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The Life of Mammals, Vol. 1
The Life of Mammals Vol 1
Actor: David Attenborough
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2003     2hr 30min


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Movie Details

Actor: David Attenborough
Creators: Michael deGruy, Paul Atkins
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Television, Educational, Documentary
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/13/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Outstanding natural history programming at its best
Tim F. Martin | Madison, AL United States | 03/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Volume One of _The Life of Mammals_, hosted by David Attenborough, contained the first three episodes of this truly excellent BBC series.

_A Winning Design_ opened with a general overview of the series, a beautiful montage of the rich variety of mammals that are present in the world and that will be covered later. Also in the general opening segment was Attenborough on location in the frozen Arctic observing an Arctic fox at work. This was the first of many such segments of Attenborough on location with the animals he discussed in the series, generally not too obtrusive as he discussed at a distance various animals, not picking them up or handling them as they often do in other series.

The bulk of _A Winning Design_ focused on the monotremes (egg-laying mammals) and the marsupials, featuring beautiful, high quality footage of a variety of animals, always filmed in their natural habitat. Several minutes were spent on the echidna as well as on the platypus, with wonderful film of it hunting for prey underwater. The viewer is also treated to footage of life inside the platypus's burrow and of its young.

After a segment on some of the fossil life of Australia (focusing on the Riversleigh fauna and using CGI), the viewer is treated to a variety of marsupials. One sees a kangaroo giving birth, koalas, wombats (shown foraging in the snow in the mountains of Australia), numbats (with astonishingly long tongues), pygmy opossums, and striped possums. Then one sees more footage of kangaroos, of red kangaroos in the desert, rock wallabies, and gray kangaroos in the grassland. The show then switched focus to South America, home to the yapok or water opossum, shown with a special camera foraging in the complete darkness of its riverside home. It is the only aquatic marsupial in the world, though most South American marsupials are arboreal (such as the woolly opossum, which was shown) and in some areas are the most abundant treetop mammal in South America.

This episode closed with some notes on what are placental mammals, what makes them different from marsupials, and notes that most of the mammals in the world are placental.

_Insect Hunters_ as one might guess dealt with those animals who consume insects. Attenborough in the opening segment noted that the first mammals to evolve, back in the time of the dinosaurs, were likely insect eaters. He spent several moments discussing the demands of such a lifestyle, noting the high metabolic requirements of such animals as the shrew, which is shown foraging, fighting over territory, and in some truly remarkable footage a female leading her young out for food, one youngster holding on to her fur at her backside with his teeth, the next one doing the same, and so forth, looking like a big furry train snaking its way through the forest floor litter.

Next one sees the water shrew, the golden mole (which swims through the sand of the Namib desert), the star-nosed mole, and the elephant shrew, a remarkable animal that darts along cleared out trails at high speed, a fastidious animal that cannot afford to trip over unwanted debris in it is little roads. Next animals shown are the hedgehog (in Attenborough's own London garden, filmed while mating), the armadillo, the pangolin (which I was surprised to learn is essentially a biped, its front clawed feet useless for walking), and the giant anteater, an animal due to its not very nutritious diet sleeps 15 hours a day to conserve energy, covered by its great bushy tail.

After a segment on the 50 million year old Messel fauna of Germany, which included fossils of a tree anteater, a pangolin, and a bat, Attenborough used that as a segue way into the rest of the program, which focused on bats. Many aspects of bat biology were discussed, including hibernation (with some excellent thermal imaging of bats at rest and stirring in a cave in Canada) and echolocation (with coverage of the continual conflict between insects and bats in the night skies, with countermeasures and counter-countermeasures). I liked the radar imagery of the massive clouds of bats rising into the night from Carlsbad Cavern, looking like storm front as they rose. The last segment was on a bat species in New Zealand, one that forages on the forest floor like its shrew-like ancestors, hunting in squabbling packs as they tackled giant flightless crickets and other prey.

_Plant Predators_ dealt with herbivores, animals that preyed upon plants. Attenborough stressed that plants are hardly defenseless, as many of them are barely edible, low in nutrition, posses sharp spines, and can be quite poisonous. Just because they don't move doesn't make them easy prey.

After a brief segment on the African elephant, the show covered the sloth, the tapir (shown with nighttime cameras eating clay alongside a river to combat the poisons from the leaves it ingested), and the pika, a mammal that basically creates hay to feed on in the long winter months. Next elephants are revisited, which along with other mammals are shown going underground in pitch darkness to eat salt-laden soil in a cave in Africa.

As one might expect much of the show focused on Africa. After showing how ruminants function, ones learns about animal migrations (both African and caribou migrations in North America), and the hierarchy of predators on acacia trees, with different animals feeding at different levels, ranging from tiny antelope feeding on the lowest branches to giraffes and elephants (the latter shown knocking down whole trees). Much attention is spent on mating rituals and the varieties, styles, and uses of horns and antlers. There was truly amazing footage of males battling it out as well as herbivores avoiding beaten eaten. The nimbleness of antelope being chased was astounding, though equally surprising was the downside of not having good forward vision (one antelope was shown that ran into a tree while being pursued).

An excellent natural history program, very worthwhile.
Egg-laying mammals, marsupials, insectivores, herbivores
RR | Brooklyn, NY United States | 06/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This, the first volume of an excellent four-volume series on mammals, balances the expected with the unexpected, the large with the small, and the well-known with the less well-known. It contains three hour-long episodes: _A Winning Design_, which focuses on monotremes (egg-laying mammals) and marsupials (primitive live-bearers); _The Insect Hunters_, which focuses on the diverse group of insectivores; and _Plant Predators_, which focuses on the herbivores. Attenborough has obviously filmed these animals extensively, and his films benefit from being viewed multiple times.Because he is able to find beauty in things other people would not notice, Attenborough is at his best when he describes behaviors and animals which are neglected by other popular filmmakers. His awe of all creatures great and small is apparent in every movie in the series. Of the three movies in this volume, _The Insect Hunters_ is the best because it is the most informative, although the others also contain many interesting scenes and are worth viewing. To me, the dynamics between the hyenas at the end of _Plant Predators_ are also particularly interesting, even though Attenborough's commentary is from the topi's point of view."
Maybe the best nature video
LF | USA | 09/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm not in the habit of giving five star ratings. If I enjoy a nature video I will give it three stars. This one merits five. It may be the best nature video I've ever seen. I won't go into detail about all that it contains because that will bore you. I'll just tell you that I've seen a lot of nature programs and this one is better. My guess is that David Attenborough decided what he wanted on the video, and that he is a very smart man. If you like nature shows you will really appreciate this one, the better nature video."