Saturday, November 13, 2010

Movie Review: Life in Cold Blood

We recently watched Life in Cold Blood, hosted by the naturalist, David Attenborough (brother of Richard Attenborough). It is a BBC nature documentary about reptiles and amphibians and is the last installment in The Life Collection. We have previously watched and enjoyed The Life of Birds, The Life of Mammals, and Life in the Undergrowth (which is about insects).

It was easily the shortest of the four documentaries that we've watched.[1] This is doubly surprising given that it includes two classes of animals, where the other documentaries each treated just one. It's hard to know whether this is due to diminishing funds, less interest in the subject matter, David Attenborough's age [2], or fewer animals to study.[3]

As with the previous documentaries, the filmmakers made sure to present some of the more unusual or astonishing behaviors. This included a pygmy leaf chameleon (the smallest reptile in the world), a caecilian (whose offspring eat the skin off her body, which she then replenishes), a monitor lizard which lays its eggs inside of termite mounds, a snake which tears the legs off of crabs, the giant tortoise Lonesome George, and many others.

My verdict: Overall it was an enjoyable program, though like Life in the Undergrowth it could have benefited from a consideration of more species. Unless you're squeamish about writhing snakes, snapping crocodiles, or slimy frogs, I'd recommend this film.


[1] Both Life in the Undergrowth and Life in Cold Blood have five episodes each, but Life in Cold Blood uses up ten minutes of each episode for a feature called "Under the Skin", where the viewer is given an in-depth view of how some of the filming was done.

[2] He was 81 at the time of filming. See

[3] There are approximately 6,000 species of amphibian (source) and roughly 8,000 species of reptile (source) compared to nearly 5,500 species of mammal (source), approximately 10,000 species of bird (source), and up to 10,000,000 species of insect (source).

Image attributions:

Chameleon is by Today is a good day, available at

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