The Beauty Of Snakes was originally shown on Animal Planet and now arrives on Blu-ray for those who want to enjoy it on their own. So what's it all about? Well the title more or less says it all. This forty-five minute feature is essentially 'snake basics 101. It starts off talking about how there are different kinds of snakes all over the planet before moving on to different aspects of their existence. We start with a mating ritual in which we see a female garter snake shed it's skin and secrete and oil which attracts a whole host of male partners who literally cover her until all we see is a wiggling mass of snakes - freakishly impressive!
From there we lay witness to the birthing process. Snakes aren't the most maternal of creatures, tending to lay their eggs (or in rare cases give birth to live young) and then leave them to fend for themselves immediately after. We see some live snakes being born and we see some eggs hatching before a baby snake makes its first kill and devours a large earth worm. We learn how snakes move and how sidewinders have adapted to the extreme heat of the desert by developing their own unique method of moving about.
After that, we learn about the hunting process, how some snakes kill with venom while others kill by constricting around their prey and suffocating it. A water snake takes down a small duck (in the documentaries most disturbing moment) while a cobra fights with a dog and blinds it with its venom (in a scene that is carefully edited leading one to believe that the dog and the cobra were nowhere near one another and that the dog was not harmed despite the whimpering sounds heard on the audio). We learn how in certain parts of the world certain snakes commonly live inside houses where the hunt rodents nocturnally while human residents lay sleeping, completely unaware that they have a serpentine house guest living in their midst.
The documentary closes off by letting us know that if snakes didn't live around us, we'd likely be overrun by rodents and pests, reassuring us that as creepy as they might be, these creatures definitely have their place and their purpose in the world's ecosystem.
This is a pretty interesting documentary but it really only serves as a primer. It doesn't go very in depth on any one specific type of snake nor does it spend more than a few minutes explaining how their characteristics make them unique in the world. As a basic look at what snakes do and how they do it, however, this is pretty good but those already familiar with how and why these creatures do what they do will likely not gain much insight from the scholarly narration. What makes this feature completely worthwhile, however, is the footage. There's some truly beautiful material in here, be a close up of a snakes scales showing off the rainbow of colors that exist or some rather unsettling footage of a snake swallowing a mouse, it's all captured very well with a keen eye for composition and color making the documentary's title a very appropriate one. This won't likely turn you into a snake fan if you aren't already, but it could very well at least impress you with how remarkably odd snakes are and how unique they are. There's a lot of very impressive detail here in this incredibly colorful documentary. It's much to short to make for something that you'll want to return to time and again and it isn't quite on the level of something like Planet Earth mind you, but it does deliver forty-five minutes of awesome snake footage.
The Video: The Beauty Of Snakes is presented in a nice 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen AVC encoded 1080i transfer on a 25GB Blu-ray disc and generally it looks pretty nice. There aren't any mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues to spot nor is there any print damage. Detail looks very nice in the close up shots of the snakes captured outdoors and the shots captured indoors during the various reenactment bits looks almost as good, if just a tad bit softer. There's a lot of detail here, which makes sense considering that this was shot with HD cameras, and the transfer does the material justice and the colors in particular are very impressive.
English language audio options are provided in standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, there's no HD audio track included on this release. Closed captions are provided in English only, there are no other alternate language dubs or subtitles supplied. As far as the 5.1 track goes, surround use is minimal, and it's pretty much relegated to the score which periodically pops up in the rear channels. Bass response is minimal, though your subwoofer will spring to life now and again, and really, aside from the way that the score is spread out, there's little difference between the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced - there are no obvious problems with the audio here at all, it's just not particularly remarkable in any way.
Just like the release of The World's Biggest And Baddest Bugs, this Blu-ray release is completely barebones - not a single supplement in sight! It would have been nice to see some bonus footage or 'snake profiles' or... something. Anything! Even promo spots for other Animal Planet releases, but nope, there's nothing here.
With it's all too brief running time and barebones presentation it's hard to recommend The Beauty Of Snakes even if the feature does contain some great footage. That said, the documentary is worth a look, even if it only really covers the basics, just for some of the remarkable footage. Rent it.
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.