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Review: DVD release – Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers

Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers - DVD coverIn 1985, Yorkshire TV aired the 13-part series Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers, in which apparent instances of supernatural powers were documented and investigated. The entire series has now been released on DVD in the UK (RRP £19.99) courtesy of Network Distributing.

Each 25-minute episode follows a similar format: Arthur C. Clarke himself gives a brief introduction to the topic of the week, then film footage (narrated by Anna Ford) and interviews with witnesses/sceptics/believers are shown. Clarke appears on screen again at irregular intervals, demonstrating his “open-minded scepticism” with questions to keep the audience grounded.

The topics range from ghosts, reincarnation and prophesy to dowsing, fairies and telepathy – anything and everything that could be described as ‘paranormal’ is investigated. Interviewees include James Randi, spoon-bender Uri Geller, and Titanic survivor Eva Hart

The compelling stories, the really thought-provoking ones, are those where someone other than immediate family – especially people in authority – bear witness. There’s the airline executive who was phoned the day before an aircrash by a man who described in exact detail what would happen; or the police chief whose force solved five murders – but couldn’t crack the mystery of the breaking windows in a Birmingham suburb. Then there are the first-hand accounts from people who appear to have been genuinely scared by what they felt, foresaw or witnessed. They seem to be convinced that they experienced something ‘above and beyond’ normality – but perhaps they imagined it? Or made it up? Or were mistaken? Or the whole thing was just a huge co-incidence?

In each case, Arthur C. Clarke wants scientific proof, and the second part of each episode is devoted to examining the hard evidence – which is often extremely thin. The programmes’ present logical explanations for some phenomena, and some of the examples shown are proved to be fraudulent– but others are not so easy to explain, even when scientists apply experimentation and rationality. Some of the events shown are still a mystery – the Birmingham poltergeist, for example, has never been explained, though many of those involved now believe that vandals, rather than anything supernatural, were to blame. Other examples, such as the Cottingley fairy photographs which once fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, show how simple it can be to produce a convincing hoax.

The final episode ‘The Verdict’ sums up everything seen in the series, with Clarke (always introduced as “A visionary who ponders the mysteries of this and other worlds”) giving a guided tour to the customs and superstitions in Sri Lanka (where he resided) before using a ‘state of the art’ 1985 computer to help assess each phenomenon.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, it’s a fascinating series, and a great companion-piece to 1980’s Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers  
RRP: £19.99
No. of Discs:  2
Screen Ratio:  1.33:1
Catalogue no.  7954383
Running Time: 325 mins (approx.)

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