David Parer, the noted documentarian, teams up with German biologist Nina Kosch in a three year study of platypuses (not platypii) that has been beautifully shot on location in Tasmania and Northern Queensland. The doco tells of their pursuit of a mating pair and shows some previously unknown and unseen behaviours of this most curious of creatures.
The platypus (from the Greek root meaning ‘flat-footed’) has but one distant relation in the echidna and this equally odd little fella gets a tip o’ the cap here too. There is some truly bizarre footage of these dudes getting it together in an ‘echidna train’ as they fight for the only female within their humble shuffling distance. Between the two of them, the echidna and the platypus are the only surviving relatives of the fantastic prehistoric monotremes. Told with good humour and genuine affection for our weirdest residents, this 50-minute documentary is fascinating watching and will deliver the occasional laugh watching the merry hijinks of these strange critters.
There are contained within some amazing images of previously unseen night capers captured by tiny infrared cameras, including a mother with her young and what goes on inside their burrows at night. Grrrowl!
So, turn the lights down low and prepare to be romanced by this amazing and colourful documentary.
Delivered in the now traditional television ratio of 1.78:1 (with 16:9 enhancement), this show looks very nice. There are the occasional instances of grain, but these usually occur at night or when using a smaller video camera (which could be expected) or when scenes have been enlarged to highlight action. Generally though the colours all look nice and realistic, the flesh tones are natural and the shadows are mostly okay, though losing some grass detail is hardly a flogging offence.
The Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack is more than suitable for the action contained here and is usually nice and clear. One sound that stands out as well recorded is that piping of bell birds in the Tasmanian forests, very nice. Dialogue is fine and even Ms Kosch’s accent is delivered clearly so we never miss a word of hers. David Parer’s voiceover is well spoken and quite subtle, which contributes to the overall feel of the doco.
What music has been used has been used well. I was shocked to discover that it was composed by none other than DVDnet reviewer, Martin Friedel! Then I discovered there are two Martin Friedels and it isn't the guy what works here. Oh well. Anyway... the music is always subtle and in the rare instances it’s used for a comedic device, it works in a very cute way. One scene in particular has used the comedic angle quite well – that of a platypus and the resident cormorant engaging in some zany symbiotic capers. It’s really quite amusing.
The extras included are pretty sweet for a doco DVD. The first is a 28-minute documentary entitled Bobby and the Banded Stilts which documents the effect Cyclone Bobby had on the great salt lakes of inner Australia. The banded stilts are birds that turn up to feast on the billions of shrimp whose eggs have lain dormant waiting for rain. Once it rains, boom, there’re more shrimp than you can fit on your barbie, mate. Delivered in 1.78:1 but not enhanced, it’s a very interesting documentary and a worthy inclusion. The only other bonus is a photo gallery that houses 20 shots of platypuses taken whilst on location for the doco. A nice inclusion, as there are some very cute shots in this part.
Overall, the platypus wears its title well as the world’s strangest animal and this doco does much to dispel the myths surrounding this little known creature. Incorporating some very nice shots and clever photography, this is one documentary I truly enjoyed watching and learning from. Told with a gentle humour and genuine affection for this cutest of critters, this is a well made and well delivered documentary well worth riding alongside any other docos you’ve ever felt compelled to own.