Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mysteries from Beyond Earth (1975)

          Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve been deprived the joys of ’70s pseudoscience documentaries, either because you weren’t alive at the time these oddities played in theaters or because your investigations into ’70s cinema haven’t taken you down this particular rabbit hole. Consider Mysteries from Beyond Earth your ideal gateway drug. While this low-budget hodgepodge doesn’t match the fervor of the enjoyably shameless pseudoscience docs that Sunn Classic Pictures made in the ’70s, Mysteries from Beyond Earth hits so many different topics that it’s like a sampler platter for the genre.
          Hosted by journeyman Hollywood actor/director Lawrence Dobkin, who imbues every line with some combination of dramatic pauses or overwrought gravitas or practiced amusement, Mysteries from Beyond Earth draws a line connecting nearly every paranormal phenomenon that caught the public’s attention in the ’70s. The reasonable notion driving the piece is that there’s more to life on Earth than humans yet understand, but, in classic pseudoscience fashion, the filmmakers go way too far by treating every loopy theory for unexplained events as if it’s credible. With more focused movies of this type, such as those from Sunn Classic, taking deep dives into specific topics makes outlandish theories seem almost persuasive thanks to the accumulation of “evidence.” Mysteries from Beyond Earth favors quantity over quality. Here’s a partial list of topics the filmmakers cover in 94 breezy minutes: ancient astronauts, Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, biofeedback, black holes, crionics, Easter Island, the Egyptian and South American pyramids, Kirlian photography, Satanism, Stonehenge, time travel, UFOs, Uri Geller and other manifestations of psychic phenomena, voodoo, and witchcraft.
          Cobbling together newsreel footage, clips from other productions, and various and sundry interviews, the movie uses an abstract, prismatic pattern as a transitional device while hurtling from one topic to the next. Dobkin often poses questions in voiceover, with editing suggesting that on-camera speakers are responding directly to his queries, and the filmmakers tweak every element possible to achieve the desired effect of disquieting ambiguity. In a particularly laughable scene, U.S. Congressman J. Edward Roush is made to seem as if he’s validating UFOs, though what he really says is, “My imagination tells me that perhaps . . .” That’s pseudoscience in a phrase, the thrill of contemplating what might be without the hassle of collecting proof. How far into the weirdosphere does Mysteries from Beyond Earth travel? One section of the movie explores the old Jules Verne concept of a secret civilization at the Earth’s core, with Dobkin explaining theories about our planet’s “inner sun.” Trippy, man.

Mysteries from Beyond Earth: FUNKY

1 comment:

greg6363 said...

Dobkin directed a lot of episodic television as well.