STUDIO: A&E Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
• Bonus Short: Secret Societies
WHO WILL SAVE THE WIDOW’S SON [from crippling boredom]?
This skull’s expression sure is “skull-arious!”
Cast: Michael C. Hall
Director: Pip Gilmour
A two-part series, The History Channel’s Mysteries of The Freemasons is a condensed review of both Masonic folklore and early American Freemasonry. Learn the significance of Masonic symbols, walk alongside the legendary Hiram Abiff, and take part in their strangely erotic rituals. Six Feet Under‘s Michael C. Hall narrates the documentary, which follows the History Channel template of filmed re-enactments alongside multiple talking-head experts.
THIS IS A SECRET SOCIETY WITH CANDLES AND POTIONS AND WAIT WHERE ARE YOU GOING
WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS LEAVE
Thanks, Dan Brown and National Treasure. Thanks for nothing!
Secret society mania might be wheezing its last breath right now, but who says that has to stop basic cable from cashing in? Mysteries is exactly what you might expect, with exasperated, enthusiastic experts weighing in amidst cheap historical re-enactments. Split into two segments, with “The Beginning” chronicling the early (B.C.E. early-early) years of the Freemasons, and “America” taking a slightly more modern approach by focusing in on the founding fathers’ ties to the secret group, the show also looks at the many masonic symbols and icons peppered throughout our currency and landmarks.
Michael C. Hall’s velvety, almost sinister voice is a good fit for the documentary, which paints the Freemasons as an elusive, benign, and influential group of free-thinkers who fled persecution and wound up writing key parts of history. Problem is, almost all of Mysteries‘ experts are active Freemasons themselves, so we don’t really get a balanced view – which might be fine, considering that much like National Treasure, Mysteries is primarily junk entertainment.
Unlike (parts of) National Treasure, Mysteries isn’t very entertaining.
It falls prey to the standard litany of bad History Channel show tendencies. The re-enactments are frightfully cheap, and clips from these segments get repeated over and over again throughout the show. Ancient rituals are filmed in Marlo-Thomas-grade soft focus. It’s a middling, average presentation; even the most ardent Dan Brown worshipper might struggle to make it through both 50-minute segments in one sitting without dozing off. Right now, the Templars are the Lady Gagas of world history: overexposed, and not quite as sexy as they seem.
It’s not a total loss, especially if you’re looking for a light Freemasonry intro, but it’s hard to recommend this to anyone else. Highlights include a ten-minute segment detailing the pyramid and eye on the back of the dollar bill, and a rundown of all the popular Masonic rituals. Hint: even the Freemasons don’t know what the rituals mean.
In the end, it isn’t unwatchable, but there’s really nothing remarkable about it. If you’re a Freemason and have seen this documentary, weigh in on the boards – we’d love to hear your take on this documentary.
The transfer is poor, even for SD, and the audio doesn’t fare much better. Everything about this release screams cash-in.
The cover reeks of blandness, but at least there’s a short documentary on other secret societies to make you feel like your $15 wasn’t too ill-spent.
In conclusion: Arcturus, Spica, and Regulus.
5 out of 10