Book Review

Weanée Kimblewood

David Attenborough:
Life In Cold Blood. The complete series.

Format: PAL
Language: English
Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe.)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
Number of discs: 2
Classification: Exempt
Studio: 2entertain
DVD Release Date: 25 Feb 2008
Run Time: 289 minutes
Price: ca. 33.00 EUR

Life in Cold Blood - Bizarre Beasts

Face to face with dwarf dragons, David Attenborough knows how to enthuse his spectators about zoological peculiarities. Photo: BBC

A British TV legend proves, with never weakening enthusiasm and stunning scenery, that skilfull knowledge transfer hasn’t anything to do with excessive special effects.

With side-blotched lizards, it’s precisely the same as with humans: the gals aren’t interested in those guys that boast the biggest intellect but those who have the biggest pile of stones. The more stones, the more devotees. And if Mr-Super-Stone-Rich-Macho-Lizard is replaced on his pile by a wimpy loser, what happens? Yes! The receptive females fawn over newly-rich Mr Wimpy, while the unexpectedly destitute Ex-Mr-Super-Lizard is out of the game.

That’s life. In addition to the story of the Californian lizards and their warmth-keeping thrones, the BBC nature documentary Life in Cold Blood has a lot more worldly wisdom to offer. In five episodes, we learn about all different kinds of poikilo­thermic, tetrapodic animals (aka reptiles and amphibians) that far outnumber mammals and birds in their colourful variety and extraordinary behaviour – all those weird and wonderful iguanas, snakes, crocodiles, geckos, chameleons, turtles, frogs...

Bizarre protagonists

The documentary’s presenter, David Attenborough, had to invest more than a few drops of sweat to meet his bizarre main characters. To be able to say hello to the armadillo lizard (Cordylus cataphractus) and his grouchy looking family, for example, the broadcaster had to walk for hours through southern African deserts. Doing so, he met with 25 centimetre long midget dragons that grab their tails in their mouths and curl up into a ball. No chance of a chat with them, at all. In fact, the armadillo lizards expose their stout spines and protective scales along their backs to the perturbator in disgust, to protect their soft underbelly from predators (as well as from curious humans such as Attenborough).

Anyone present, who has never heard of David Attenborough? Just imagine a mélange of French marine researcher Jacques-Yves Cousteau and German zoologist Bernhard Grzimek, add your favourite grandpa’s gentleness, 25 kilograms and a good helping of British humour, and hey presto! – You could easily imagine the naturalist standing in front of you (or rather lying, as Attenborough often does lying around like an ancient Roman at lunchtime when watching the strange creatures that appear in his film).

Asked about Attenborough, the Lab Times proofreader, a native Brit, rhapsodized, “Such an unassuming person! And with such an infectious enthusiasm for this passion, for everything extraordinary that moves, grows, whatever! I grew up with his series and it is incredible that he just goes on and on. The guy is amazing.”

Living legend

In the United Kingdom, Attenborough indeed is a living legend. At bookstore signings, hundreds of people queue up patiently, and, for many years, his TV shows have consistently been top topics of the day. Attenborough, who studied geology and zoo­logy and obtained a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge in the early 1950s, has influenced a generation of documentary film-makers with his groundbreaking television series Life on Earth: A Natural History, transmitted in the UK from 1979 onwards and viewed by more than 500 million people. A mesozoic reptile species, Attenborosaurus conybeari, is named in his honour, as well as the oldest known prehistoric animal giving live birth, Materpiscis attenboroughi, and (dedicated on the occasion of his 80th birthday) a species of the carnivorous pitcher plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii.

As a film maker, Attenborough always manages to attract and fascinate his spectators, thanks to his enthusiastic manner and his accessible tone. He’s always close to the animals portrayed, whether it’s a poison-spitting snake or a giant, man-eating croco­dile, and when we watch the huffing, puffing Attenborough in his sweat-soaked shirt in a muggy jungle, we are drawn into his world huffing and puffing as if we were right there with him. Attenborough is simply very down-to-earth. He comes across as sympathetic whilst exuding with the enthusiasm of a child and one cannot help but believe him when he remarks with sparkling eyes in an interview, “Well, it’s wonderful to earn a living in this way.”

Parental advisory label missing

Life in Cold Blood is the last of Attenborough’s famous Life nature documentaries (to call them his “legacy” would be a bit disrespectful, given the flushing vigour that their originator still shows). His team used the latest filming techniques, such as thermal imaging cameras (to demonstrate the creatures’ variable body temperatures) and the radio-tagging of a rattlesnake in order to witness it despatching its prey. However, low-tech equipment, such as a face visor, was also used – in this case for Attenborough’s close encounter with a spitting cobra.

To summarise, this brilliant DVD series is an absolute must for every European who is interested in nature documentaries. However, we missed a Parental Advisory label, given exclusively for the U.S. market, thanks to extremely explicit scenes, including uncensored sex between two king snakes and the bestial murder of an innocent forest mouse by another snaky serpent.

Letzte Änderungen: 29.07.2013