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Koch Vision presents
Secrets of Angels, Demons & Masons (2005)

"The Illuminati is one of the most fascinating and real secret societies of all time. It's mysterious beginnings have tentacles that seem to spread into today's world. Did they really exist, or is this another Dan Brown invention?"
- narrator John Cullum

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 02, 2005

Stars: John Cullum, Dan Burstein, Dr. Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, George Lechner, Dr. Amy Bernstein, James Wasserman, Dr. Michael Barkum, Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson, Greg Tobin, Stephen Bullock, Akram Elias
Director: Rob Fruchtman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:36m:02s
Release Date: October 04, 2005
UPC: 741952634195
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I missed the memo that said novelists had to be 100-percent historically accurate at all times, because the underlying premise of Dan Burstein's two-part documentary, Angels, Demons & Masons is that best-selling author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons) has fudged fact in favor of, well, action-packed storytelling.

But seeing that I love talk about conspiracies (real or possibly imagined) and that I had devoured Brown's first two books like so much empty calorie goodness, the discussion on this release from Koch Vision—based on the book by Burstein and Arne de Keijzer—about the Illuminati, Da Vinci, popes, masons, America's founding fathers, the New World Order and their place in Brown's universe seemed to beg to fill a void in my generally paranoid mind.

The fact that Brown is featured nowhere on this disc guarantees a fairly one-sided whupping of his major plot points about the inner workings of the secret group, The Illuminati, scandals inside the Vatican and the alleged secrets supposedly left by Baroque artist Bernini all around Rome during the heyday of the war between science and religion, as such brilliant minds as Galileo struggled against the strong-arm power of the Church. Each of the two segments runs about 45 minutes, with the first primarily covering Brown's novel Angels & Demons, and if you haven't read it, I believe it would probably be beneficial to have done so before watching this, because the chatter here assumes you already know the basics, despite a quick synopsis that falls a little short.

While the novel is a fun read, the assortment of brainy types here want to deconstruct Brown's fictionalized Rome—with its secret messages hidden in centuries-old artwork—as if he had written a thesis paper. To their credit, they do seem to disprove some elements, and point out where facts were blurred a little to make the story more compelling. But that all comes across as weirdly petty, and it's like treating Star Wars as a documentary about space travel. The only one who seems to get that Brown is a novelist is astrophysicist Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson, who is reluctant to find fault with the realism of a piece of escapist fiction.

The second segment looks at the Freemasons and what role they may or may not have had in forming the Unites States during the Revolution, and the backgrounds of folks like George Washington and Ben Franklin get trotted out, as the academics talk of allegorical symbolism and whether or not the city of Washington D.C. was laid out according to some ancient Mason secret. I've always been a little fuzzy on what the Masons are all about, and there is some straightforward history here about the origins that cut to the chase. The level of conspiracy talk in this second part is toned somewhat, though there is some good dirt on the Vatican Bank scandal of the early 1980s.

If talk of "scholarship and skullduggery" and "astonishing betrayal and intrigue" whets your whistle and you've read Dan Brown's novels, you will probably find some interesting info here, that is, if you discount some of the overly serious analysis of a fiction author's use of antimatter as an explosive.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both installments are presented in 1.33:1, with a soft "television documentary" color palette in place much of the time. The quality of the interview segments varies slightly (a couple seemed noticeably grainy than others), but the overall look falls within acceptable limits. No major instances of dirt or debris to be found, either.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track is very clean and presentable, though simple, delivering a pleasing bottom end to narrator John Cullum's boomy voiceover work. The rest of the interview subjects are clear and audible, with a moderately broad musical score that sometimes gives the effect of a more discrete mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Donkey Skin, The Five Obstructions, The Lina Wertmuller Collection
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras consist of one making-of feature (20m:24s) broken down into the following four sections: The Dan Brown Phenomenon, God, Religion, Conspiracy, Fact or Fiction? and Behind the Scenes. It consists of nearly all the interview subjects from the two main documentaries talking yet more about Dan Brown and what he got right and wrong in his works of fiction. No new revelations here.

A short automated Photo Gallery (02m:05s) and a couple of Kock Vision trailers are also included. The disc is cut into 24 chapters.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A bunch of academics spend 90-plus minutes gently pistol whipping bestselling fiction author Dan Brown about the accuracy of some of his plot points, but underneath the kind sniping are hints of potential conspiracies involving popes, the Vatican and those darn Freemasons.

Not as hard hitting as it should have been, but fun stuff regardless.


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