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Category:    Home > Reviews > Special Interest > Geography > Documentary > Nature > Drama > Hunting > Ecology > Enviromental > Animals > The Black Hills & The Badlands: Gateway To The West/The Everglades: A Subtropical Paradise (Mill Creek Blu-rays)/Roots Of Heaven (1958/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Savage Wild (1970/MGM

The Black Hills & The Badlands: Gateway To The West/The Everglades: A Subtropical Paradise (Mill Creek Blu-rays)/Roots Of Heaven (1958/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Savage Wild (1970/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD)


Picture: B-/B-/B/C+     Sound: C+/C+/B-/C+     Extras: D (Roots: B-)     Main Programs: C+/C+/B-/C



PLEASE NOTE: Savage Wild is an MGM Limited Edition DVD and is available exclusively from Amazon through the right-hand sidebar of this site.



Nature and hunting used to go hand in hand up to the early decades of TV, but they eventually started to split off since environmental movements in the 1970s changed attitudes towards killing animals.  The following recent releases show how.



The Black Hills & The Badlands: Gateway To The West and The Everglades are the latest in a cycle of special interest releases to show off how great nature looks.  In this case, it is Mill Creek issuing them among their Blu-ray slate as part of their National Parks Exploration Series.  Though this kind of thing works best in IMAX productions, these “virtual tours” are not bad and though the HD shooting is mixed, there are some nice shots just the same.  If you are interested, the 70 – 80 minutes programs are not bad, but they have no extras.


Then we have John Huston’s Roots Of Heaven, a 1958) Fox release in CinemaScope issued by Twilight Time in a Limited Edition Blu-ray of only 3,000 copies.  Based on the true story of one of the earliest pro-environmentalists (Trevor Howard) taking on the killing of elephants (and other mad hunting) in a French-controlled section of Africa.  He tries to get a petition signed, but when he is laughed at, he resorts to inflammatory and defensive tactics, including shooting some of the hunter in the rear end!


Acting is not bad and the dramatic situations work, yet there is also some humor and even a romance subplot, but Huston (revisiting territory he covered in African Queen and continuing his obsession with this material and this world, as Clint Eastwood explored in his own film White Hunter, Black Heart), it is a film that deserves to be revisited and has some memorable scenes.  This is in part thanks to a supporting cast that includes Errol Flynn, Herbert Lom, Juliette Greco, Eddie Albert and Orson Welles, so this stays interesting throughout up to the interesting conclusion.


Extras include an isolated music track of Malcolm (Suddenly, Last Summer, Bridge On The River Kwai) Arnold’s score in DTS-HD (Master Audio) MA lossless 2.0 Stereo and an illustrated booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.



Finally we have another limited edition, Gordon Eastman’s The Savage Wild (1970) which he made playing himself as a tale of trying to save wolves in Northern Canada/The Yukon where hunting is a big business.  This mixes bad acting, awkward action sequences and great scenery for a release that American International originally issued.  If you can get through the lame parts, the time capsule side is worth your time along with his appeal to save wolves from extinction and between pollution and global warming, I wondered how much has changed where they made this.


The film is being shot in 35mm while Eastman goes around shooting his own footage in 16mm on a nice Arriflex and he also has a nice older snowmobile.  I have not seen this one in eons and could have easily mistaken scenes with any episode of Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins.  The makers make nice use of the big screen, even if we have seen some of this before.  There are no extras.



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Mill Creek Blu-rays again look good more often than not, but some shots show the older HD source being used.  Color is not bad, but expect some detail issues.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Roots was issued in DeLuxe color and though there is some print damage and flaws here and there (including in the color), this joins the slowly growing list of classic CinemaScope films on Blu-ray.  One problem is that the color turns on and off between major scene changes, but that is normal for this film.  Some rear projection work is also evident, but Director of Photography Oswald Morris, B.S.C. (Huston’s Moby Dick, Guns of Navarone, Kubrick’s Lolita, The Man With The Golden Gun) knew even then how to use the scope frame to full advantage along with color in this case and this fine Blu-ray transfers shows this effortlessly.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Savage was shot in Techniscope, which is a cheaper, smaller version of scope and original 35mm prints were in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor.  You cannot always see that here, but we do get more than a few good color shots that would suggest that and grain is on the minimal side, which is nice.  Eastman is one of five cameramen behind the actual shoot of the film and this is the second of three theatrical films he was able to get made.



The Mill Creek Blu-rays only offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but you buy these discs for their image quality.  Still, a lossless format might have helped.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix on Roots is pretty good for a film its age and was a film originally designed for 4-track magnetic sound and that included some traveling dialogue and sound effects.  This is a nice upgrade and the music is often clearer on the isolated music track because it is not mixed into the other sounds, though that track sometimes includes sound effects, though we guess the 4-track master is missing.  Finally, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Savage sounds good for its age, though you can hear location noise and maybe even camera motors whirling.  All in all, these are interesting releases worth a look.


You can order Roots while supplies last exclusively at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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