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CHARIOTS OF THE GODS (1970)

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CHARIOTS OF THE GODS (1970)

Thursday, 28 March 2013 20:03

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Written by 

The Buzz:

When did fringe elements of society suddenly become important to the general public consciousness? We all vaguely remember when the History Channel actually taught us about history instead of chronicling new developments in Bigfoot-hunting, and before the Honey Booboo era sapped the last drop of meaning from TLC's initialism. These days, the freaks, the kooks, and the crackpot conspiracy theorists have taken over the mainstream to such a degree that thousands of people showed up in New Orleans on Mayan Apocalypse Day to party with Giorgio Tsoukalos. Most people just know him as "that guy with the hair."

 

 

The coiffure that launched a thousand memes.

Why do I get into this? Because back in the long-lost ages of the 1960s and 70s, there was a time when fringe theories about ancient aliens were brand new, and the revelations of theorist Erich von Däniken, author of Chariots of the Gods?, were actually revelatory, rather than constantly re-hashed by cable TV talking heads. Though these original theories have been widely debunked by pretty much everyone, there's still a nostalgic charm in seeing them presented for the first time in the 1970 German documentary version, which was credible enough at the time to be nominated for an Academy Award - not bad for something that was often double-billed with children's movies down at the drive-in.

 

 

Life of the Party (Positives):

The first thing you'll notice watching a documentary from 1970 is the degree to which documentary filmmaking has changed in forty years. Gone are the flashy intros and transitions (or any transitions at all, really), interview segments, and shaky camera work we're now accustomed to. Instead, the movie consists almost entirely of steady-voiced narration over long shots of artifacts and cave-paintings, and on-location footage of mysterious ancient locations like Egyptian pyramids, Aztec temples, and the shores of Easter Island. Occasionally the camera pans a bit, and sometimes there's music. This sounds incredibly boring, but the quiet simplicity of the production keeps the overall mood very relaxed and stately, which makes watching this movie feel like strolling through an old museum. Chariots of the Gods has a lot of nostalgic charm, aside from the novelty of seeing weird archaeological theories the way they were first presented.

Since this was initially a German production, the soundtrack is almost completely replaced for English-speaking audiences, including the music and narration. The themesong is a proto-electronic tune that kept reminding me of the Krull soundtrack, and it lends a little magic to long shots of sweeping scenery. The narration is good, though since it was translated a bit haphazardly from German to English, there are a few quirky lines that will give you a chuckle, such as when a buffalo skull is displayed and the narrator asserts that "the creature was alive when killed." You kinda have to wonder how the guy in the recording booth didn’t ask about that one...

 

Potential Hangovers (Negatives):

Well, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s been forty-plus years since these theories came out, and the general scientific community has pretty thoroughly discounted the idea that extraterrestrial influence was needed for ancient humanity to achieve its wonders of science and architecture. You’re not going to actually learn anything of value from watching this documentary, but the whole concept is an unnecessary novelty at best, anyway, even if it were more generally accepted. The topics and information covered in this movie fall squarely into the “not important, but interesting” category, so don’t expect to hear anything life-changing, or even anything you haven’t heard many times before. Any value of this film today comes not from what they say, but the way they say it.

 

The Vibe - Solo Experience, Lazy Afternoon:

If you’re nostalgic for old-school educational programs in the vein of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World and other ‘90s Discovery Channel offerings, then you’ll find something to enjoy in this movie. It isn’t riveting or revolutionary in format or thesis, but it’s pleasant viewing for several reasons. At the very least, this is a great movie to stream while you’re half-busy doing something else, like cleaning the living room, knitting, or just nursing a Bloody Mary on a stress-free Sunday.

 

+ Ideas of mild interest, with a mild presentation that evokes a classy old museum

+ Nostalgic charm of an older filming style, plus bonus quirky translation!

- You've probably heard all this many times before

- There's literally nothing exciting about this film

 

Length: 92min

Read 1740 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 15:28

About Us

Tanked Matinee is the place to go for good drinking movies. What do we mean by that? Simply speaking, we evaluate and recommend entertainment media based on how much fun it is to watch with friends on the sofa and a cold beer in hand.

Everyone knows "The Godfather" is a great movie, but is it as great to drink with as "Roadhouse?" We can appreciate "Citizen Kane" as a masterpiece of cinema, but is it as good a centerpiece for your party as "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians?"

Tanked Matinee appreciates film as art, but when you're kicking back on Friday night with a tall Rum & Coke, you're not looking for art, man, you want to be entertained. We're here to recommend the best movies for your night in, whether it's a big party, small get-together, or just a quiet night alone with a bottle of wine or three.

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