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Life in the Undergrowth (DVD Review)

19 Mar, 2006 By: Brendan Howard

Life in the Undergrowth

Prebook 3/28/06; Street 5/2/06
BBC Video
$34.98 two-DVD set
Not rated.
Hosted by Sir David Attenborough

Few people on Earth will have seen bugs in such depth and with such clarity as in this five-part series. Producer Mike Salisbury explains in a DVD interview that innovations in lenses, lighting and motion control have made it possible to slow down and peer into the births, lives and deaths of insects in a way never before seen.

The series looks at invertebrate life through specific examples and creative themes:

• “Invasion of the Land,” in which viewers see bugs' ancestors and learn they were the first to colonize land as a place to hide their eggs;

• “Taking to the Air,” in which butterflies, moths and even houseflies are shown as varied and skilled flyers;

• “The Silk Spinners,” which soothes arachnophobes by approaching the subject sideways, showing how silk appears as tents, spidery traps, cocoons and mother-woven pads to protect the young;

• “Intimate Relations,” a study of the beneficial and destructive relationships among plants and bugs; and

• ”Supersocieties,” my personal favorite, an examination of large super-organisms composed of separate parts, like ant and termite colonies, a hidden world of underground tunnels and conflicts brought to life.

As a lifelong bug lover, I was entranced from beginning to end. Others loved it, too. My mom was fascinated by the care bugs take in copulating, laying eggs and protecting their young, and my wife constantly remarked that the orchestral score was perfect for the action: sinister strings for parasites, Spanish waltzing for funny-legged walking.

Selling Points: This series is the new standard by which future bug movies will be judged. It debuts on Animal Planet two days before street date.

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