Produced in 2003 as part of The Discovery Channel's always-awesome "Shark Week," Anatomy of a Shark Bite is a 90-minute shark-fest that offers equal parts underwater beauty and shocking tragedy. It tells the story of Dr. Erich Ritter, a man who clearly loves and respects the world of sharkdom ... but ended up on the receiving end of a horrific love-bite all the same.
While recording a documentary in the shallow, shark-infested waters of the Bahamas, Dr. Ritter was bitten quite viciously by hungry bull shark. Although his injuries were quite nasty (and there were dozens of other sharks in close proximity), Ritter was able to make it out of the water and into the hospital. His terrifying experience was captured on video (from beneath the ocean's surface), and it was this footage that inspired a team of scientists and engineers to "re-create" Dr. Ritter's experience in a controlled environment.
Yes, they even went as far as to create mechanical sharks. The experts ultimately break down Dr. Ritter's horrible afternoon from every conceivable angle; the footage of the attack represents the closest and clearest look ever recorded of shark teeth vs. human flesh ... and some of this stuff is clearly not meant for the weak of heart.
Much of this documentary's running time is dedicated to the work of "The Shark Factory," expert technicians who've created fake marine wildlife for movies like Deep Blue Sea and Free Willy. A lot of time is dedicated to the animatronic beasties and their realistic teeth, extreme muscle power, and overpowering strength -- but some of this material feels a little redundant before too long.
Anatomy of a Shark Bite is best when it focuses on the documented facts instead of the scientific speculation. (Plus the flowery narration gets a bit silly in spots.) But this film also boasts some extra material that should thrill all the shark aficionadoes out there. Heather Boswell's stunningly horrific experience with a great white shark in 1994 (complete with video footage of the terrible attack) and a closer look at the tragedy of the U.S.S. Indianapolis are covered within the documentary's 88-minute running time, which basically means it's a treasure chest of shark attack history lessons.
If you're like me and you can watch shark documentaries all day and all night, then you should absolutely consider Anatomy of a Shark Bite worthy of the 15-dollar expenditure. Sure, you could just tape the show off of The Discovery Channel, but then you'll have to deal with the commercials ... and you'll be missing the bonus episode and the "Shark Quiz!"
Video: Presented in its original full-frame (1.33:1) format, the picture quality is quite good -- although some of the home video footage is (of course) sometimes quite blurred and fuzzy.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, standard TV-quality audio. Nothing phenomenal, but certainly better than average.
Extras: The main extra feature is a full-length (50 min) bonus Shark Week episode entitled "Future Shark," which is narrated by Peter Coyote and focuses on the brilliant ways in which modern technologies can help us to better understand our underwater friends. (Yes, even the strongest, scariest, and bitiest ones.) For the kids (and the sharkaholics) is a nifty little Shark Smarts Quiz, which is actually good fun (at least the first time around). Also included is a trailer for the motorcycle-centric series Full Throttle.
While I consider Steven Spielberg's Jaws an absolutely brilliant maritime thriller, I must admit that the movie did a whole lot of damage to the popular image of "the shark." So we've spent the last few decades re-discovering the beauty and fascination of these creatures, while creating new laws to protect the giant fish from extinction. And programs like Shark Week (and, more specifically, Anatomy of a Shark Bite) go a long way towards teaching people that these animals are worthy of our fear, our wonder, and our respect.
Plus, let's be honest: Sharks are just so damn cool.