In Search of Myths and Heroes (2005)

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Released 6-Sep-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 236
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jeremy Jeffs
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Michael Wood
Howard Davidson
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Howard Davidson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    In Search of Myths and Heroes is a recent 4 part BBC documentary series. Presented by the man dubbed (15 years ago) as the "thinking woman's crumpet", Michael Wood, the series looks at some of the most distant and famous myths and tries (and often fails) to get at the historic source of the tale.

    The series is, truth be told, part history and part travelogue as Wood is often forced to make long journeys to track down historic evidence behind the myths. To find the fabled city of Shangri-La he travels through India into the foothills of Tibet while the hunt for King Arthur sees him journeying through Britain and the hunt for the Queen of Sheba takes him though Africa and Egypt.

    The series is mainly straight to camera monologues and interviews. There are no recreations which can so often enliven but also cheapen the documentary form. Instead, some key texts are read by actors whose nationality echoes the tale.

    Experienced historian Wood is no stranger to the television documentary having made several successful films in the past including In Search of the Dark Ages, In Search of Troy, and Conquistadors.

    Wood sets himself a huge task in presenting the series. How do you approach these tales from a historic perspective when thousands of years of inquiry have failed to find Shangri-La or the birthplace of Arthur? At the end all he can do is look at the possibilities on offer and try to join the dots to bring the legends alive.

    The series is at its best when Wood makes some real discoveries such as during the Jason episode where he is able to find traces supporting the Argonauts story throughout Greece and the Mediterranean and explain some of the facts that may have gone on to become part of the legend. The series is at its weakest when Wood is hamstrung by a lack of material such as during the search for Shangri-La when a lack of any real evidence makes drawing any conclusion impossible and this makes the episode less successful overall.

    Throughout though Wood is an enthusiastic and entertaining presenter.

    All in all, the journey is worth the effort for anyone with an enquiring mind and a keen interest in the stories that lurk half seen in the mists of time.

    The Episodes are:

The Queen of Sheba

    The bible contains a few references to the mysterious queen who travelled from her unnamed homeland to test the wisdom of King Solomon and, according to legend, eventually stayed to bear his child. Ethiopia claims her as their own leading to the development of a rich mythology about her exploits. Wood travels deep into Africa on the trail of this elusive monarch.

Shangri-La

    The legend of Shangri-La derives from two very different sources. One is an obscure Buddhist text which refers to a haven for the wise named Shambala in the middle of the mountains. The second is the 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, which was turned into a film with Ronald Coleman in 1937. In the book a group of Westerners survive a plane crash in the mountains only to be led to a paradise amongst the impenetrable peaks.

    Wood tries to pinpoint the location of the Shambala myth and his journey leads by plane, car and horse into the foothills of the mighty Tibetan mountains.

Jason and the Golden Fleece

    In one of the better episodes Wood takes us to Greece where legend told of a mighty journey undertaken by Jason and the crew of his boat, the Argo, as they battled ferocious beasts and outwitted crafty kings.

    The trip carries Wood through Greece, Turkey and finally into Georgia and even provides a practical explanation for the Golden Fleece.

Arthur: The Once and Future King

    For many of us the legend of King Arthur is inseparable from cinema, whether it be John Boorman's blood and gleaming armour of Excalibur or the antics of the merry Monty Python troupe in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Wood, not surprisingly, plays a straight line on the story of this great man who sought the grail, pulled the sword from the stone and created the Knights of the Round Table at the mighty court of Camelot.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Each of the four episodes of In Search of Myths and Heroes is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is likely to be consistent with the original aspect ratio. They are 16x9 enhanced.

    The visual quality of each of the episodes is identical. The series was shot on digital video and displays the virtues and vices of the digital format. The image, particularly the night scenes, is often noisy and the show is at its visual best in the still images of the countryside.

    Colour is quite lifelike and the picture is reasonably sharp.

    There is aliasing throughout which is a minor distraction.

    There are some truly beautiful images, particularly of the mountains in Nepal, however the fact that the quality of this footage is noticeably different from the remainder of the show suggests that all the best looking moments are drawn from stock footage.

    There are subtitles for the hearing impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

    Despite these faults the series is quite watchable and I would suspect that the target audience for this series will have little to complain about where the visuals are concerned.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound for In Search of Myths and Heroes is English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kb/s).

    This is quite appropriate for the series and it lacks nothing by not having a more expansive sound mix. The dialogue is clear and it is easy to hear, even when live miked in crowd scenes.

    The performed excerpts from the texts are clearly enunciated.

    There are no problems with audio sync.

    The music by Howard Davidson is varied and interesting and provides an effective counterpoint to the action.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The series is available in Region 1 and 2 apparently in identical format.

Summary

    In Search of Myths and Heroes is another in the interesting historical examinations by Michael Wood. This time he is on shakier ground as the myths are really just that - myths, and trying to find some truth often leads to brick walls.

    The sound and vision quality of the series is not peerless but is otherwise perfectly acceptable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

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