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British naturalist David Attenborough examines the diversity and origins of "life on earth." As is usual with David Attenborough's work, the camera work is outstanding and employed techniques which were ground-breaking in their day. Also, as is his custom, Mr. Attenborough filmed this series in locales all across the world. Written by
Jason A. Cormier
There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive. This is the story of how a few of them came to be as they are.
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"Four million different solutions for the problem of staying alive"
Sir David Attenborough is best known for his spectacular natural history projects like "Trials of Life", "Life of Plants", "Life in the Freezer" and this one, "Life on Earth", which made him one of the most characteristic and most-loved television personalities in the history of British television.
He also has one of the longest careers in television of anyone still on the air today. Joining the BBC in 1952, he first became a producer for the Talks Department, which handled all non-fiction broadcasts. Originally discouraged from appearing on camera because an administrator thought his teeth were too big, he did went on presenting "Zoo Quest", an educational program featuring animals from the London Zoo, which first aired in 1954. From 1965 to 1969 David Attenborough was the main Controller for BBC2, where he was responsible for the introduction of the first television broadcasts in colour in the UK and soon after he also initiated televised snooker. Many might loath him for the latter, but starting with "Life on Earth" he went on to produce a series of natural history documentaries of truly epic proportions. It was the first in a mammoth trilogy, together with "The Living Planet" (1985) and "Trials of Life" (1990). He showed to have a real talent for screen-writing and presenting skills combined with an expert knowledge of natural history. With his irresistible flair and talent for presentation coupled with stunning cinematic images and a beautiful music score, this was a truly groundbreaking series.
Whilst having seen the individual episodes on television several times now, for reviewing I prefer the two-hour VHS-version from 1985, at that time a newly re-edited BBC video-release from the original 16 hour series. Watching this version, it plays much more like a feature film. With the featured geological and ecological time-scale, combined with a perfect integration of sound and image, it's as close a documentary - at least a nature documentary - has ever got to achieve something almost purely cinematic in expression. Still active at 80 years old, Attenborough is currently filming for his latest project, "Life in Cold Blood", a series about reptiles and amphibians, due for completion in 2008.
For any (aspriring) biology teacher, show this two-hour version to a group of children in class, and you will never have to answer unnecessary questions about evolution and ecology again.
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