civilisation and ascent of man both now out in R2

Discussion in 'DVD' started by andrew markworthy, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. andrew markworthy

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    Arguably the two greatest documentary series ever shown on British TV - Civilisation, presented by Sir Kenneth Clarke, and The Ascent of Man, presented by Prof Jacob Bronowski, are now out on R2. For those who don't know, Civilisation is the history of art, written and presented by the most eminent art historian of his generation. TAOM is the history of science and its place in civilisation, presented by a brilliant polymath who alas was only really well-known in the UK during his lifetime (amongst other things he was a leading expert on the poet Blake, worked on crucial wartime science projects, and of all things, invented a widely-used smokeless coal).

    Both titles have been available for some time in R1 (TAOM at a pretty steep price), but these are relatively cheap (I got mine for 25 pnds each by early pre-ordering, which is cheap by Brit standards).

    The quality of the picture on either set isn't exactly demonstration quality, but for programmes hailing from the late 60s/early 70s it's acceptable. Sound is mono but clear. Extras on both sets are fairly short interviews with David Attenborough (best known for his excellent nature programmes, but at one time Director of BBC2, which commissioned these series).

    If you are losing faith in TV as a medium for intelligent discussion and exposition, then you owe it to yourself to get these releases. Civilisation has arguably dated slightly. Sir K Clarke has a habit of sounding rather patrician and patronising at times, but what he says is insightful, and even if you don't agree with all of his views, he will at least get you thinking about art. TAOM, on the other hand, is still as vibrant as ever. If you can watch the programme on eugenics and the brilliant speech by Bronowski standing in the grounds of Auschwitz without simultaneously being moved and inspired, then there is little hope for you.
     
  2. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I purchased the R1 TAOM set a few years ago for a very steep price. Hey I wanted it badly & did not know how long it would be available at the time. [​IMG] It sounds like the R2 version doesan't improve the transfer.

    I might pick up the "Civilisation" set.
     
  3. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    TAOM is still an awesome televisual achivement. I caught an episode last year (Dr. B was at Machu Picchu) on BBC4 and is was quite startling to see something so intelligent, passionate, yet invigorating and exciting on TV in an age awash in purile humour, crass sexuality and general degeneracy. Even the Discover Channel has gone way down hill over the last few years in terms of quality - way too much stuff on UFOs and sharks! Those subject are indeed fascinating, but give it a rest, guys.

    I have never seen Civilisation. But more about my trip to American later. Only (half) joking! The series sounds extremely interesting, but I may rent the discs before I splash out.

    Thanks for the reminder about these, Andrew.
     
  4. andrew markworthy

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    I think that's wise. I've watched a bit more since I started this thread and I'm finding Sir K Clarke a bit hard to take in large doses these days. Other folks' mileage may vary on this.

    On the other hand, I can't praise TAOM highly enough. I perhaps biased because like a lot of academics of my generation, this was the programme that inspired me to go into research. However, the insights still are as arresting and challenging as they were when I first saw the programme as a teenager.

    BTW, I agree 110% about the Discovery Channel. There are still some gems in the mix, but if I see another programme about sharks ... Just what the &%&*^% is the appeal?
     
  5. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    In the years since Jaws, ichthyologists have tried to bring the truth about sharks, whales and other cercaria to the public and all types of sharks are fascinating. But many of these "documentaries" on sharks are bollocks. The "shock/fear factor" is still ever-present. Awful. Ignornace prevails once again the Modern Age!

    But I have seen some fine pieces on Egypt and Mesoamerican civilisations in the last few months.

    I may just take the plunge on The Ascent of Man next week. Is their any subject more urgent, important and fascinating than Anthropology? Most people aren't interested: this staggers me. Who we are and where we came from and why this occured is the most important question in Science and it effects the whole human race and the future evolution of Man.

    Andrew (or everyone, really) how do you feel about Carl Sagan's, Cosmos? I love it and watch it once a year. The 7-disc set avaiable in R1 is one of the best imports I think I have ever made.

    One of my most favourite quotes from Sagan - who uttered some great pearls of wisdom in his time is:

    "Up there in the Cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits: National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile, blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars."
     
  6. andrew markworthy

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    Curse you, McMurphy - bang goes another hole in my wallet. I love the series but I didn't think it was available.
     
  7. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    My sentiments exactly, though I'm ashamed to say I've never seen TAOM. :b I think I'll order up a copy - I should have Richard Dawkins' latest finished by the time it arrives...
     
  8. Malcolm Cleugh

    Malcolm Cleugh Second Unit

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    These releases also come with superb booklets giving background information on their filming. These are glossy coloured illustrated and run around 30 pages.

    The pictures have been restored although given the age they don't look as good as modern stuff. The restored Civilisation was played on BBC4 last year and according to my dad the picture was miles better than when it was last screened many years ago.

    Also managed to get them at around GBP25 from Amazon.co.uk The original preorder price was based upon an incorrect RRP quoted by the BBC of GBP35, the actual RRP of GBP50 seems very high for a 4 DVD set (although this was the mail order price, these DVDs having been available since last year as an exclusive mail order offer from DDHE.co.uk, now available everywhere).
    Some retailers don't seem to have spotted this change in RRP as the MVC chain are selling them for £32.99 based upon the lower price which is below the cheapest current online price.
     

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