'Sanctuary' a super series (for newbies) from SyFy
By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor
Two quite diverse home video offerings are in this week's DVD column.
How Bruce Lee Changed the World
I'm sure many people reading this title will snort a bit. After all, how could a martial arts artist and actor who made one television series, a handful of appearances on other programs and just four movies manage to change the world?
This documentary from the History Channel answers that question and I'm sure even the naysayers will have to think twice once they see this 94-minute film.
While I'm a fan, I didn't realize Lee's impact on popular culture until I saw this program.
Bruce Lee died at age 32 just before the release of his biggest film, "Enter the Dragon." The success of that film and the success of his three Chinese-made features actually did do much to change American culture.
Lee's films advanced the popularity of martial arts and are credited as the inspiration for the present sport of mixed martial arts. His roles on screen were groundbreaking in this country where Asians were seldom if ever seen as assertive heroes. The success of his films actually set the stage for the later popularity of cinema from Hong Kong in 1990s.
The show tends to jump around a little bit and doesn't provide a very chronological view of Lee's life. The production comes with a mini-biography of Lee, which I would recommend watching before you view the show.
This is fascinating viewing for anyone interested in the development of popular culture.
Sanctuary Season One
The rule of thumb is the SyFy Channel (formerly the SciFi Channel) produces terrible movies -- does every one of them feature a giant snake? -- and interesting series. "Sanctuary" is a new series and it does have a great premise: there are indeed undiscovered species and unusual beings in the world and they need protection from the world -- and sometimes the world needs protection from them.
Enter the Sanctuary, a worldwide series of safe places for these animals and people, operated by the enigmatic Dr. Helen Magnus. She is part mother hen, part cryptozoologist and all around mystery woman. She is apparently 157 years old and was engaged to Jack the Ripper!
We pick up the story when a young forensic psychologist, Dr. Will Zimmerman, comes to work with Magnus and her monster-hunting daughter Ashley. Each episode is about the interaction between the crew and an "abnormal." I had high hopes for the show, but after four episodes, I noticed a disturbing trend.
One show was about humans who can fold themselves so they can fit into small spaces, something that was awfully close to an early episode of the "X-Files." Another show was actually pretty suspenseful as Helen and Will were trapped in a crashed plane with a snow beast from the Himalayas who could project images into their minds.
The trouble with that show is that was a central premise in the 1957 film "The Abominable Snowman" (which is well worth your time if you catch it on Turner Classics.)
I'll watch the rest of the episodes, but as well-produced as they are -- handsome productions, especially for television -- I'm a little disappointed with the plot points I saw repeated from earlier shows and movies.
Perhaps "Sanctuary" is best viewed without knowledge of fantasy and horror acquired over the last 40 years.