Saturday, January 23, 2016

In Search of Noah’s Ark (1976)

          Another nonfiction winner from the folks at Sunn Classic Pictures—if by “winner” one means a ridiculous celebration of pseudoscience that presents hypotheses and rumors as if they’re stone-cold facts—In Search of Noah’s Ark explores various dubious claims that remnants of the Bible’s most famous ship rest atop Turkey’s Mount Ararat. While beardy host Brad Crandall describes “evidence” and theories with his persuasively stentorian voice, the filmmakers use documentary techniques, interviews, and stock footage to make their wildly unsupported claims seem credible. As with Sunn Classic’s docs about the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, etc., the storytelling style is designed to excite the viewer’s imagination. First, the central premise is broken into units. Second, outlandish remarks and visuals “support” the veracity of each unit, with Crandall saying things like, “Now that’s impressive evidence.” Third, Crandall proceeds to the next unit, as if the previous item is no longer open to doubt. The guiding notion is that if X, Y, and Z are true, then the overarching premise (which comprises X+Y+Z) must also be true.
          In the ’70s, nobody shoveled bullshit quite as vigorously as Sunn Classics.
          In Search of Noah’s Ark begins with a cheaply rendered dramatization of the Noah story. To the accompaniment of Crandall’s narration, Noah receives commands from God, builds his ark despite scorn from neighbors, gathers two specimens of each living creature on Earth, and endures a catastrophic flood before opening his ark and repopulating the planet. The would-be comedic bits of a chimpanzee herding animals onto the ark are as underwhelming as the low-budget FX used to depict the ark floating across an endless ocean. After 25 minutes of this stuff, Crandall leads viewers into the meat of the picture. The presence of sediment in various global locations “proves” that water once covered the planet. The discovery of salt atop Mount Ararat “proves” the ocean once rose to the mountain’s peak. And so on. In one glorious bit, a scale model of the ark is set upon the waves of a laboratory tidal pool, demonstrating the seaworthiness of such a vessel. Wow.
          Eventually, the picture settles into its longest stretch, describing various expeditions to the top of Mount Ararat. Using photos, re-creations, and stock footage, the filmmakers relay eyewitness reports from folks who saw the ark atop the mountain. Fuzzy aerial photos and questionable analysis of wood samples further “corroborate” the findings. In Search of Noah’s Ark is as silly as it sounds, but the fun of these Sunn Classic explorations stems from embracing the “What if?” dimensions of the human experience. Setting aside the question of whether or not 1976 viewers took In Search of Noah’s Ark seriously, they showed up in droves to screenings—the picture grossed an astonishing $55 million, becoming one of the year’s most successful movies.

In Search of Noah's Ark: FUNKY


Unknown said...

"Beyond and Back" (1978) is my favorite Sunn Classic. Love me some Brad Crandell. "You are about to see a motion picture so STARTLING . . . "

greg6363 said...

The tenets of their studio operation were pre-production market research and a regional release plan through "four-walling" theatres where they would rent out the theater for the length of the engagement along with a heavy TV/radio media buy.