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

Vast in scope and stunning in imagery and detail, The Life of Mammals is the epic story of 4,000 species that have outlived this dinosaurs and colonized the farthest reaches of the Earth. In this volume: Chisellers- Specia...  more »


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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: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Rodents, carnivores, omnivores
RR | Brooklyn, NY United States | 06/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This, the second 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: _Chisellers_, which focuses on rodents; _Meat Eaters_, which focuses on carnivorous mammals; and _The Opportunists_, which focuses on species that take advantage of a variety of different foods. 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. _Chisellers_ is by far the best of the three movies in the volume. If you find rodents repulsive and has no interest in watching a movie about them, think again. Half of all mammal species are rodents, and the group is so diverse most species are interesting rather than repulsive. The movie shows a panoply of rodents, from the endearingly monogamous marmots to the slow-breeding cavies to the skillful beavers, to name a few. The beaver section contains particularly excellent footage._Meat Eaters_, although still worth viewing, was a bit of a disappointment. Typically, Attenborough discusses small and little-known species almost equally with the large and famous ones; _Meat Eaters_ is a rare lapse. Cats, dogs, large animals and killing may be very popular subjects, but too much of the film is devoted to large cats and large dogs killing and eating their prey. Many other types of carnivores exist, and the lives of carnivores are as complex and multi-dimensional as those of other animals. Although the film showed some small carnivores, some other scenes besides killing and eating, and a few members of the weasel and hyena families, I would have wanted to see more of those. There is also at least one glaring inaccuracy--hyenas are NOT dogs, but are related to cats and mongooses. Fortunately this is correct in the book that is companion to this series._The Opportunists_ is neither the best nor the worst movie in the series. It contains a motley group of animals from all different lineages, which eat diverse diets. I did not quite understand the order of the scenes, and would have wished Attenborough did not end with humans. As usual, the best scenes are the most unexpected, such as one very interesting segment in a cave.Although some of the episodes are stronger than others, I highly recommend this video overall."
Truly excellent and worthwhile natural history programming
Tim F. Martin | Madison, AL United States | 03/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Volume Two of _The Life of Mammals_, hosted by David Attenborough, contained episodes four through six of this truly excellent BBC series.

_Chisellers_ dealt with the rodents. The opening sequence showed tropical rain forest agouti taking advantage of a shower of nuts from sloppy capuchin monkeys in the canopy above. Attenborough demonstrated how tough the nuts were by trying to break one open with a rock and then showed the agouti dining on the meat within with ease.

Attenborough with some graphics proceeded to explain rodent dental structure, how it continued to grow and how it was so useful in opening such items as nuts. He also discussed how rodents are among the abundant animals on Earth in terms of numbers of species and of individuals.

The show spent several moments on squirrels, first a highly specialized species that feeds only on ponderosa pinecones in the American Southwest, and then several moments on the widespread gray squirrel. Attenborough noted that the latter species fed on the acorns of white oaks (which germinate almost as soon as they are planted) and red oaks (which don't germinate until the spring), acorns that require different feeding and storage strategies despite being to human eyes nearly identical.

Not all rodents feed on large food items that are worthwhile to transport one by one. Many desert seeds, such as those Attenborough showed the viewer as were found in the American Southwest, are extremely tiny and have lead to the innovation of cheek pouches. With the help of night vision cameras and a camera in its burrow, the viewer is able to see one such animal in its natural habitat, the kangaroo rat.

Next are two extended sequences showing a year in the life of two rodent family groups, marmots high in the Alps and beavers in a pond in the Teton Mountains. The latter segment was particularly interesting as it had some underwater footage, discussion of why beavers make ponds, how they do so, and footage of life inside the lodge (this particular group shared it with muskrats).

A wonderful program, _Chisellers_ also featured the African crested porcupine, ground squirrels, some excellent footage of naked mole rats, harvest mice in Great Britain, maras in Patagonia, and some rather impressive herds of capybara.

The next episode was _Meat Eaters_. The opening sequence was footage of a stoat hunting rabbits in an idyllic meadow of sheep. Impressive to see the stoat walking away with the rabbit's body, as it weighed ten times more than the stoat.

After a few moments discussing the nature of carnivore's teeth the program gave the viewer a sample of some of the world's predators. Beginning with a few minutes of footage of the serval and a little bit on the Siberian tiger, there was more extended coverage of the mainly arboreal marten, the fennec in the Sahara, and the Arctic fox. The latter was shown with both its winter coat and in its summer coat (at which time it was feeding on guillemot chicks that had failed to fly to the sea from their cliff side nests, burying away excess kills for hard times in the winter).

Next were fur seals on a rocky shore in South Africa, the focus not on them but on brown hyenas that preyed upon an unguarded pup. Attenborough took this as an opportunity to discuss the importance of scent markings among predators.

The importance of group social dynamics was discussed several times in segments on bush dogs in South America, hunting dogs in Africa (with great footage of them hunting and of their young), and wolves in North America (preying upon elk).

Hunting cats closed the program, with excellent nighttime photography of lions hunting, of cheetahs (along with their cubs) hunting by day, and leopards (both prowling through a village in India and hunting antelope in Africa, both at night). The last animal shown was the Siberian tiger.

_Opportunists_ dealt with omnivores, a successful group of animals that were adapted to eat a variety of foodstuffs, supreme generalists. With an opening sequences filmed in the Atlanta Zoo of one supreme specialist, the giant panda, Attenborough segued into a segment on those non-specialists, the raccoons, spending a good deal of time discussing their amazing hands.

Next, with the most CGI I have seen in the series yet, Attenborough showed an early and rather large generalist, a pig-like creature that lived 20 million years ago in South Dakota. The host discussed the arrangement and advantages of its teeth and related this to other still living omnivores.

Following that there was some really good footage of the rare babirusa in the tropical forests of Sulawesi, including a large group at a clay lick. Attenborough used footage of wild boar in a European forest to make points about the very strong sense of smell of some omnivores.

A mother raccoon dog trying to feed her fifteen pups rated a very good and lengthy segment, followed by a red fox in the proverbial hen house. Next was some remarkable footage of skunks and raccoons feeding on young bats that had fallen from their perch on the ceiling onto the rather noxious cave floor. Attenborough wondered how they were able to even find the bats in all the din and nauseous odor of the cave, concluding it a combination of touch and luck.

Next was a very lengthy segment on the grizzly bear in Alaska, showing it in hibernation and its varied diet through the year as it struggled to put away enough fat for the winter. Then the viewer saw the sloth bear of India (which is becoming a specialized termite eater), the highly successful urban raccoon in North America and urban red fox in the UK, and then the rat, both in the sewers and in a temple in India where they were unafraid and worshiped as reincarnated ancestors. This excellent program closed with a note about the most successful opportunist of all, man.