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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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IN OTHER BOOKS
E.C. McMullen Jr.'s
CEDO LOOKED LIKE PEOPLE
in the anthology
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The Silver Scream
E.C. McMULLEN Jr.,
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and many more.
Extensively quoted in
The Unauthorized Companion
Robert S. Rhine's
CIRCUS OF HELL
GAHAN WILSON &
Featuring comics by
E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
With a grainy image so unsaturated of color that it is nearly black and white, Rod Serling's voice intones,
"Nazca: a remote desert plain in the Peruvian Andes, may hold the key to an ancient puzzle. On January 5th, 1973, We reported the possibility that the lines and figures etched on the mysterious plain, marked the site of a landing made by astronauts, thousands of years ago."*
Since then, the strange drawings, visible only from the air^, have been photographed by aerial survey, satellite, and the Skylab astronauts. The lines at Nazca, when added to the evidence of other sites around the world, indicate that the earth may not merely have been visited by ancient astronauts, it may in fact, have been colonized by them."
In just the first two minutes of this 53 minute TV movie, the second one released by Rod Serling, we are firmly in bullshit territory.
While the Nazca lines are certainly in a remote desert plain, it is only remote to our modern civilization. There is every indication that this area was once a thriving, bustling hub of human activity during the Paracas Culture, not an obscure place where people journeyed far away to make massive scribbles in the land.
As for the diverse images of whales, spiders, flowers, monkeys and birds that are drawn there, they were (re) discovered by Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe (b: 1896 - d: 1983), while hiking through the foothills in 1927.
How did a Hiker discover designs that can only be discerned from a great height?
Nearly all of them are at least partially visible from the ground.
Many of these "Ancient Alien Astronaut" landing strips, go around in spiraling circles forming various animals. Some of these "runways" are less than a meter in width and only a few meters in length before they turn in sharp angles or loop in circles. That is to say, some of these "landing strips" we see in this movie are shorter than a city bus, more narrow than a train track. They are too narrow and short for the smallest of prop or jet engine vehicles to use as a landing strip.
So yeah. A landing strip?
One that spirals in round and round until it stops at the tip of a monkey's tale? Or, if you start from the inside, spirals out round and round until it reaches a monkey's ass?
That's some whacky landing strip! Unless you take a close up photo of a specific part of it - like the fingers - so no one sees the rest, and then, like Däniken did, you lie.
I haven't even got into the idea of why a civilization so technologically advanced as to go star hopping for centuries (or days if they have a faster than light [FTL] drive - which makes them magnitudes more technologically advanced), would need something so primitive as a wheeled landing site - one not paved smooth, but even for its time, merely a dirt line scratched into the surface - for their space craft.
Because, what? This super advanced, solar system hopping alien species hadn't figured out mid-20th century vertical take off and landing?
Ancient alien astronauts traversed the depths of space, past suns the size of our solar system, while braving the most deadly of black hole, quasar, and magnetar dangers, in a craft no more advanced than our obsolete space shuttle?
And they taught ancient human beings how to make stone buildings using... ancient stone tools and ancient architectural design? After all, there isn't a single ancient building ever discovered that indicates the use of energy powered machines and communication devices. There is nothing we have ever discovered that lends itself to the idea that it had to come from a technologically advanced civilization far beyond anything we know today.
That's not to say that there are not great lines traversing Nazca that can only be seen from the air. There are: Long straight lines, crisscrossing at arbitrary angles and all seemingly go nowhere. While we have no idea where they once went, the wear on these long wide lines (in an area so dry and windless at ground level, that these have been preserved for thousands of years) were definitely well-traveled, presuming that they were roads used for going wherever the peoples of that period wanted to get to.
What's more, there are a few designs that really are incomprehensible from land. You need to be high in the air to see them. How were the ancient Paracas able to make these designs?
Were they like Beethoven, not needing to hear the music, only needing the knowledge of musical language and the mathematical skill to render extraordinary pieces of aural art?
Or did the Incas merely use the technology available to them? The same technology many tourists use to this day?
Short of a time machine, we may never have a definitive answer of how and why these images were made. But some folks have had some pretty good educated guesses. And through diligent research - and no small amount of bravery - have gathered enough evidence to turn their guesses into viable theories.
Far more viable than technologically advanced aliens flying in faster than light traveling starships and coming to earth to teach us how to stack heavy stones on stack heavy or scratch designs in the ground.
The Ancient Paracas Could Fly using only the primitive technology and materials they had at the time.
"When Jim Woodman approached me with his idea that the people who created the Nazca lines could have seen them from hot air balloons I was intrigued but skeptical. Yet we successful flew in a balloon that could have been built by the Nazca people a thousand years ago. And while I do not see any evidence that the Nazca civilization did fly, it is beyond any doubt that they could have. And so could the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Vikings, any civilization. With just a loom and fire you can fly!"
Animal Designs Represented Water Resources: The Nasca Lines Project (1996-2000)
"Starting in 1996 I collaborated with David Johnson, a teacher, videographer and independent scholar from Poughkeepsie, New York, on a project linking the famous Nasca Lines or geoglyphs with sources of subterranean water. Dave and I met by accident in the Nasca Valley when I was doing preliminary research for my 1998 archaeological survey of the lower drainage."
Again, all of this research (and more) doesn't equal fact. Yet it has substantially more evidence to support it than Ancient Alien Astronauts - which after nearly half a century still has zero evidence to back up such claims despite tons of books, magazines, movies, TV shows, radio shows, podcasts, and websites devoted to it.
Once you read the actual In-The-Field research, the trials, successes, failures (including near death experiences) these scientists went through to test the validity of their guesses and ideas, the blithely incurious concept of,
Rod Serling was neither childish or oafish, yet he believed.
He believed in Erich von Däniken, a former hotel manager who never visited the places he wrote about, knew little of them, frustrated in his job as a hotel clerk, and sat on his ass during slow hours, making all of this up - yet stubbornly refuted most of what Thor Heyerdahl and hundreds of others had personally experienced on the ground and proved years and decades earlier.
Von Däniken did this for no other reason but that all of these ancient civilizations were not ruled by white people. Therefore, in Erich's limited world view, they could not possibly be advanced.
To Erich's way of thinking, how could ancient non-white people possibly be more technologically advanced than caucasians?
This thinking captured a large portion of, largely caucasian, people who prefer thinking that way about non-caucasians. Never mind the historical fact that, compared to Africa, Persia, India, Greece, China, and Turkey; Europeans were the last to attain a technologically advanced civilization.
By the time the greatness of Egypt fell, the primitive Picts still ruled what would one day be the British Isles - and had yet to reach their Bronze Age.
By the time the technological greatness of Italy (Rome) conquered them, the people who would eventually become French, German, Spaniards, etc., were still illiterate backward tribes wielding clubs and throwing rocks. Simple plumbing would remain a mystery to them thousands of years after it was invented.
For anyone with an awareness of history, regardless of what civilization wrote it, Erich von Däniken, Alan Landsburg, and Rod Serling's In Search of nonsense is face palm inane.
Taken as a whole, IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES is also tedious.
It is, after all, only Rod Serling's voice over narration on top of what is about 50 minutes of poor quality static stock footage (snapshots or stills) of ancient relics in the various places he is describing. No one is on location next to these wonders. Even the few minutes of a person telling us that he believes this or that, doesn't support the whole movie.
For example, The deeply religious Josef F. Blumrich (b. 1913 - d. 2002), who was the chief of a fraction of NASA's systems, at a fraction of the layout branch of the program development office at the Marshall Space Flight Center, sits in a chair with his legs crossed and tells us that the prophet Ezekiel saw spaceships. He bases this not on what the Old Testament actually says, but on his interpretation of it. And in his book, The Spaceships of Ezekiel (1974), Blumrich even admits that he didn't believe in his interpretation of the book of Ezekial, until Erich von Däniken pointed it out first.
Suggestion can be a powerful thing I guess. Except Blumrich still didn't believe in Erich's ancient alien astronauts.
No, according to Joe, it wasn't aliens, it was God and his angels piloting ancient spaceships.
So you don't believe that ancient alien astronauts hide in the gaps of our knowledge, eh?
Ahem! Well then: Would you swallow an ominipotent, universe creating god and his angels, cruising around the Cosmos in a spaceship?
Joe wasn't the only one. Many religious hucksters, like MeToo wannabee, Hal Lindsey, made their fame and fortune piggy-backing on Erich (and much later, piggy-backing on Michael Drosnin's absurd, The Bible Code).
Rod Serling was also amazingly incurious about what he was saying, dispensing much of it without knowing who he was speaking of. For example, Rod goes on to say this,
"One hundred years ago, an amateur archeologist decided that Homer's Iliad was not myth, but history. He followed the epic account through the Aegean Sea to Asia Minor, and there he found the ruins of the lost city of Troy."
Well, that "amateur archeologist" was not some uneducated anonymous nobody lost to the passage of time, but the brilliant archeology pioneer, Heinrich Schliemann. In addition to his self-taught acumen in archeology, he could converse in 14 different languages and was able to learn entire new ones in only 6 weeks, using a method he taught himself.
The man was a freaking genius!
So, pretty damn amazing guy who made many astounding discoveries, all to be merely tossed aside as "an amateur archeologist." But that's how simple-minded this entire show is.
Bear in mind that Rod neither directed or wrote this (and since this is basically an editing job from beginning to end of public domain film stock, I use that term quite loosely). It was "directed" and written by Fred Warshofsky (DAYS OF FURY [video - narrated by Vincent Price]).
Fred and Rod, along with Alan Landsburg, went on to make Rod's final picture, THE OUTERSPACE CONNECTION [video], which involved reusing much of the stock footage from IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES, a rewrite of the same script only padded, and was also mostly Rod's narration with some whacked-out spooky echo voice and beep beep boop audio effects - because that screams Documentary!
We know that Rod Serling knew all of this: He was aware of the criticisms of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asmiov, Carl Sagan, all capable research scientists he approached and apparently conversed with on the matter. Rod knew all the evidence was against von Däniken, a person who never made the effort to substantiate his claims. Worse, Rod's embrace of the hoax ended his associations with Jacques Cousteau and The National Geographic.
In fact, if Rod had any conversation at some point with Erich at all, he also had to be aware of the man's blatant racism, as it permeates him.
In video after video of Erich talking his bigotry leaks out of him like a sieve, as if his prejudices are so integrated into his character that he lacks the self-awareness to contain it.
Yet Serling was fully onboard with von Däniken and Landsburg and the hole they were digging right up to Rod's death in 1975, which seems to imply that he was in on the scam.
Not a fun thing for me to write and I wish there was a positive that I could present to all of this.
Despite the fact that you can watch this complete show online, DVD distributor, Film Chest, has released IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES in slightly better quality on DVD. But only slightly. There is no digital remastering, no colorization to restore the deteriorating image, and no noticeable audio enhancement. In addition to the 53 minute movie and closed captioning for the hearing impaired, you also get - absolutely nothing. It's just one All Region disc without a single extra.
I likely took more time to clean up the images I included with this review than Film Chest did with the movie. I certainly took more time to add extras to this review.
Considering that Rod Sterling (THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE PLANET OF THE APES, THE NIGHT GALLERY) did so much better with his life than this, it's curious that the disc couldn't be more. Then again for all I know, maybe Serling's estate refused to support it.
Which is a shame. It would be good to glean some saving grace for Rod out of all of this.
Of itself, IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES is a part of American Pop-Culture that serves as the connective tissue between the still very popular THE TWILIGHT ZONE series, the PLANET OF THE APES franchise, and the still very popular STAR TREK, in both television and movies.
Rod Serling was supposed to go on and be the narrator of the proposed IN SEARCH OF... series, but early death by lung cancer (Rod was a heavy cigarette smoker), eventually put a then unemployed Leonard Nimoy in the role. When Leonard later joined the old cast of the first Star Trek series in movies, the third in the franchise was called IN SEARCH OF SPOCK, as a direct nod to Nimoy's years of work on Serling's misbegotten creation (IN SEARCH OF... outlived Original Star Trek in its first run).
This DVD could have been so much more, reached out to a massively larger audience, but instead went quick and cheap. I expect it will be in Family Dollar stores by the end of the fiscal year. Pity.
More influential than it had any right to be thanks to its star power, I give IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES two Shriek Girls. This show inspired a lot of Horror and Science Fiction stories, just no good ones.