Some of pop culture’s biggest events are explored in the Smithsonian Channel’s “The Real Story” series, two episodes of which comprise this “Part 1″ DVD release, looking into perhaps the country’s most famous jailbreak and most infamous haunting.
“Escape from Alcatraz” is first, examining how three men busted out of the island prison’s seemingly impregnable walls on June 11, 1962. It’s shown through re-creations of the event and clips from the 1979 Clint Eastwood film. Interviewees debate as to which prisoner was the brains behind the bust-out, and experts test the men’s route to show how many things could have wrong along the way, which is why the trio is presumed dead, as they’ve never been seen or heard from again.
Better is “The Amityville Horror,” dealing with the controversial haunting (or hoax?) of 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, N.Y., following one family’s slaughter there in 1974. The unusual goings-on were dramatized in the 1978 hit horror film, and are pretty much debunked here beyond a shadow of a doubt. Experts do a credible job of explaining everything away, although there is one photo taken in the home that is absolutely chilling. True, it could’ve been faked, but it’s as scary as anything in the film.
Both episodes sport high production values from start to finish. —Rod Lott