Of The Clods…
Long before Giorgio’s ANCIENT ALIENS, just before Leonard Nimoy’s IN SEARCH OF…, there was Erich von Daniken’s jam-packed movie from the compelling 1968 book of the same name, CHARIOTS OF THE GODS.The book Chariots of the Gods? makes the compelling argument that ancient cultures in Earth’s past were visited by astronauts, who were mistaken as gods because of their technological prowess. These astronauts are said to be responsible for many ancient structures that could not have been built without some kind of advanced technology. Like Giorgio’s hair.
This argument was presented with such a bulk of “evidence” – paintings, literature, sculptures, and the structures themselves (the pyramids, Nazca plains, Easter Island, et al) – and with such a surety of hand, that it convinced whole generations of otherwise-sensible humans into believing in “ancient astronauts.” Reading this book as an inquisitive child of the cucumber patch, I was also affected into believing the hype.
Never mind that believing in ancient-astronauts-as-gods negated everything that religions taught. All religions. And since the bulk of the “believers” of ancient astronaut theory were also “believers” in some kind of invisible deity, it made them ALL look like cognitive dissonant donkeys.
So you see the conundrum and the irony: believing in AA means you are effectively denouncing religion – but you’re still religious! How? Because the religious-minded are the exact gullible type susceptible to seduction by AA’s “faith-before-evidence” approach! Now they look doubly stupid!The movie CHARIOTS OF THE GODS is actually more compelling than the modern ANCIENT ALIENS series because of its succinctness. In 90 minutes they must cover the world of the ancients; they state their case, present their evidence and then get the hell outa there to another mysterious location. ANCIENT ALIENS, on the other hand, with their requirement to fill a series with specious speculation, starts jumping the shark around the 12th minute of speculation per topic, when they’ve run out of “reasonable” speculations and desperately turn to Hitler, Leonardo and Julius Caesar all palling around with ancient aliens.
I loved that epic music as a youth (by Peter Thomas), hoping that one day I could write something as sweeping and epic as the opening theme. I like the way they keep repeating the theme on different instruments, from Mayan flutes to electric guitars. That’s the full soundtrack – such a wistful theme that it never gets old. Or should I say ‘ancient’?
CHARIOTS covers absolutely everything that an ancient astronaut aficionado could ever hope to falsely worship: cargo cults, biblical paintings (including the Ark of the Covenant), Machu Picchu (stone laid without mortar, so flush you cannot get a knife between them), Nazca’s “abandoned airstrip” (with its hummingbird, peacock and giant spider, etc.), the African continent, the South American continent and their winged serpents; Teotihuacan (“where the gods reside” – oh, if that’s what it means, it must be true!), Kukulkan (I love that name!), the Pacal Votan “astronaut,” massive stones moved over great distances, temples at Abu Simbel, the Sphinx, Aztec calendars, and of course, the Egyptian pyramids (“The world fears time – but time fears only the pyramids.”) And many more locations and mysteries. Each of these subjects is intriguing and mysterious and enigmatic enough to have whole books and TV specials devoted to them, and von Daniken was canny enough to compile all these disparate mysteries under the persuasive umbrella of ancient astronauts.
CHARIOTS is undeniably entertaining, sometimes chilling and definitely pseudo-scientific: as with any speculation on ancient civilizations, they jump from asking how the ancient people achieved their finished product straight to “Did ancient astronauts provide the technology?” Royt… nothing could possibly be intermediary between an early human using his brain and astronauts in spaceships? Sure about that, Erich? Of course you are…