In Search of Noah’s Ark (1976)

In case you haven’t realized this week, I’m kind of enamored of Sunn Classics documentaries. Yes, those wacky folks from Utah used their computers to learn exactly what kind of movies that American families wanted to see and the answer was this movie.

Based on the book by David Balsiger, Sunn made this one cheap and quick in Park City Utah. The main point of all of this is that Noah’s Ark has been found on Turkey’s Mount Ararat, yet physical and political challenges have kept mankind from studying the ark any further.

Sunn’s magic worked. This movie was the number nine movie for all of 1976, which is pretty amazing when you consider that the studio often four-walled theaters and didn’t play multiple screens like the other movies on the list like RockyThe OmenKing Kong and Silver Streak. Sunn made this movie for next to nothing and it grossed $55 million in the U.S.

Just hearing the voice of Brad Crandall, who also was the smooth talker behind Sunn’s Beyond and BackThe Lincoln Conspiracy and The Bermuda Triangle, makes me feel so calm and happy in a world that is quite frankly going to pieces. These movies are my safest of spaces, so I don’t even call them out Henry Silva style when they make crazy claims that can’t even hope to be backed up with things like evidence and actual truth.

Vern Adix, who plays Noah in this, was also Plato in Beyond and Back, which is a pretty good one-two IMDB role combo, right?

Somehow, the makeup man for this movie was Don Shanks, the man who would one day be Michael Myers. Man, that Utah film world keeps on rewarding me with trivia, huh?

As for director James L. Conway, who is still working today, he also directed several of Sunn’s efforts, including The BoogensHangar 18 and the one Sunn film that eludes my grasp, 1981’s The President Must Die.

Seventeen years later, Sunn — now Sun International Pictures — made an updated version of this called The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark for CBS. Hosted by Darren McGavin, the special featured interviews with experts and plenty of speculation on the findings of George Jammal, who had what he called “sacred wood from the ark.” Jammal’s story of the dramatic mountain expedition which took the life of his Polish friend Vladimir was, as Felix said above, BS.

The truth is that Jammal and scholar Gerald Larue took some railroad tracks and cooked them up in an oven with some blueberry and almond wine, sweet and sour barbecue sauce, iodine and teriyaki sauce, then claimed that the wood came straight from the boat that survived the Great Flood.

Larue was a scholar of religion and professor emeritus of gerontology at University of Southern California. A former ordained minister who became an agnostic, he was also an archaeologist who took part in biblical digs in Egypt and Israel, as well as a debunker of biblical stories and accounts of miracles.

After the show aired, Larue exposed the hoax and his role in it to Time magazine. Sun International Pictures argued that it was a secular humanist plot to discredit Jammal, saying that it was “sad and unfortunate that Dr. Larue, a distinguished USC professor, would victimize Mr. Jammal and his family to execute a third-party hoax in which he was the primary benefactor.”

Again, the truth was that Jammal had hoaxed Sun International Pictures and the Institute for Creation Research for around seven years. They missed the clues that he left behind, which are frankly obvious. His dead friend Vladmir’s last name was Sobitchsky and he was joined on his expedition by Mr. Asholian and a man named Allis Buls Hitian.

They could have also carbon dated the wood — I mean, they discuss the process at length as they talk about the Shroud of Turn during In Search of Historic Jesus — but they went with their gut.

You can watch this on the Internet Archive.

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