Review: The Life of Mammals

Growing up, I watched a lot of PBS: Nova, Nature, and all sorts of stuff. This was before all of the quasi-educational channels hit their stride on cable television. (I find the History Channel and the Discovery Channel particularly bad, with their low-information-density programs full of fast editing, far too much use of unnecessary–and bad!–computer graphics, and dramatic voiceovers. And is it just me, or does anyone else think that the History Channel is way too fond of bad reenactments, usually involving scowling men in sandals pretending to be Roman soldiers, splashing on foot through streams while invading some dark and foggy land?)

I have particularly fond memories of watching David Attenborough‘s programs. So I was pleased when, looking for some animal documentary footage that might be fun to show my daughter, I came across his series The Life of Mammals. I just watched the first disc (thank you, Netflix!), and all I can say is “Wow.”

It is good stuff. Phenomenally good. The content is fascinating, of course, but what’s even more striking is the presentation. In addition to Attenborough’s avuncular style, there is the best wildlife cinematography I have ever seen. Ever. Take a look at this clip:


(It doesn’t hurt that I have long been interested in sloths. Amazing. Top speed 0.3 km per hour, yet the species has managed to survive.)Now that I think about it, this is some of the best cinematography I have seen period, wildlife or no. Some of the shots are jaw-dropping–for example, a bat flying at nighttime approaches a spider web and, with a skin “pouch” between its feet, delicately scoops up the spider at the web’s center without getting ensnared in the sticky silk.(How do they film something like that? Jan hypothesized that they probably used gobs and gobs of film, with the camera at high speed. He’s probably right. I’m not sure that digital has the clarity that the close-up shots demanded. Or maybe it does–I really don’t know anything about cinematography.)

Disc one goes in the mail tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

Oh–and it gets Sylvia’s stamp of approval, too. She was especially fond of the bats, the giraffes, and the elephants. And the hedgehogs (which are currently among her favorite animals, thanks to this book)–she loved the hedgehogs

4 Responses to “Review: The Life of Mammals”

  1. Katie Jon 21 Jul 2007 at 2:23 pm

    That looks like a great series. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Imperatrixon 22 Jul 2007 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for mentioning this. I think we will need to be Netflixers this coming year (seeing as there isn’t a local rental place as cool as Des Moines’ The Best Place Ever). This will definitely make it to my “To Rent” list.

  3. Pixieon 22 Jul 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Have you seen the FiberTrends pattern for a knitted hedgehog?

  4. Marshaon 22 Jul 2007 at 10:56 pm

    KatieJ: Disc 2 arrives tomorrow or Tuesday, I think. I’ll let you know how I like it.

    Imperatrix: Local rental places are great, but I have to say I really love not having to go to and from a store to manage my videos. Plus there’s the ability to have a list of movies all queued up. My list has a few hundred titles on it now–as soon as I hear about something interesting, I add it to the list. Gone are the days of standing in the video store for half an hour thinking, “I totally can’t remember anything I wanted to see.” (But maybe I’m the only one who has that problem.)

    Pixie: Knitted…hedgehog? HEDGEHOG? [scurries off to google this] Oh my dog, that is awesome. Must. Get. One.