For whatever reason, people seem to be fascinated with sharks. There's something sinister about them, their eyes look soulless and their reputation as some of the world's deadliest killing machines obviously gives them a truly ominous vibe. At the same time, they're also rather beautiful in their own strange way. This fascination has lead to an onslaught of programming geared towards these creepy creatures, which has been airing now for two decades semi-regularly on The Discovery Channel. Image has packaged up six 'Shark Week' programs and slapped them onto a pair of DVDs, and thus we have the Shark Week: Ocean Of Fear collection. Here's a look at the eleven hours of toothy content...
Ocean Of Fear - Worst Shark Attack Ever: Remember that scene in Jaws where the guys on the boat talk about how during the Second World War a bunch of American sailors got knocked into the ocean when a torpedo hit their boat (the U.S.S. Indianapolis) and a lot of them got munched by sharks? Well it's true and this documentary explores the reality behind that story. For nights these nine hundred guys were floating around in the middle of the ocean and many of them were eaten. Through this documentary we learn first hand about what happened to the survivors and what they had to go through to make it out of this dire situation alive. If the sharks weren't bad enough, many men were dying from exhaustion and hypothermia. This is not only an interesting look at the dastardly side of sharks and their feeding habits but also a look at the lengths people will go to in order to survive. Fascinating stuff, some of the survivor testimonials are quite harrowing indeed.
Perfect Predators: This documentary examines how different sharks use different hunting tactics to catch their prey. Different ocean environments, different types of desired prey and different physical features all come into play here and it's interesting to learn how sharks have adapted to their various environments over the years in order to survive and how, in turn, commonly hunted animals have also evolved in order to give themselves a better chance against the sharks - case in point, Mako Sharks like to eat tuna, and tuna have in turn learned to swim faster to escape them. This documentary also explores how Hammerhead Sharks hunt differently than other sharks, and how Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks and Great White Sharks all use different tactics.
Shark Tribe: This interesting documentary explores how a tribe of New Guinea natives (known as the Sharkcallers of Kantu) show no fear of sharks whatsoever - they head out into the ocean in small canoes and capture and hunt the sharks using their hands and small, handheld weapons. Where most people fear sharks, these guys have based pretty much their entire culture around them. They lure the sharks in without using any bait, instead using different noises to attract them. Along the way we get a look at their unique culture and how they've managed to survive over the years. From there, we actually witness the tribesmen out hunting while ecologists debate the morality of it.
Top Five Eaten Alive: This documentary explores the details behind five different but equally grisly shark attacks. We hear from the five different survivors about what they went through and how they survived - one woman describing what it was like to have a limb bitten off by a shark ("there was a pop... then it was gone."). Reenactments demonstrate what they did right, but equally important, what they did wrong and how they wound up in these life threatening situations in the first place. We learn about how the sharks reacted and how a few different heroic bystanders interjected to save lives.
Shark Feeding Frenzy: With this entry in the series, we learn how food and the need for food controls almost every facet of a shark's life. In turn, this leads to feeding frenzies. We learn about Reef, Tiger, Hammerhead, Lemon and Great White Sharks feeding habits. From there, we learn how to best survive a feeding frenzy or, preferably, how to avoid them. Some fantastic footage peppers this documentary quite nicely and really helps drive home just how dangerous and intense a feeding frenzy can get - at one point we witness a shark latch onto a cameraman's arm (thankfully he's wearing a chain mail suit, so he doesn't lose the limb). The documentary also explores the reality behind whether or not sharks really do or do not like to eat people.
Sharkman: The last documentary in the collection explores the interesting life of a man named Michael Rutzman, who enjoys swimming (unprotected) with Great White Sharks. He believes they have a passive and non-aggressive side and to prove this he tries to hypnotize them. The results of Rutzman's experiments and theories are varied but surprisingly not invalid. We see, on camera, how Rutzman does succeed in getting the sharks to appreciate his touch and to react to it - now, this doesn't mean they get friendly and want to cuddle, but it does give his theories some basis in reality.
All in all, this is a satisfying collection of interesting material. It does all focus on darker side of shark behavior and it plays up on mankind's inherent (and completely justifiable) fear of sharks, but that doesn't make the half a dozen documentaries in this collection any less fascinating. None of this material will help to boost the shark's reputation but it does make for really good television.
Each of the shows in the collection is presented fullframe (with some footage occasionally letterboxed within the 4x3 picture), preserving the original broadcast aspect ratio of the material. The picture, sadly, is interlaced. Video quality is quite solid despite some softness here and there. Some of the episodes don't look quite as good as some of the others but for the most part the picture quality is strong. There are no issues with print damage to report, and there aren't any problems with heavy compression artifacts. A bit of edge enhancement is noticeable here and there but it's never overpowering nor is it particularly distracting. None of this material is reference quality, but it all looks decent.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks that are supplied for each and every one of the six episodes in this collection sound clean and clear. No alternate dubbed tracks or subtitles have been supplied but the quality of the audio is just fine. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and while there are a few spots here and there where some of the on location audio isn't crystal clear because of whether conditions or surroundings, it's never a problem understanding what's being said.
Aside from some fairly basic menus and a slipcase cover, this set is devoid of any extra features at all.
Shark Week: Ocean Of Fear is a great collection of interesting material. The presentation is solid even if there are no extra features at all and anyone fascinated with sharks and their truly unusual habits and history should enjoy this look at some of their nastier habits. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.