While certainly the farthest thing from "George of the Jungle", one line from that show's theme song certainly comes to mind while watching "Ax Men": "Watch out for that tree!". "Men" is another in a line of shows - from "Ice Road Truckers" to "Deadliest Catch" to "Black Gold" - where men do remarkable jobs that are remarkably dangerous.
In terms of "Men", the History Channel series devotes its time to various logging companies who spend their days doing tense work harvesting lumber. The goal: gather as much lumber ("green gold") as possible in an attempt to be King of the Mountain. The companies include Rygaard, Stump-Branch, Pihl, Browning and, this time around, Swamp Man Logging. S & S Aqua Logging, which was in the Pacific NW previously, has headed South for this season to Florida and works with another crew. The series has most of the crews in competition with one another, but this aspect is likely just added for drama. The series is dramatic - and sometimes terrifying - enough as it is.
The prior seasons of the series have focused on a series of logging crews from the Pacific NW during the cooler months of the year. In the third season introduces new problems: it's during the heat of the Summer months, making for harsh conditions on top of an already incredibly difficult and dangerous job. The heat sends tempers over the edge at times (especially once it hits 100+) and creates the possibility of health hazards. Additionally, part of the season is also spent in the swamplands of Florida, which provide a whole new set of risks.
As with shows like "Ice Road", "Men" can be appreciated in a couple of different regards: first, the dangers of the job provide some incredibly riveting moments. Second, the series provides an incredibly in-depth look at an industry most aren't familiar with, and shows aspects of logging such as the importance of certain equipment, logistics, and costs, as well as the potential difficulties (bees become a major issue.)
One particular crew tries for a more ambitious project this time around, and based upon their operation, it's a fear that they may be pushing beyond their comfort zone. As the season comes to a close, the teams push far harder in order to get as many logs as they can: including one team who decides to take the enormous risk of working through a foggy night.
Adding another level of interest to this season is Shelby Stenga, the owner of Swamp Man Logging, who is...well, certainly one-of-a-kind. He drinks swamp water and pulls sunken logs out of the water with the rest of his crew. He can tell everything he needs to know about the sunken log...by using his feet. Shelby is one of the best things about the season, as the wild guy deals with health issues while dragging logs out of the swamp with his cute little dog. The series could have been broken into two parts with one half hour series focusing on the loggers in the Pacific NW and the other half hour focusing on the loggers in the swamps.
As the season opens, we're told that he needs to get a new barge because the one he has - a crown jewel of his successful operation - is starting to sink after being exposed to salt water for years. 4 giant logs can be worth up to $12,000. Overall, the series has a few slow stretches in the third season, but otherwise continues to be an enjoyable exploration of the industry - especially the Florida sequences with Swamp Man Logging.
DISC 1: Ax To Grind / Deeper Into the Swamp / Diving for Dollars / Boiling Point
DISC 2: Surviving the Swarm / Showdown / Chopping Block
DISC 3: Assault By Air / Crash and Burn / Curse of Kalina
DISC 4: End of the Line / Eleventh Hour / King of the Mountain / Bonus
VIDEO: The series is presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen by New Video/History. Image quality is generally fine, with acceptable clarity and detail. Small object detail is fine, but unremarkable. On a positive note, no pixelation is spotted. However, a few minor traces of shimmering are seen. Colors are bright and natural, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: As with video quality, audio quality is fine, but not exceptional. The 2.0 audio offers clear dialogue, music and narration, but not a whole lot else. Dialogue/narration remained clear and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: One amusing error: the special features screen on the last disc has a background reused from season 2 (complete with "Season 2" in big, bold lettering in the top corner.) Despite that, the extras focus on this season. We get three featurettes: "The Loggers", "Dangers" and "Logging", as well as another 20 minutes of deleted scenes. The three documentaries offer a reasonably good set of behind-the-scenes clips, thrown together into categories.
Final Thoughts: "Ax Men" has a bit too much drama added - the subject matter is tense and involving enough. The DVD offers a fine (although certainly with room for improvement) presentation of the series with a few minor extras. Recommended.