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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing nature films 1922-1933
This awe-inspiring DVD presents 19 of the 144 "Secrets of Nature" theatrical short films made by British Instructional Pictures with great care and intelligence between 1922 and 1933. Each is transferred in high definition from the vintage nitrate or best preservation element in the BFI National Film and Television Archive, and the stunning image quality does justice to...
Published on 26 July 2010 by David Shepard

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Secrets of Nature - disapointing
After the glowing reviews (2) of this product, I am uncomfortable with my negative evaluation but in fairness to others who might consider purchasing Secrets of Nature, I believe another viewpoint is necessary. These "secrets" may have been cutting edge in the last century (1900's) but it is possible that much has been learned in the nearly 100 years since these...
Published 5 months ago by B. Carter


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing nature films 1922-1933, 26 July 2010
By 
David Shepard (California, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secrets Of Nature [DVD] [1922] (DVD)
This awe-inspiring DVD presents 19 of the 144 "Secrets of Nature" theatrical short films made by British Instructional Pictures with great care and intelligence between 1922 and 1933. Each is transferred in high definition from the vintage nitrate or best preservation element in the BFI National Film and Television Archive, and the stunning image quality does justice to the breathtaking black-and-white photography of the original works. The series was designed to serve as popular entertainment, an intention especially apparent in the narrations of the early talkies, and achieved this so well that they were satirized by cartoons in "Punch;" however, the standard of production is very high and the editorial organization is a model of lucidity. Presented without ruffles or flourishes, the films frequently attain the eloquence of real visual poetry.

The DVD is organized in four sections: "Techniques," films which demonstrate microscopic, time-lapse, underwater cinematography and other special techniques of scientific filming, including "Fathoms Deep Beneath the Sea," "The Plants of the Pantry," "Magic Mixies (my personal favorite)," "The World in a Wine-Glass," "Romance in a Pond," and "Brewster's Magic;"; Birds, probably the most impressive section, including "The Cuckoo's Secret," "The White Owl," "The Bittern" and "The Nightingale;" Insects, which includes "Skilled Insect Artisans," "The Battle of the Ants," "Busy Bees" and "The Aphis;" and Plants, including "Floral Co-Operative Societies," "Peas and Cues," "Scarlet Runner & Co.," "The Strangler," and "Gathering Moss." There is also a 36-page booklet with excellent new essays by naturalists who are obviously impressed with the films and hold them in high esteem.

BFI presents "Secrets of Nature" as "forerunners of today's award-winning natural history television productions" but to my mind that is rather like saying that Mozart is a forerunner of Benjamin Britten. The measure of a work is its achievement against the possibilities of its time, and by that standard the best "Secrets of Nature" films are enduring accomplishments. Perhaps this DVD will restore the fame of Mary Field, Percy Smith, H. Bruce Woolfe and the other pioneers of British cinema who were responsible for them.

Whether as a matter of choice or of budgetary constraint (no explanation is offered), the DVD presents the eight silent films without musical accompaniment of any kind, although the essays state that music was played with them in theatres. This is an especially sad omission as the BFI has accompanists who provide brilliant scores for silent cinema; I found the silent films less arid and actually quite moving when I also played appropriate music from a CD. (The sound films on the set give a good idea of the musical settings intended by the filmmakers). Because of film shrinkage, some title cards shake and it would have been an improvement to stabilize them digitally, as well as to remove the frames full of hole punches from BFI's long-ago tests which estimated the longevity of the old nitrate film. However, these are minor reservations when measured against the pleasure of finally seeing and learning about the legendary and beautiful "Secrets of Nature."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb DVD, 18 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Secrets Of Nature [DVD] [1922] (DVD)
I chose this rating as a present. It was delivered in excellent condition and works perfectly.
The person I bought it for was very impressed.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Secrets of Nature - disapointing, 29 Jan 2014
By 
B. Carter (Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secrets Of Nature [DVD] [1922] (DVD)
After the glowing reviews (2) of this product, I am uncomfortable with my negative evaluation but in fairness to others who might consider purchasing Secrets of Nature, I believe another viewpoint is necessary. These "secrets" may have been cutting edge in the last century (1900's) but it is possible that much has been learned in the nearly 100 years since these shaky black and white images were made. The narration is written - cameras did not have audio at the time. I made it through moulds and creatures that were vegetable and then turned into animals but when the habits of the cuckoo were documented in the 1920's for the first time, I could go no further. Seeing the film crew driving cars that my grand father would have known and being dressed in turn of the century clothing was too much. I decided that I did not live in the past but longed to see new information that was professionally presented.
My recommendation to those interested in purchasing "Secrets" is to seek information that is more current.
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Secrets Of Nature [DVD] [1922]
Secrets Of Nature [DVD] [1922] by Various (DVD - 2010)
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