray)
09/13 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Ninth Season (Blu-ray)
09/13 - Newhart - The Complete Sixth Season
09/20 - 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Fifth Season
09/20 - Family Matters - The Complete Eighth Season
09/20 - Modern Family - The Complete Season 7
09/20 - Veep - Season 5
09/27 - The Wonder Years - Season Six
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Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, October 24

Kevin Can Wait - "Beat the Parents" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Kevin and Donna are thrilled when their son, Jack, makes friends with a boy from school, Grayden (Graydon Peter Yosowitz), however, when Donna and Kevin don’t hit it off with Grayden’s arrogant father, Vic (Ray Romano), and his pushy wife, Brandi (Lindsay Broad), they set out to sabotage the boys’ new friendship. Matt Romano guest stars as Vic’s second son, Braden.

Man with a Plan - "Pilot" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Golden Globe Award winner Matt LeBlanc stars as Adam, a contractor who starts spending more time with his three kids when his wife, Andi, goes back to work and discovers the truth all parents eventually realize—their little angels are maniacs.

2 Broke Girls - "And the Godmama Drama" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Oleg and Sophie’s plan to have Max and Caroline as Barbara’s godparents is derailed when Oleg’s domineering mother, Olga (Mercedes Ruehl), arrives from the Ukraine for the baby’s baptism and fires Max and Caroline from their godparent duties.

The Odd Couple - "Food Fight" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Oscar learns that his favorite hangout, Langford’s, is in financial trouble, he impulsively asks Felix to help save it, without considering the disastrous consequences. Also, Felix tries to make his mark on the restaurant when the owner, Fred Langford (Fred Willard), puts him in charge for a few days.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 24)

Monday, October 24

  • Ricky Gervais (The Office) - Watch Ricky on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) - Tom appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He also talks about Inferno on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Elijah Wood (Wilfred) - Elijah is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Ana Gasteyer (People of Earth/Lady Dynamite/Suburgatory) - Ana visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) - Nick stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ron Howard (Happy Days/The Andy Griffith Show) - Ron appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Kate Micucci (Raising Hope/The Big Bang Theory) - Kate is a guest on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) - Zooey appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Michael Chiklis (Daddio) - Michael drops by Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Aya Cash (You're the Worst) - Aya talks about You're the Worst on the AOL Build ShoW at 2pm. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) - Will is a guest on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Mary Steenburgen (The Last Man on Earth/Ink) - Mary talks about The Last Man on Earth on NBC's Today in the 10am hour. She will also be on the AOL Build Show at 12:30pm.
  • Anna Camp (The Mindy Project) - Anna talks about Good Girls Revolt on People Now at 8:30am.
  • James Brolin (Life in Pieces) - James is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Matt LeBlanc (Man with a Plan/Episodes/Joey/Friends) - Matt appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Nico guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.