A strong fascination with extreme weather runs through the souls of most of humanity. It's the only way to explain how a movie starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt could achieve blockbuster status. I'm talking of course about the movie Twister, and while our ability to stomach Hunt and Paxton together has waned considerably, the strength of tornados, and their draw, grows ever stronger. Tornado Hunters is a British documentary here to save you from tiny videos posted on YouTube, and flying CGI cows, for that matter.
The increasing popularity and quality of home video cameras, and the rise of a profession known as 'Storm Chaser,' are two reasons for the existence of this stunning DVD and the gripping footage - not to mention the stories behind the footage - that will undeniably please fans of extreme weather. The docu combines recreations, interviews, MTV-style transitions (lightning fast best-of tornado footage edits) and amateur/professional footage from storm chasers and everyday folks in a potent package that will have you gripping your arm rests and begging for more.
A brief running time of 50 minutes means that only a handful of stories/bits of footage are covered, but maximum mileage is wrung from each incident, from a woman riding out a major twister by clinging to a drainpipe, to a pair of professional storm chasers doing everything in their power to get right in the thick of things. Tornado Hunters does extreme weather fetishizers and anyone who's ever been connected to the damage such weather can cause a great service by not worshipping such things. Each tale is conveyed with maximum sensitivity and verisimilitude. When the disc is over you'll understand the physical and psychological devastation living through such destructive weather can cause. Eyewitness accounts, adolescent girls losing sleep at night and death tolls are conveyed in such a manner as to convince that, while these storms are uncontrollable, their impact is inconceivable except for those who've been through them.
Yet, there's still that fascination, and Tornado Hunters delivers, with footage (some never before seen) that puts your Internet MPEG searches to shame. Abstractly beautiful images of funnel clouds forming and dissipating, bulbous super cell formations spitting lightning, giant hail and F5 monsters seen from hundreds of yards away are beyond thrilling. As a bonus, footage from cross-platform storm chasers (hurricanes and tornados) treats us to images of gas stations literally being shredded before our eyes.
From the days of my early youth I've been fascinated by the terrible beauty of the funnel cloud. Tornado Hunters has gotten me as close to one of these weather events as I ever care to be. Full of stunning, devastating footage, Tornado Hunters delivers the goods and then some, conveying the true toll of such weather with drama and sensitivity.
Comprised of a lot of home video footage, Tornado Hunters is presented in fullscreen, 4:3 ratio. A good mastering job makes sure that even though most of this is non-professional footage, it looks fantastic, better than most anything those of us who love this stuff have ever seen. I won't be turning to Internet searches of tornado footage anytime soon, that's for sure.
Dolby 2.0 Stereo Sound is up to the task, obviously making sure that all production dialog and narration is clear, but also doing a good job of conveying the terrifying sounds of 250-MPH winds tearing up the countryside caught on home video.
No real extras are available except for English Subtitles.
Gripping footage and a truly dramatic, but sensitive, approach to the true impact of destructive weather makes Tornado Hunters a must-see DVD for fans of tornados. Funnel cloud formations, dissipations and destruction are shown like almost never before (especially those nutcases hiding out in the gas station) making this a bonanza for extreme weather freaks. We wish it had been longer, or had some extras, but we'll be watching it again. Judge your desire to have this in the collection, but certainly - if you're intrigued - Rent It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com