PBS // 2011 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // June 25th, 2011
How does this movie title grab ya? Percy Fawcett and the Lost City of Z. I think I've got Shia LaBeouf to play Jack "mongrel" Fawcett.
It's time for another episode of Secrets of the Dead, the show with the hilariously bad opening credits followed by an excellent documentary dealing with history and archeology.
This episode deals with a man who could put Indiana Jones in his place, the adventurer and archeologist Percy Fawcett. The documentary gives us an overview of his life. Born in 1867, he started down the road to adventure as part of the Royal Artillery. He eventually joined the Royal Geographic Society, where he learned surveying and mapmaking. This led to a life of journeying to exotic and untamed lands and making excellent maps of his surroundings. Fawcett even became friends with Arthur Conan Doyle and was probably the inspiration for Professor Challenger of The Lost World fame.
In 1906 Fawcett was sent to Brazil to map the jungle borders between Brazil and Boliva, and it is here he found a land to connected with. He became obsessed with finding the fabled lost city deep in the Amazon: the one that inspired the legend of El Dorado. He called this lost city "Z" and was determined to be the first modern man to discover it.
In 1925, he pooled together enough clues and funds to mount an expedition into the Amazon. Accompanying him was his son Jack and Jack's good friend Raleigh Rimell. Their journey sparked headlines around the world, and the newspapers of the day were keeping readers riveted with correspondence from Fawcett.
On May 29th the last communication from Fawcett and his team arrived. They were about to dive into the true uncharted wilderness and make the final push to the suspected location of "Z." From that day forward no one heard from either of the Fawcetts or Rimell again. Over the years expeditions have been sent into the Amazon to find any evidence of the lost Fawcetts. Some bits of equipment the team used have turned up, but no one knows the truth behind this famous explorer's final journey.
That's where Secrets of the Dead: Lost in the Amazon comes in. After delivering all the facts about Fawcett and his life, the series delves into the reason behind his determination to find the city "Z" and what evidence he discovered that convinced him of its possible location.
The show also enlists the help of Niall McCann, an adventurous young man who's done some serious exploring of his own. He gathers up as much evidence as he can about Fawcett's last known location and decides to see what he can uncover in the jungles of Brazil. Tied to this is the search for the lost city that may have inspired the stories of "Z" and El Dorado.
The documentary uses a combination of location footage, reenactments, archival photos and interviews to explore Fawcett's mysterious disappearance. It moves at a good pace and keeps you watching until the final revelation.
PBS gives the show another average release. The widescreen image shows off the location footage of the Amazon very nicely. The stereo sound is clear, but I did notice some dipping of the volume at times. Still no extras on these documentaries. I would have loved some additional interviews or a bit more about some of the evidence found by Fawcett that made him so certain of the existence of "Z."
This is an entertaining and enlightening documentary. Anyone with an interest in explorers and archeology should check it out.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated