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Land of the Mammoth: The Discovery Channel

Picking up where The Discovery Channel's Raising the Mammoth left off, 2001's Land of the Mammoth continues the odyssey of French scientist and Arctic explorer Bernard Buigues, who discovered a nearly intact woolly mammoth in subterranean deep-freeze in Siberia and transported it — enclosed in a block of earth — for further examination. The initial documentary covered the extraordinary effort required to extract and transport the "Jarkov" mammoth, while offering insights into the evolution and genealogy of the now-extinct beasts. In this follow-up, as Buigues and crew slowly remove layers of earth from their valuable find, the documentary focuses on Arctic fauna and climatology, speculating on reasons why the many mammoth species died off around 30,000 years ago, while also examining the extinct woolly musk ox and giant deer. Many looks at behavioral traits of mammoths come via comparison to their cousins the elephants, and the numerous mammoth segments are rendered with some fairly advanced CG animation. In the meantime, the documentary also follows a group of paleontologists who regularly visit Siberia's Tamyr Peninsula every spring, where the seasonal thaw turns up countless fossil specimens, from the enormous (mammoth tusks) to the minuscule (rodents' teeth). The fact that Land of the Mammoth spends less time on the feature attraction — the Jarkov mammoth — than one might expect can be a frustration, but it's made clear that excavating the frozen beast from his 22-ton grave could take years of painstaking work — after this season's efforts are complete, well more than 90% of the animal remains obscured . Count on more mammoth-themed sequels from the folks at The Discovery Channel. Artisan's DVD release features a crisp video transfer (anamorphic 1.85:1), with audio in DD. 5.1 or 2.0. Features include a commentary with executive producer Mick Kaczorowski, line producer Alla Savranskaia, producer/writer Adrienne Ciuffo, composer Richard Fiocca, director/editor Emmanual Mairesse, and director of photography John Davey; four "behind-the-scenes" featuretttes; textual notes on the 2000 expedition to the Siberian tundra; a photo gallery; and the Discovery Channel promo TV spot. Keep-case.
—JJB



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