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MPI Home Video presents
Savage Earth (1998)

"We are very small, and can be destroyed very easily by nature."
- volcanic researcher

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 24, 2007

Stars: Stacy Keach
Director: Chris Malone, Bill Lyons

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (occasional footage of destruction and dead bodies)
Run Time: 03h:47m:58s
Release Date: April 24, 2007
UPC: 030306737393
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B F

DVD Review

When I was in school it always bugged me when our course material seemed out of date (it happened from time to time), because I always felt that even though we were studying events from years past, it seemed like more current information or analysis may have been discovered since. It's like reading about space travel in a book written in 1968.

With this Savage Earth four-disc set, we have an informative PBS series from 1998 that looks at the destructive powers of our very own planet. The material spans the usual trio of suspects—earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis—complimented by researchers, witnesses, and actual footage, but for me there's that nagging sensation that all of the scientific and forecast information is now nearly a decade old.

With narration by Stacy Keach, each of the four 56-minute discs slathers on moderate gloom and doom, augmented by the gaggle of scientific investigators doing their best to understand how to predict such horrific events in the future (hey, that's now!). But like a NASCAR race, the meat hook to draw you in here is the equivalent of waiting for a spectacular crash. In this case it's an abundance of grim footage. Face it, you're watching a series on the Earth's savage powers, so it is expected you're going to want to see some examples.

Yes, it is a PBS production—that undoubtedly helps legitimize things—and certainly it is not anywhere near as cheesy as a tabloidy Fox special. In fact, the entire series is produced quite well and does deliver a wealth of facts as it traverses the globe, but like the aforementioned NASCAR crash, it's the promise of bad stuff that sits boldly like the proverbial 900-pound gorilla.

Savage Earth devotes one disc to tsunamis (Waves Of Destruction), two to volcanoes (Out Of The Inferno, Hell's Crust) and one to earthquakes (The Restless Earth). And in between looks at the research and study, each is loaded with plenty of on-location scenes of destruction and the somber aftermath, some of it especially frightening. The footage is often understandably bleak and full of mass death, but a series entitled Savage Earth is required to hit viewers with this kind of thing in order to make its point. The material covering events like an Indonesian volcanic eruption or a San Francisco earthquake come with some striking and scary video, and it reminds me that if I were to ever find myself in the middle of such a terrible event, I would probably suffer an immobilizing and no doubt fatal panic attack.

There's a stat mentioned in this production that over the last 500 years, over 300 million people have died in earthquakes. That's the kind of staggering fact that could trigger endless sleepless nights for a gloomy pessimist, and the hidden message from Savage Earth is that, depending on where you live, you may be just clinging to your fragile existence and could be flooded, shaken, or covered in lava at a moment's notice. The glimmer of hope—and there needs to be one—is the scientific research going on to help predict such events, though as we've seen since 1998, Earth can still cause unexpected and violent upheaval whenever it wants to, and all we can do is ride it out. Hopefully.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All four segments are presented in a nonanamorphic widescreen. Image quality tends to be not particularly crisp, with edges appearing moderately soft at times. Understandably, some of the archival footage of earthquakes and volcanoes is a bit rough, but the "new" (this is from 1998) interviews and location footage carry decently rendered colors with no major blemishes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, a fairly no-frills affair that carries Stacy Keach's sometimes ominous narration cleanly and clearly. The interview segments with assorted researchers aren't quite as rich and boomy, but there is never an issue with clarity, nor are there any distortion problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The discs are housed in four separate NexPak cases, with the content cut into seven chapters each, with optional English subs. There are no other extras of any kind.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

Consider this the not quite as grand, significantly darker, red-headed stepchild to the Planet Earth collection. This four disc set from 1998—with properly somber narration from Stacy Keach—addresses the volatile instability of our planet with all sorts of horrific footage of cataclysmic destruction. Some of the content seems to overlap, but the visuals might be of interest as a rental to those of you with a fetish for analyzing earthquake or tsunami devastation.


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