History Channel // 2006 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // September 12th, 2009
Plotting to take over the world!
Hey, did you know that bestselling author Dan Brown, writer of The DaVinci Code, has a new book coming out on September 15 about the mysteries of the Freemasons? Well, History Channel does! Hey, look at that! Mysteries of the Freemasons, a documentary about mysteries of the Freemasons, released on September 15! What an unexpected and totally unrelated coincidence!
A synopsis: Mysteries of the Freemasons features interviews from historians and authors, Freemasons and speculators discussing the origins of the fraternal Freemasons, their secret rituals, and their historic influence into events of human history. Dramatic reenactments and original location documentary footage attempt to piece together some of the more enigmatic elements of Freemason belief as well as their accused participation in revolution, devil worshipping, and world control.
For your reading pleasure, a sample of the script from Mysteries of the Freemasons:
(cue dramatic music)
Narrator: "The mysteries of the Freemasons stretches back thousands of years. Many people accuse the SECRET organization of keeping SECRETS, of worshipping the DEVIL, of PLOTTING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD."
Freemason Interviewee: "Yes, many people accuse us of that. We're not exactly sure why. I guess it's because we're a secret organization that people think we're dangerous, or something? We're really very nice! We get together and -- "
Narrator: "A SECRET ORGANIZATION whose numerous DARK SECRETS are found at every level of American society...even the GOVERNMENT."
(cue historical re-creation of Boston Tea Party)
Bostonite: "I'm throwing TEA into the WATER and I'm a FREEMASON!"
(cue dramatic music)
Narrator: "The Freemasons threw tea into the water. What were they trying to hide?"
Freemason Interviewee: "Oh, tea? Yes please. I'd love a cup."
Narrator: "Some people accuse the Freemasons of being associated to the Illuminati, a SECRET organization PLOTTING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD."
Freemason Interviewee: "The...who? The bad guys in that one Dan Brown novel? Seriously? I thought those guys vanished in the eighteenth century."
Narrator: "Some people accuse the Freemasons of being associated to the Knights Templar, a SECRET organization PLOTTING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD."
Freemason Interviewee: "Wait, hold on a second. We never said that. That doesn't even make sense."
Historical Scholar with Smart-Looking Library Backdrop: "Yes, this makes total sense."
Freemason Interviewee: "What?"
(cue dramatic music)
Hope you found that informative and full of truth facts, because I kid you not: Mysteries of the Freemasons may be the most pointless and nonsensical documentary the History Channel has ever produced. I've seen a lot of them -- I have a soft spot for overdramatic narration -- but this takes the cake. It takes the cake, then accuses the cake of being part of a secret organization plotting to take over the world, then quickly changes the subject. How a series can spend 90 minutes on a single subject, talk endlessly the entire time, and not say a single thing of value is beyond me.
Composed entirely of conjecture and speculation, Mysteries of the Freemasons is the ultimate narrative con. A documentary that attempts and fails to find answers to its premise would be one thing, but this one doesn't even try. Instead of shining an investigative light into the shadows of a secret organization, it turns around and blasts it directly into the audience's faces, leaving us dazed and disoriented and partially blind. This is 90 minutes of lip service about nothing -- repeating statements, regurgitation of accusations without fact, dramatic recreations of non-events, hyperbole, and contradiction. For every interviewee who says one thing, the next vehemently disagrees -- and on and on this goes.
Freemasons are admittedly interesting, and this documentary certainly looks interesting by association, at least at first glance. I don't know a lot about Freemasons, and since I am not one, this is probably by design; it is, after all, a secret organization. Alas, after watching this documentary, not only have I learned nothing about Freemasons, but information I had in my brain has been forever corrupted, like a magnet sweeping over a computer hard drive. What a waste of time.
Even the technical specs suggest Mysteries of the Freemasons was rushed out the door, offering up a letterbox transfer -- seriously, who does those anymore? Colors are balanced but often washed out during the "dramatic re-creations" with a clean image free from distortion or compression artifacts. It would be a nice looking picture, were it not letterboxed horribly. Watching this on a widescreen television is an exercise in torture. The audio is a simple stereo presentation that features clear dialogue and an overly dramatic score that sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock film, suggesting dread and doom at every turn.
Extras include a second feature, "Secret Societies," a 40-minute documentary that covers much of the same material, focusing on (you guessed it) secret societies like Skull & Bones, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, and, of course, the Freemasons. In many ways, it's actually preferable to the main feature; it is full of far less in the way of ominous time-wasting statements that go nowhere.
Is this a DVD cash grab? You better believe it. History Channel loves to release these timed releases to coincide with popular culture events like book launches, television shows, or movie premieres. Heck, Dan Brown's upcoming novel is actually mentioned in the documentary. You can't get any more blatant than that.
A confusing and uninformative documentary, Mysteries of the Freemansons is all smoke and mirrors. Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode