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Case Number 26061: Small Claims Court

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Secrets of the Dead: Ultimate Tut

PBS // 2013 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // August 4th, 2013

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All Rise...

Judge Dawn Hunt orders the Ultimate Hut pizza with extra Jabba sauce.

The Charge

Come along as we explore the myths and truths surrounding Egypt's most famous ruler.

The Case

A special double episode of the PBS show Secrets of the Dead, Ultimate Tut deals with some of the questions which still linger nearly a century after the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. Who was Pharaoh Tutankhamun? How did he die? Why was his tomb left virtually intact when so many others have been pillaged?

Chris Naunton, Director at The Egypt Exploration Society, leads us on a global hunt for answers about Egypt's most famous Pharaoh. In 1922 Howard Carter ended a years-long excavation of The Valley of the Kings, an area long thought to have been fully plundered of all its wealth, with the greatest archaeological discovery of the time. He found the final resting place of Tutankhamun, Pharaoh of Egypt, and the world was swept up in the story. To this day, Tutankhamun remains the most well-known of any of Egypt's centuries of rulers.

But after Howard's death his copious notes on the excavation were simply boxed up and it's not until now, decades later, that they're being perused. Naunton has a clear fascination with King Tut and it's this passion which drives the piece and hooks the viewer. I really appreciate how each of the main questions of the story has their own journey to follow. PBS has done a good job fleshing out the quests with CGI, re-enactments and interview segments. Nothing is dry and boring; instead we are being shown history, as opposed to merely hearing a recitation.

Ultimate Tut is very well paced. Though it approaches two hours in length, time flies due to the intricacy of the answers sought. By the time the show ends, we have learned new facts about The Boy King and his rule. It's an extremely good example of utilizing entertainment in educational programming.

The 1.33:1 full frame transfer lends itself well to the educational nature of Ultimate Tut, as every corner of the screen becomes a focal point instead of merely a frame. The quality only betrays slight variances as care was taken to homogenize the interview segments with the re-enactments and the CGI. The CGI is the crispest with well-saturated blacks and intense colors while the interviews are a bit light at times but never to the point of distraction. The audio has more than one option to choose from, always a plus. In this case we have Dolby 2.0 which is serviceable and without errors, and we also have a Descriptive Audio channel which is intended for the visually impaired. The latter is actually interesting to listen to in order to compare what you hear with what you see. There are no bonus features.

The Ultimate Tut is an easy recommend. PBS continues to excel in the area of educational programming blended with entertainment. This is especially worth seeking out, if you're a fan of Pharaoh Tutankhamun and haven't re-visited his story recently.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Foreign
• Historical
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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