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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Life in the Freezer (1993)

Life in the Freezer (1993)

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Released 4-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 175:04 (Case: 174)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (92:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Attenborough
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music George Fenton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Credits roll over the final scenes in each episode

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    If there is a better presenter of documentaries on the planet than David Attenborough then they are a rare species indeed. Possibly the best known face of naturalist history, Attenborough embodies the very essence of a good presenter; he's passionate, knowledgeable and erudite. His soft, lilting voice is perfect for the material he presents and getting up close and personal with his subject matter adds that edge of verisimilitude. This series, brought to you by the BBC and National Geographic is another splendid collection of 30 minute episodes about the coldest, most barren and sparsely populated part of our planet, the Antarctic. For those of you familiar with Attenborough's style, you will not be disappointed with the quality of this disc and it is a worthy addition to any collection.


The Bountiful Sea - 27:07

    Although the coldest climate on earth, the Antarctic supports a wide variety of animal life built to withstand the extreme temperatures present in this part of the world. Huge icebergs break off the pack ice and begin slowly drifting only to be caught again in the winter cold. The continent itself grows enormously during the winter at some 40,000sq kilometres a day and extends over much of the southern ocean. This episode concentrates on what brings so many varieties of animal to this part of the ocean, especially since it is so cold, to live and breed. It also begins the detailing of the life of those animals brave enough to endure this bleak environment; the penguins, the seals and the various birds.


The Ice Retreats - 29:19

    Spring is here and the mating season has just begun. One huge bird that inhabits this region and gets in early is the albatross. These massive birds with a wingspan of over 3 metres mate for life. They lay one egg a year and incubate their egg for 70 days and must range for thousands of miles for their food. Massive bull elephant seals come to shore to mate and proclaim dominance over their harems. Territorial disputes are common and death is often the result. This episode details the receding ice pack and the opening up of more land for breeding and the variety of species that make use of this break in the weather.


The Race to Breed - 29:00

    The mating season is in full swing, and at the edge of the Antarctic seas the ice is retreating rapidly. Most land masses are still locked in ice and only a few land-based breeding grounds are available to the wildlife like Sth Georgia and Deception Island. Here bull seals take up their ground in advance of the female influx, while Chinstrap penguins walk inland to find their breeding site. Leopard seals hunt the penguins, while other migratory birds like terns, shags and petrels also begin congregating and competing for space. All around life is beginning to return with the melting of the ice and snow.


The Door Closes - 29:06

    Summer is coming to an end but some species have only just begun to breed. For them, they must wait until the last dregs of summer, for their breeding grounds are even closer to the pole. Macaroni penguins attempt to get ashore at Sth Georgia in mountainous seas and leopard seals hunt the new baby penguins as they begin their trek into the open ocean. New ice is beginning to form on the ocean's surface gathering together to form the massive pack ice of the winter months. Huge petrels and other birds fight over the carcass of a dead baby seal and everywhere life is returning to the sea as the winter approaches with its deadly cold.


The Big Freeze - 29:16

    In winter, the Antarctic can get as cold as -70c. No more than 800 miles from the South Pole, the Weddell seal, the world's furthest south-living mammal, is caring for its new offspring. The pups learn to swim at 1 week old and older seals have been known to swim to depths of over 750 meters where only stalked sponges live. They live in the shadow of Mt Erebus, the largest active volcano in the southern hemisphere. This part of the Antarctic also contains the driest place on earth, as evidenced by a 3000 year old seal carcass, almost totally intact, although desiccated by the fierce winds that whip off the polar cap and absorb all moisture from the air. Here only lichen exists in the rocks. The Antarctic Plateau and the Trans Antarctic Mountains that surround it is the largest area of lifelessness on the planet. Finally, this episode details the great Emperor penguin, the largest penguin in the world at 1.5m. They live in the toughest conditions and thrive where no other creature can.


Footsteps in the Snow - 29:16

    The final episode in the series is a tribute to both the explorers who came before and opened up this amazing, yet virtually barren part of our planet and also to the camera crews and the technology used to present this series. Starting off with details of Scott's abortive expedition in 1911 and the success of Norwegian Amundsen in reaching the pole, you see the winter camp of Scott at Cape Evans, the material and technology they used all those years ago and details on Scott's untimely demise. In addition you see the more modern facilities of today, the vessels and outtakes from how they actually got some of the more interesting shots. All-in-all, an excellent way to end an excellent series.

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Transfer Quality


    Originally made for television, this 1993 series has all the hallmarks of using digital technology, and that is not to discount the abilities of the crew. In some places this is so spectacular it is breathtaking in its clarity. Occasionally it looks like stock footage was used as filler or for a different perspective, but on the whole and apart from some minor annoyances this is just stunning.

    This was originally presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and that is what we get on this disc. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is crisp, clean and there is edge enhancement very visible on the non-nature footage (i.e. that with the cast/crew/David Attenborough, eg: 4:07 in The Bountiful Sea). Apart from that, though, the rest of the show is beautifully presented. Shadow detail is as bountiful as the seas with copious amounts of fine detail visible throughout. Background detail only diminishes when presenting something sharply in focus in the foreground. Grain is light and minimal until Episode 4, The Door Closes, whereupon at 24:10, after some stock footage is used with heavy grain visible, the grain actually becomes more persistent. That's not to say it was bad, just visible from that point on. Low level noise was simply not an issue with deep blacks and no visible problems.

    Naturalist footage is excellent with all the colours of life on display. Whites are crisp and great variance can be seen in them. Skin tones look very natural. The only annoyance is colour bleed which accompanies David Attenborough and his use of a red anorak. Basically whenever he appears wearing that coat, bleed occurs (eg: The Bountiful Sea - 1:20 and 7:45, The Race to Breed - 19:26, The Door Closes - 26:45, and plenty of other times). There is the odd colour bleed on the animal life but it is rarer (eg: The Ice Retreats - 21:17 along the wing edge of a penguin, The Door Closes - 4:33 on penguin and again at 9:58). Chroma noise is not an issue.

    Film artefacts are fairly rare, only being visible on a couple of occasions (eg: light spray of flecks at 3:08 in The Bountiful Sea, The Ice Retreats at 11:50 and Footsteps in the Snow at 13:50). Pixelization is visible if you care to look, but it is mostly light and unnoticeable for the most part (eg: The Bountiful Sea - 26:20 along penguin beak, The Ice Retreats - 9:53 along a wing edge and The Big Freeze - 12:11 along the snow line). Other slight imperfections can be found in The Ice Retreats - 20:04, a hair at the bottom of the screen, ghosting in The Door Closes - 9:58 on one of the penguins and again at 14:12 on David Attenborough's outline. The Door Closes also has some smudges on the picture at 14:31 on the left hand side and Footsteps in the Snow has visible lines running through it at 23:42 which appear similar to microphony, quite surprising given the excellence of the rest of the series.

    The subtitles are small, white with a black border (obviously to be seen more easily against the predominantly white backgrounds), easy to read and very accurate to the spoken word.

    The layer change occurs at 5:07 in Episode 4, The Door Closes. It's mid penguin swim, quick and relatively painless.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Only one soundtrack is available on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded track at 256 kilobits per second. Given the fact that documentaries are dialogue-centred, this is usually more than adequate for the job. In this case, it is actually better than that. Naturally, the centre speaker is the focus of attention for most of the series with strong, clean sound from David Attenborough seeking to maintain your interest. The front speakers are used most often for the sound effects; wind, crashing of waves, the sounds of the birds or animals, but every now and then the music will pick up and place you squarely inside a wall of sound, ably enhanced by the surrounds which do a sterling job. Overall this was a totally enjoyable sound experience combining the best of both music and effects but never over-riding the dialogue.

    The syncing was excellent with no noticeable disparity. David Attenborough's dulcet tones are perfect for the dialogue and his simple, articulate and thoroughly enjoyable style was perfectly in evidence.

    The music was composed by George Fenton who is better known for his movie soundtracks (eg: Groundhog Day, The Fisher King) but he definitely come up with a sterling effort on this series. As the saying goes, 'sound maketh the movie', and in this case it is definitely true. Using a full orchestral setup, this includes quiet, somnambulant pieces all the way up to thundering crescendos which form a symbiosis with the vision.

    The surround encoding on this disc means that the rears were used more to add power and presence to the music and sound effects, which they did in generous portions. The sound level from the rears was very decent and everything has a much more encompassing feel to it.

    There was no subwoofer usage on this disc.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At this time there doesn't appear to be a Region 1 (or Region 2) release of this DVD, making the local product the product of choice.


    Life In The Freezer is another superb series from the BBC presented by David Attenborough. This one is about the loneliest place on the planet, and the coldest, yet he manages to make it sound almost exotic. Definitely one for the collection if you are a lover of great documentaries, and they don't come any better.

    Every now and then you will be amazed at the brilliance of the video, while the rest of the time it is merely excellent with some amazing camera work. There are only a few minor blemishes to report.

    An excellent aural companion to the video is on offer. Although most of the time you'll be concentrating on the dialogue, every now and then you'll be pleasantly surprised by the breadth and scope of the soundtrack.

    No extras are present on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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