Friday, February 23, 2018

In Search of . . . A Series Retrospective

by G. Jack Urso 


This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer’s purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones to the mysteries we will examine.
— Opening Narration to In Search of . . .

In Search of . . . was a weekly documentary series that aired in syndication between 1977 and 1982. Produced by Alan Landsburg and narrated by Leonard Nimoy, the program explored fringe topics popular during the 1970s — everything from Bigfoot and Killer Bees to Atlantis, auras, biofeedback, the Bermuda Triangle, Easter Island, reincarnation, and UFO’s. During the course of the series, 144 30-minute episodes and four documentaries were produced. While full episode uploads on YouTube are not possible, links to the documentaries are available below, as well as a complete episode list and original broadcast dates.

Aeolus 13 Umbra has previously turned its attention to this series in an earlier article, In Search of . . . The Complete First Season, which introduces just the first season episodes. Additionally, individual episodes have served as the basis for articles on this website that explored the following topics:

        In Search of . . . Atlantis


The origins of In Search of . . . date back to 1968 with Erich von Däniken’s bestselling book, Chariots of the Gods?, which attributes some of humanity’s crowning achievements and enduring mysteries, such as Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, to alien influence. The same year, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey is released, and its main plot involves aliens influencing human evolution. 1968 also saw the release of Planet of the Apes, where astronauts return to a dystopic future Earth humans no longer rule. Alan Landsburg, and others, identified a growing sub-current in Western culture and moved to tap into it. A whole new genre in book and film was established and quickly proliferated over the next decade.
 
As man landed on the Moon in 1969, many asked the question whether an alien civilization ever visited earth. This was not entirely an unreasonable question to ask; however, the “aliens must have did it” explanation applied to anything we do not understand has the effect of diminishing the very real achievements of ancient cultures and indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Europe.
 
The compelling documentary film style of In Search of . . . is attributed to Alan Landsburg's long experience as a producer and executive producer on many projects, including The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (1968-1969) and the Time-Life Specials: The March of Time (1965-1966). Particularly in the case of the former, one can definitely see its influence on In Search of . . . .

Prior to the series in 1977, Alan Landsburg produced three hour-long TV specials based on von Däniken’s works, including In Search of Ancient Astronauts and In Search of Ancient Mysteries, both in 1973, and The Outer Space Connection in 1975. All were narrated by Rod Serling, who was also slated to work on the series until his untimely death in 1976. These programs are probably the best of their type ever produced, expertly blending on-location footage, Serling's narration, and an ambient soundtrack. A fourth film, Manbeast! Myth or Monster, released in 1978 at the height of series’ popularity, is less successful. The film investigates creatures like Bigfoot and the Yeti, but the story tends to ramble. Nimoy was not tapped to handle the narration and the person filling in, while certainly professional, lacks the gravitas and connection to Sci-Fi that Nimoy provides. Nevertheless, the film is a good record of the era’s fascination with cryptozoology. Click on the links above to view the films on the Aeolus 13 Umbra ISO YouTube channel.

As would be the case with the series, production teams for the specials went worldwide gathering footage. Film, as opposed to digital video, has a warmth about it, a dreamy effect that provides an almost timeless quality. The soundtrack utilizes ambient music to produce a relaxing, almost meditative space for contemplating the topics at hand.
The series draws upon the production values established in the films, and Leonard Nimoy is a seamless replacement for Serling who nonetheless establishes his own rhythm and pace. Not all the episodes explore fringe paranormal topics; many cover historical or environmental topics with the same focus on accuracy and detail as a National Geographic special. The episodes on Dracula, Inca Treasure, Killer Bees, Michael Rockefeller, Vincent Van Gogh, Pompeii, Tidal Waves, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, and numerous other entries, are excellent short-subject educational films that introduce viewers to little-known subjects. Nevertheless, a review of the complete episode list below provides a tour of 1970's/early 1980s New Age mysticism and pseudoscience.

While I do not subscribe to tales of alien astronauts (as discussed in my article, In Search of . . . Preposterous Explanations), I still have a great love for the series. The combination of the writing, Nimoy's narration, on-location filming, reenactments, and audio production set an industry standard. Over the course of 144 episodes, the show covered a wide range of popular and obscure cultural interests of the 1970s. The typical episode averages a little over 22 minutes — providing just enough time for an overview of the topic and limiting the amount of conjecture, which tends to get repetitive. The program reports, but does not prove or disprove claims. We're introduced to the story, and left to decide for ourselves its veracity. Certainly, however, many episodes do tend to be steeped in unsubstantiated claims.

The music by Laurin Rinder and W. Michael Lewis could have been a mistake, but instead was a boon. The LA-based production team was known at the time for their work in disco, not documentary filmmaking, yet the duo turns in the classic opening theme that immediately identifies the show. The synthesizer and orchestral elements are skillfully used to highlight both the drama and mystery of the series as well as give room for reflection in quieter moments. An LP of the series soundtrack was released in 1977 by AVI Records. The program turned out to be the height of their career, and Rinder & Lewis broke up in 1982 when the series ended.

In Search of . . . still retains an active fanbase. Visual Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in in 2012, which also included the short-lived 2002 series hosted by Mitch Pileggi (of The-X Files) on the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). More recently, the History Channel announced in January 2018 a revival of the show with Zachary Quinto as host, who also replaced Nimoy as Mr. Spock in Star Trek. Nevertheless, the magic of the original series is hard to recreate. Like lightning in a bottle, the series captured the cultural zeitgeist of the times. As we opened up the future, we looked to the past for hints about where we are going as a species. Have there been civilizations lost to history? Are there terrifying creatures we’ve yet to discover? Is there intelligent life on other planets? The answers are out there, and what they reveal about us is still worth going, dare I say, In Search of . . .
Extraterrestrials, Magic and Witchcraft, Missing Persons, Myths and Monsters, Lost Civilizations, Special Phenomena. In Search of . . . cameras are traveling the world, seeking out these great mysteries. This program was the result of the work of scientists, researchers, and highly skilled technicians.     — End Credits Tag for In Search of . . .

In Search of . . . The Complete Episode List

Season 1

Season 2

#

Airdate

Episode Title

#

Airdate

Episode Title

1

4/17/1977

Other Voices

1

12/24/1977

The Lost Dutchman Mine

2

4/24/1977

Strange Visitors

2

12/21/1977

The Man Who Would Not Die

3

4/24/1977

Ancient Aviators

3

1/5/1978

Firewalkers

4

4/27/1977

The Bermuda Triangle

4

1/7/1978

Mayan Mysteries

5

4/28/1977

Bigfoot

5

1/12/1978

Astrology

6

5/1/1977

Killer Bees

6

1/21/1978

Michael Rockefeller

7

5/7/1977

Earthquakes

7

1/26/1978

Hurricanes

8

5/14/1977

The Mummy's Curse

8

1/28/1978

The Ogopogo Monster

9

5/21/1977

Martians

9

2/4/1978

Pyramid Secrets

10

5/22/1977

Atlantis

10

2/9/1978

Dead Sea Scrolls

11

5/26/1977

Psychic Detectives

11

2/11/1978

Reincarnation

12

5/28/1977

A Call from Space

12

2/18/1978

The Shark Worshippers

13

5/28/1977

Learning ESP

13

2/23/1978

Anastasia

14

5/29/1977

Nazi Plunder

14

2/25/1978

The Secrets of Life

15

6/1/1977

Amelia Earhart

15

2/27/1978

Immortality

16

6/8/1977

Dracula

16

3/4/1978

The Swamp Monster

17

6/15/1977

The Easter Island Massacre

17

3/9/1978

Hypnosis

18

6/22/1977

Ghosts

18

3/11/1978

Troy

19

6/29/1977

Life After Death

19

3/18/1978

Witch Doctors

20

7/6/1977

The Loch Ness Monster

20

4/27/1978

Haunted Castles

21

7/13/1977

UFO's

21

5/4/1978

Butch Cassidy

22

7/26/1977

Voodoo

22

5/11/1978

Deadly Ants

23

8/11/1977

Inca Treasures

23

5/18/1978

The Coming Ice Age

24

9/10/1977

The Magic of Stonehenge

24

6/1/1978

The Garden of Eden

 

Season 3

Season 4

#

Airdate

Episode Title

#

Airdate

Episode Title

1

9/14/1978

UFO Captives

1

9/20/1979

Tidal Waves

2

9/21/1978

Tornadoes

2

9/27/1979

Carlos: The Most Wanted Man in the World

3

9/28/1978

Cloning

3

10/4/1979

The Amityville Horror

4

10/05/1978

Water Seekers

4

10/11/1979

UFO Australia

5

10/12/1978

Jack the Ripper

5

10/18/1979

Immortal Sharks

6

10/19/1978

Cryogenics

6

10/25/1979

The Lost Colony of Roanoke

7

10/1/1978

Siberian Fireball

7

11/8/1979

The Shroud of Turin

8

11/2/1978

The Great Lakes Triangle

8

11/15/1979

Mexican Pyramids

9

11/9/1978

Monster Hunters

9

11/22/1979

The Abominable Snowman

10

12/7/1978

The Bermuda Triangle Pirates

10

11/1/1979

Pompeii

11

12/14/1978

Indian Astronomers

11

12/6/1979

D.B. Cooper

12

12/21/1978

Sherlock Holmes

12

12/13/1979

The Ten Commandments

13

12/28/1978

Lost Vikings

13

12/20/1979

The Dark Star

14

1/4/1979

Dreams and Nightmares

14

12/27/1979

The San Andreas Fault

15

1/11/1979

Animal ESP

15

1/3/1980

The Missing Heir

16

1/18/1979

The Money Pit Mystery

16

1/10/1980

Vincent Van Gogh

17

1/25/1979

Psychic Sea Hunt

17

1/17/1980

Wild Children

18

2/1/1979

The Angel of Death

18

1/24/1980

The Ghost Ship

19

2/8/1979

Noah's Flood

19

1/31/1980

Earth Visitors

20

2/15/1979

The Diamond Curse

20

2/07/1980

John the Baptist

21

2/22/1979

Ghostly Stakeout

21

2/14/1980

Air Disaster Predictions

22

3/17/1979

Brain Power

22

2/21/1980

The Bimini Wall

23

5/10/1979

Sodom and Gomorrah

23

3/7/1980

Glenn Miller

24

5/17/1979

King Tut

24

3/14/1980

Past Lives

 

Season 5

Season 6

#

Airdate

Episode Title

#

Airdate

Episode Title

1

9/20/1980

UFO Coverups

1

9/21/1981

Jesse James

2

9/27/1980

Faith Healing

2

9/28/1981

Biofeedback

3

10/4/1980

Lee Harvey Oswald

3

10/5/1981

Ghosts in Photography

4

10/11/1980

Daredevil Death Wish

4

10/12/1981

M.I.A.'s

5

10/18/1980

Life After Life

5

10/19/1981

The Elephant Man

6

10/25/1980

Moon Madness

6

10/26/1981

The Lincoln Conspiracy

7

11/1/1980

Dangerous Volcanoes

7

10/31/1981

Jim Jones

8

11/08/1980

The Lindbergh Kidnapping

8

11/2/1981

King Solomon's Mines

9

11/15/1980

Acupuncture

9

11/9/1981

The Tower of London Murders

10

11/22/1980

Jimmy Hoffa

10

11/16/1981

The Aztec Conquest

11

11/29/1980

Fountain of Youth

11

11/21/1981

Houdini's Secrets

12

12/6/1980

Laugh Therapy

12

11/23/1981

Hiroshima Survivors

13

12/13/1980

Salem Witches

13

11/30/1981

The Titanic

14

12/27/1980

Super Children

14

12/6/1981

Future Life

15

1/10/1981

The Great Wall of China

15

12/13/1981

Nostradamus

16

1/24/1981

The Castle of Secrets

16

12/20/1981

Spirit Voices

17

1/31/1981

Great Lovers

17

1/3/1982

The Human Aura

18

2/7/1981

The Holy Grail

18

1/17/1982

The Missing Link

19

2/14/1981

The Death of Marilyn Monroe

19

1/24/1982

Time & Space Travel

20

2/21/1981

The Chinese Explorers

20

2/1/1982

Eva Braun

21

2/21/1981

The Hindenburg Mystery

21

2/8/1982

The Walls of Jericho

22

4/30/1981

The End of the World

22

2/15/1982

Bishop Pike

23

5/16/1981

The Lusitania

23

2/22/1982

The Ultimate Disaster

24

5/19/1981

Sun Worshippers

24

3/1/1982

Life Before Birth