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Life in Cold Blood', is the latest landmark series about reptiles and
amphibians and it will complete David Attenborough's overview of the
animal kingdom. Key to this series is new behaviour that has never been
filmed before. Under the Skin gives an extra, privileged and personal
look at these fascinating sequences. They offer an emotional and
intellectual insight into "how we know what we know" about reptiles and
the voyage of discovery that led to this knowledge.
Out in the field David Attenborough works with the passionate scientists, at the cutting edge, who help to bring unique behaviour to our screens.
The more science reveals about reptiles and amphibians the more the myths and misconceptions about them are dispelled. They are surprising animals, as passionate in their courtship, as aggressive in their rivalry and as tender in their parental care as many warm blooded creatures.
And they have they been amazingly successful with over 350 million years of history on the planet.
What are their secrets and how have they been uncovered?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite its name, Life in Cold Blood concentrates almost entirely on
Reptilians, a subject that has been exhausted these days. So, in that
respect, I will only discuss things that make this one unique. First of
all, it's David Attenborough, whose pleasant voice and passionate
storytelling keeps you plugged throughout the series. Then there are
things inherent to using latest technology on reptile tracking,
especially in behavior that hasn't been filmed before. One of that is
the painstaking job of trying to film a rattlesnake making a kill, a
task that took days and real personal hazards to complete. Another is
the sound made by turtles mating, or filming lizards that give birth to
live young and mate for life. Then of course there is this absolutely
unique behavior among certain crocodiles who tend for young that aren't
necessarily their own. The list of new things can go on... In a few
words, for anyone interested into this class of Vertebrates, this
documentary comes as a safe recommendation. What I missed was more
covering of reptiles' evolutionary biology, which is such an
interesting subject in itself: how they evolved from Amphibian-like
creatures 300 million years ago and at least some consideration onto
how they achieved their current diversity. Also, one order of reptiles
has been completely ignored, the Tuataras, even though their behavior
and biology contains aspects just as interesting that have rarely been
The scripted text binds the story together, whereas filming & sound is as good as one expects from BBC's nature series. What I missed was the artistic quality I've so much enjoyed in Life in the Undergrowth, who continues to stand as perhaps the most gorgeous nature documentary ever to be filmed.
A very fitting bonus is how each episode, and there are five of them, ends with a section that describes the process of shooting and other technicalities, as well as narrator's personal view on the subjects filmed. Attenborough's lifetime dedication and genuine marvel of nature's artworks are to be met with highest praise.
David Attenborough is nothing short of a national treasure. He may
apparently dislike the term, but it is hard to not say that about such
a great presenter who has contributed significantly to some of the best
programmes (of the documentary genre and overall) the BBC has ever
There are so many gems from Attenborough. Both 'Planet Earth' series, 'Life', 'The Hunt', 'The Blue Planet', 'Frozen Planet', 'Africa' and 'Madagascar', all amazing and they are just a few examples. 'Life in Cold Blood' may not quite be on the same level as the above and not quite one of Attenborough's crowning achievements, but it is still an exceptionally well done series. It's engaging, hugely informative, extremely well made and evokes joy, tears and chills in equal measure. Another thing that it achieves wonderfully is clearing up many misconceptions about reptiles and amphibians, allowing the viewer to learn so much more about them, and anybody indifferent to them beforehand (like me) are likely to find themselves appreciating them much more.
Visually, 'Life in Cold Blood' may lack the awe-inspiring, almost cinematic quality of Attenborough's best work. With that being said, it is still beautifully shot, shot in a fluid, graceful and never static way, and is chock-full of strikingly memorable images. In every episode, the scenery and environments are beautiful to look at and are like their own characters. The music score fits very well, never overly grandiose while never being inappropriate.
Again, like so many Attenborough nature/wildlife documentaries, 'Life in Cold Blood' fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown. In this case it was mostly unknown facts and so much of the information was illuminating and made me see reptiles and amphibians in a different light and appreciate them more. All that are featured are given a good amount of detail, whether it's the why, how and what factors in terms of how they behave and their adapting in their respective environments.
Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows his stuff and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more. The "behind the scenes/making of" scenes too gave some humanity to the series and allowed us to get to know those behind the camera as well as in front.
'Life in Cold Blood' really appeals in the wide ranging diversity of the creatures (a mix of the most common and the not so common) that are shown and they are surprisingly big in personality. Any has genuine tension and suspense as well as a surprising spontaneity, there is some fun and a lot of emotionally powerful moments done with a lot of tear-jerking pathos. Found myself really caring for these reptiles and amphibians (an admission that surprises even me). Like much of Attenborough/BBC's other work, each episode doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries each feels like their own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts and animal characters developed in a way a human character would in a film but does it better than several.
Overall, 'Life in Cold Blood' may not be one of Attenborough's very finest but it is nonetheless really wonderful that really fascinates and will induce much more appreciation for a widely misunderstood species. 9/10 Bethany Cox
If you seriously think that reptiles and amphibians are just simple and
primitive creatures, well, you better think again.
This remarkable nature-documentary from the BBC will certainly bring to light some truly amazing facts about these often-misunderstood critters.
From snakes, to frogs, to salamanders, to lizards, and beyond - Join host Richard Attenborough as he travels to various locations in the world in order to enlighten, educate and demonstrate to the viewer what astounding and diverse lifeforms inhabit this fantastic planet of ours.
Life In Cold Blood is a 2-disc set of 5 programs with a total running time of over 4 hours. And, believe me, this documentary is certainly well-worth an 8-star rating.
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