Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blog DVD Review: MonsterQuest - The Complete Season Two (1/20)

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 (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 Two:

MonsterQuest - The Complete Season Two

MonsterQuest - The Complete Season Two (A&E Home Video, $44.95)

From the beginning of time, mankind has been riveted by accounts of mysterious creatures, from mega-hogs to vampires and giant spiders. Now, sightings continue throughout the world as more people come forward with photos and other evidence. In North Carolina, a creature thought to be dead for decades may be stalking livestock. In Texas, a dead body that doesn't look like any known species is found. And in the Pacific Ocean may lurk a giant capable of attacking whole ships. Season Two of this spellbinding series from History takes a fresh look at the beasts of legend and seeks new proof of their existence.

Surprising historical research and scientific analysis set the stage for groundbreaking fieldwork: high-tech expeditions to the home turf of famous monsters. Deploying state-of-the-art equipment, each episode scientifically examines the best evidence available, including photographs, videos, hair and bone samples, and the actual eyewitness accounts themselves. Credible individuals have seen things they can't explain. It's time to sort out fact from imagination once and for all!

One part history, one part science, and one part monsters, MonsterQuest: The Complete Season Two reveals the truth about these sightings and the creatures behind them.

This 5-DVD set contains all 20 original episodes from the second season (2008). The packaging has changed a bit from the season one release. This time there is an outer cardboard box that holds two slimcases. A drawing of a giant octopus is on the cover. In the top right corner, there is the History logo. On the back of the box and slimcases, there is a short synopsis of the series, a listing of the episodes and special features and the DVD specs. The discs are held in embedded holders that you flip like a book. Slimcase #1 holds discs 1-3. Slimcase #2 holds discs 4-5. There is a partial drawing of an octopus and the episode titles and special features listed 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 the giant octopus 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 their original broadcast order. 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 15 hours, 40 minutes. Running times range from 44:46-44:57.

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 20 episodes you are getting. Episode summaries are courtesy of the official site. Running times are noted in the parentheses.

Mega Hog (44:51) - Do wild hogs in the United States grow to monstrous sizes? Many think so. In Georgia an 1100 pound hog was shot and killed and in Texas beast almost as large have been reported. But are these creatures raised and fattened up in a pen, or are they wild hogs, naturally more aggressive, that have somehow reached gigantic proportions? A MonsterQuest examination meets victims of vicious wild boar attacks, looks at the existing evidence and teams up with a hog hunters, researchers and trackers to find a giant.

Vampire Beast (44:53) - A mystery predator is on the prowl in North Carolina... And it has a taste for blood. In the winter of 1954 a small rural town Lived in fear as an unknown creature preyed on goats and dogs. Now, more the fifty years later, the beast is back. In the fall of 2007, residents of Bolivia, North Carolina started losing pets and farm animals to an unknown creature. Is it a known predator... or something more sinister?

Ghosts (44:54) - Are ghosts real? Can technology find them and science prove their existence? MonsterQuest investigates what may be one of the most haunted houses in America, the Lizzy Borden house, scene of the famous 19th century double murder. In an all-night investigation, paranormal experts record bizarre goings on in this house with eight cameras rolling, including the highest resolution infrared camera ever used in a paranormal investigation. Can they prove once and for all the existence of ghosts in this place?

Ohio Grassman (44:53) - Just miles from the industrial cities of Ohio, there is a bogeyman that has terrified local children for over a century. According to stories and sightings, the Grassman is similar to a Bigfoot, but builds strange nests and has been known to attack. Can science help explain this creature? Is a primate skull, a strange print and a new video the first direct proof behind the legendary Grassman? MonsterQuest sifts through the existing evidence and takes to the skies in a search for what is stalking Ohio.

Giant Killer Snakes (44:53) - MonsterQuest heads deep into the Venezuela wilderness to investigate reports of huge man-eating snakes fifty feet or more in length. Led by the world's top anaconda expert, the investigation will deploy for the first time ever an industrial acoustic sonar camera to search for these monsters. The investigation will also search the Everglades of Florida where pet pythons have escaped or been released into the wild. They are multiplying and growing to huge sizes, preying on all kinds of animals, even swallowing a full grown alligator in one case. Could a human become their next meal?

Super Rats (44:53) - Rats are the stuff of nightmares and recent archaeological evidence suggests that they once grew to massive sizes. Could these huge rodents make a comeback? Waves of huge rat sightings are sweeping our cities, and animal experts say these mutants are getting bigger – and more dangerous. Rat experts journey into the sewers and meet the witnesses who tell of cat sized rats that have appetites for anything... including human flesh.

Black Beast of Exmoor (44:53) - On the moors of England over 200 livestock were torn apart between 1979 and 1983. Armed Marines patrolled the hills looking for the predator but no creature was found. With attacks continuing to this day eyewitnesses suggest that a strange "black beast" is still at large. New video evidence could hold the key to the mystery. An expedition team talks to the witnesses, analyzes the evidence and seeks answers to find out what is really prowling the English countryside...

Chupacabra (44:53) - In 1995, a beast dubbed "El Chupacabra," spanish for "The Goatsucker," was first sighted and accused of killing and draining the blood of hundreds of farm animals in Puerto Rico. Eyewitnesses describe it as a two-legged reptile-like beast with sharp claws and sharper fangs. But another rash of sightings, and killings, in Texas last year produced eyewitness descriptions of a creature that looked very different. MonsterQuest will go on the hunt for the Texas chupacabra. And for first time on television, DNA tests will be performed on evidence from both the Puerto Rico and Texas sightings in effort to scientifically prove just what these mystery beasts could be.

Legend of the Hairy Beast (44:53) - Native American history is full of "Hairy Man" stories and cave art that date back over a thousand years. Did Native Americans know the truth behind the Bigfoot legend? An expedition along the Klamath River into reservation land will use state of the art technology to search for something locals don't doubt is real. With unprecedented access to Native American stories and recent sightings, MonsterQuest examines this creature that is both feared and revered.

Vampires in America (44:53) - Most people agree that vampires are fictional creatures, but throughout history and even today, there have been cases of people who thirst for blood. These "real vampires" believe that in order to survive, they must feed on the life-force of others. In this episode, we investigate these living vampires to find out if there is a physical reason behind their cravings. Can science separate the fact from the fiction surrounding these "creatures of the night"?

Boneless Horror (44:54) - Throughout history there have been sightings of a massive Octopus big enough to attack and sink boats. Could such a creature really exist? MonsterQuest divers probe the depths of the North Pacific where the world's largest known species of octopus lives. The investigation will use special infrared cameras to probe octopus lairs and hunt in the darkness of night when this predator of the sea may be more active.

Bigfoot in New York (43:52) - In 1976, in upstate New York, several police officers witnessed an animal that they can't explain. They describe it as a "large creature, 7 to 8 feet tall, walking like a gorilla hunched over, making a sound like a woman screaming." Over thirty years later sightings are continuing and these police officers have agreed to be put to the test. Meanwhile, MonsterQuest teams up with local researchers and renowned wildlife experts on the trail of the Monster of Whitehall

Lake Monsters of the North (44:54) - Something mysterious is lurking around the bottom of Lake Crescent, New Foundland, and they call this creature "Cressie." Native American legends date back centuries and refer to a "Pond Devil" and a "Swimming Demon". And there are modern sightings too, but are witnesses describing a strange, outsized eel or something entirely alien to science? Divers, biologists and forensic sketch artists team up to search for this elusive lake leviathan.

China's Wildman (44:55) - A Wild-Man may roam the mountainous and forested regions of China's remote Hubei province. Witnesses typically report that the creature is covered in reddish-brown hair, five to seven feet tall, and walks on two legs. To the Chinese authorities, who recently collected over one hundred unidentified hairs, it is not a matter of if this creature will be found, but when. An expedition to the Far East will meet the Wild-Man experts and join an international team in a search for answers.

Giant Bear Attack (44:57) - In pre-historic times, giant bears weighed up to a ton and stalked early man. History says that these animals died out 10,000 years ago, but could hybridization or the next step in bear evolution produce more giant bears? MonsterQuest investigates witnesses of horrific bear attacks, looks at strange bear remains and mounts two expeditions: the first to the heart of bear territory, Alaska, and the second closer to home in New Jersey where big bears are getting more assertive and aggressive. Will science solve the mystery of this new breed of bears?

Monster Spiders (44:46) - In 2006 an American soldier in Iraq was photographed with what appeared to be a three foot long arachnid. Meanwhile in the forests of Peru there are reports of spiders big enough to eat an entire chicken. A MonsterQuest expedition into the wilderness of South America goes on the hunt for a monster-sized predatory spider and examines man's fear of these creatures.

Jaws in Illinois (44:54) - Are dangerous ocean predators prowling American rivers? Few people realize that the bull shark can tolerate fresh water, swimming hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean. History suggests it has at times penetrated up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. The episode will examine the behavior of the bull shark and dive in the St. Lawrence Seaway to uncover another giant, the Greenland Shark. It can grow longer than the Great White and has been known to head inland and eat land animals like caribou.

Real Dragons (44:53) - The huge Megalania lizard once stalked early man, but history says that the lizard is long extinct. But could massive and deadly reptiles be making a comeback? A MonsterQuest team travels to the Blue Mountains of Australia in search of those who say the Megalaina still exists. Meanwhile, another expedition looks at Megalania's closest living cousin: the Komodo Dragon. These giant reptiles can reach sizes of over ten feet long and have a venomous bite. We examine recent reports of attacks and even killings by the world's largest known lizards.

Sasquatch Attack II (44:52) - Something has been attacking a remote cabin in Northern and it may have left behind a blood trail. DNA analysis suggested that the creature is a non-human primate. Now a follow up test will confirm or deny this, and the results could change history. Meanwhile, a new expedition, outfitted with the most advanced surveillance and detection equipment, will set up camp at the cabin and wait for the creature's imminent return.

Approximately 30 minutes of special features are spread out over 5 discs. These are short 3-4 featurettes that trace the history of various legends. There are 1 or 2 per disc. I was hoping that these would be a bit more in-depth. They provide a good general overview, but there probably won't be any new information for cryptozoology fans.

Disc 1
Cryptozoology (2:52) - Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman explains what cryptozoology is and its history. He talks a little bit about the big 4 of the cryptozoology field.

Cryptozoolgy Museum (2:53) - Loren Coleman gives a short video tour of The International Cryptozoology Museum. It was founded in 2003 in Portland, Maine. He shows models of a coelacanth and a 8-foot tall Bigfoot, Bigfoot scat, a Patterson Bigfoot cast and a pterodactyl prop.

Disc 2
Hybrids (3:23) - Anthropologist David Gilmore traces the history of hybrid legends. He talks a little bit about Werewolves, the Jersey Devil and Chupacabras.

Disc 3
Bigfoot (3:36) - Loren Coleman and David Gilmore talk about the history of the Bigfoot legend. Some drawings, photos and video footage are shown. They talk a little bit about the Patterson film and Yeti/Abominable Snowman.

Mermaids (3:54) - Folklorist Adrienne Mayor, Biologist Richard Ellis and Loren Coleman talk about the history of the mermaid legend. They show some drawings and talk about the folklore. A hoax model/prop is shown.

Disc 4
Lake Monsters (2:54) - David Gilmore talks about the history of the Loch Ness legend. The first sighting was in 1871, but it wasn't reported until the 1930's when the Loch Ness craze began.

Sea Monsters (3:16) - David Gilmore and Richard Ellis talk about the history of the giant squid legend. Some drawings are video footage are shown.

Dragons (2:56) - Adrienne Mayor and Richard Ellis talk about the history of the dragon legend. Some drawings are shown and they talk about the folklore and some of the recent findings in China.

Thunderbirds (3:17) - Adrienne Mayor and David Gilmore talk about the history of the giant bird legend. They talk a little bit about pterodactyls and some of the sightings in recent years.

Final Comments: It was another great season of MonsterQuest. There were 6 more episodes this season compared with the first season. The Bigfoot stories are obviously the most popular, because they did 5 more that related to Bigfoot/Sasquatch this season. There was also an episode on the recent Hogzilla. Overall, there was a good mix of episodes this season. The only two that really didn't fit with the rest of the series were the ones on Ghosts and Vampires. Hopefully they will stick to cryptid creatures in future episodes. The special features are on this set are decent, but I would have liked to see them much more in-depth. They must have done some extensive interviews with the people involved, so I don't know why they didn't include more footage.

I was happy to read that MonsterQuest will be returning for a third season with 20 more episodes starting on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009, at 9PM EST/8PM CST on History. They will reportedly have episodes on the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, Yeti and Alligators-in-the-Sewers. You can read more about Season Three and other cryptozoology news here.

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

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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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