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STUDIO: HBO Video
RUNNING TIME: 120 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
The “original” autopsy show before Jerry Bruckheimer made forensic science cool with C.S.I. and a million autopsy shows debuted on Court TV.
Dr. Michael Baden and his forensic pathologist colleagues.
Way back in the day when HBO existed primarily to show Airheads and Troll 2 on endless loop, they weren’t exactly known for producing fantastic television shows like they are today. In fact, their original programming pretty much consisted of the Crypt Keeper trotting out some gruesome tale starring a B-list actor and Brian Benben groping a new actress each week on Dream On.
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The one thing that HBO was great at producing in this period was documentaries, many of which were released under the banner of their America Undercover series. These shows focuses on numerous subjects such as prostitution, drugs, gangs, handguns, and in this case, autopsies. With forensic science programming being as hot a commodity as true crime shows can be, HBO has seen fit to release the two America Undercover shows that focused on forensic science on DVD.
A show that deals with pathologists studying bare bones gets a fitting bare bones release on DVD. Both specials are simply slapped onto the disc with chapter stops being the only extra attention given to them. The DVD comes in a case with a lame stock photo of Dr. Michael Baden hovering over a fake body that won’t distinguish it from all the other lame budget DVDs that cover the same topics. The disc also comes with a chapter insert.
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Not much effort was given on this halfhearted cash-in DVD, especially when it comes to the video transfer. Some of the bad video is justified like footage taken with early camcorders or security camera footage. However, artifacts plague the portions of the shows that should be clear. A real lazy effort from HBO Video. On the other hand, it’s one of the few HBO DVDs that doesn’t require you to take out a second mortgage on your house in order to purchase it.
The Autopsy Files may have been one of the first shows to deal with forensic science, but that doesn’t make it the best. This type of show has been done so many times by various television channels a million times over by now. In fact, many of these cases have probably been revisited by these shows and in much greater detail than in these short programs. Some of the cases barely get more than three minutes and are brushed over quickly without telling the audience whether or not the case was solved.
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The fact that The Autopsy Files is an old show does make it interesting in one respect. The forensic scientists interviewed in these programs recount cases from in the 1970s and ‘80s, when forensic scientists did not have as many tools at their disposal. It is interesting to take a look back at how these pathologists managed to piece together the puzzles without the aid of DNA testing and high tech computer programs.
The Autopsy Files is a look back at old techniques of pathologists that might be appealing to true crime addicts if they haven’t seen this stuff before on television or read any of the thousands of books released about it. If anything, hopefully this release will lead to more of the America Undercover specials coming to DVD. Maybe HBO will release the ones about prostitution on DVD if Bruckheimer can get CBS to do a show about hookers. Here’s hoping.
HBO would later release the Autopsy 2: Renegade Cut and remove all mentions of Dr. Michael Baden coming from the planet Zeist.