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The Life of Mammals, Vol. 4
The Life of Mammals Vol 4
Actor: David Attenborough
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 40min

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: Social Climbers - ...  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: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Excellent final volume of a wonderful series
Tim F. Martin | Madison, AL United States | 03/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Volume Four of _The Life of Mammals_, hosted by David Attenborough, contained episodes nine and ten of this truly excellent BBC series and was the final volume.

_The Social Climbers_ focused on the world of monkeys. The opening sequence was set at a temple in Sri Lanka, ruins we learn later that were abandoned about a thousand years ago and are inhabited by a famous and well studied population of toque macaques. Beginning with this sequence and continuing through the rest of this episode, Attenborough made numerous points about the rich social lives, politics, social hierarchies, maneuverings, and complexities of primate society.

Next, the show took the viewer to a troop of capuchin monkeys in South America. As we watch them prey on a rich variety of foods, Attenborough discussed how they were opportunistic, curious, enterprising, and patient, all traits relating to primate brain size. Some capuchin monkeys had learned how to crack open clam shells exposed in the mud at low tide in the mangrove forest they dwelled in, something not all the monkeys in the group were able to master. The viewer is treated to other monkeys watching successful clam crackers at work, learning and imitating, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not; curiosity, experimentation, and mimicry are all primate traits according to Attenborough.

Next were several segments showing the rich variety of primate life in the world; brilliantly red-faced uakaris, long-limbed spider monkeys, tiny pygmy marmosets (we witness two groups of marmosets fighting over a tree prized for its sap, one that has apparently been visited by generations of the same marmoset troop), nocturnal owl monkeys, emperor tamarins, saddleback tamarins (both of which often fed together and kept the other species alert of threats by predatory tayra), and howler monkeys (who due to their not very nutritious diet of leaves prefer to use howling as a energy efficient means of defining their territories). A large mixed species troop of monkeys in Africa is followed, one primarily comprised of five or six species of brightly colored guenon monkeys, ones that have learned to recognize each species specific warning cry for specific predators (be it leopard, snake, or crowned eagle).

After revisiting the toque macaque troop in Sri Lanka, a segment that showed the complicated politics of primate society, the viewer will move off to the flamingo lakes of Africa, where one particular baboon troop has learned to hunt flamingoes, and then off to the grassy highlands of Ethiopia to see the perhaps even more complex politics and social pecking order of the gelada baboons, the world's only grazing species of monkey.

The final episode, _Food for Thought_, opened with some astonishing footage of orangutans using tools and a canoe in a forest in Southeast Asia. We soon learn it is a camp for orangutans that once lived in captivity. Attenborough, only feet from an orangutan happily sawing away at a board for no apparent reason other than that she wanted to, discussed the intelligence and mimicry abilities of these great apes. Afterwards the episode spend a good deal of time on orangutans in the wild, showing that while they are generally loners they are not anti-social, as the low food resources of the forests that they live in generally make large troops impossible, though there are exceptions (one very richly fruiting tree was shown with twenty different individuals).

Next one sees chimpanzees, beginning with an island colony that was formed from formerly captive chimpanzees, then onto a wild group deep in the rain forest. Chimpanzees were shown caring for their young, foraging for food, fighting with one another, and going on a hunt for fresh meat, in this case the babies of red colobus monkeys. I have to say that footage was a little sad; as the male colobus monkeys did the best they could to defend their young against the much larger and more numerous chimpanzees.

Afterwards Attenborough showed some footage of lowland gorillas and then moved to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, site of fossil tracks from upright walking hominids. From then on the rest of the show was about mankind. The viewer will see the San or Bushmen on an eight hour run down of a large antelope in the scrub, Attenborough pointing out the various advantages of the humans that doomed the prey - sweat glands, arms that can throw weapons, intelligence, speech, excellent memory, working in groups etc.

What followed was a very broad but well illustrated whirlwind history of humanity as Attenborough, while touring various locations ranging from a Dogon festival to an African market near Timbuktu to a major Western city to a launch pad with the space shuttle looming over him, discussed the evolution of agriculture, the domestication of animals, music, culture, cities, trade, craftsmen, and irrigation. He spent several moments discussing the Mayans while touring the ruins of Tikal and quite a bit of time on the consequences - both positive and negative - of human agriculture. The last segment was on the possibility that mankind may be moving off the Earth and into space as Attenborough discussed the possibilities and challenges of colonizing Mars and beyond (this latter segment had some nice CGI). During this segment, particularly at the very end of the episode, Attenborough weaved in some cautionary environmental warnings, nothing too heavy handed and quite apt in my humble opinion.

This was a very good end to an excellent series. I would personally love to have seen Attenborough do a series on human culture and evolution. I could easily imagine he would have done quite well, perhaps filming a series based on the works of such authors as Jared Diamond, Henry Hobhouse, or Jack Weatherford.

Just as in Volume Three there were some behind the scenes segments among the special features that were interesting. Just as the previous three volumes had there was a photo gallery and a rather informative fact file of selected species. A truly wonderful and worthwhile series.
Monkeys, great apes and Attenborough's best
RR | Brooklyn, NY United States | 06/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This, the fourth and best volume of an excellent four-volume series on mammals, contains two hour-long episodes: _The Social Climbers_, about monkeys; and _Food for Thought_, about humans and other great apes. Attenborough has obviously filmed these animals extensively, and his films benefit from being viewed multiple times._The Social Climbers_ is easily the most outstanding film in the entire _Life of Mammals_ series. It focuses on the monkeys' complex social systems and fascinating ecology. The organization of the video is very good--it is divided between the taxonomically disparate New and Old World monkeys, with an excellent transition between the monkeys of the two continents. It also builds up to a wonderful culmination. _Food for Thought_, although one of the better Attenborough mammal films, is not quite as good. It presents many interesting facts about the remarkable capabilities of apes, but fails to mention bonobos, glosses over gorillas, and is a bit too human-centered. However, the video contains few segments I would consider weak, and I highly recommend the entire series."