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Case Number 20790: Small Claims Court

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Revealing The Leopard

PBS // 2010 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // February 27th, 2011

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Editor's Note

Our review of Revealing The Leopard (Blu-Ray), published February 19th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

The ultimate cat.

The Case

The venerable and long-running nature documentary series Nature has been a staple of PBS for nearly three decades. If you're a fan of leopards and like the idea of buying a single episode of a television show on DVD, then Revealing the Leopard should be right up your alley.

Leopards! They may be the ultimate cat, given their propensity to adapt and survive in the most challenging and hostile of climates, from Africa to Siberia, from Arabia to Beijing. They exist in the fringes of human civilization, but are almost never seen and rarely studied. Revealing the Leopard finds a remarkable story in a mother cat and her two cubs—cats who have developed a remarkable tolerance to human interaction and camera crews—studying and observing the leopard in the wild.

I admit to not paying much mind to the leopard, which makes me a prime target for this documentary. Revealing the Leopard brings to light some of these unique qualities of the leopard to the forefront: their independence, adaptability, and cunning. There are more leopards in the wild than almost any other big cat, yet they remain mysterious and misunderstood, living in the fringes, in uneasy harmony with other predators stronger and faster than them. Consider the African leopard, dodging the strong lion, the speedy cheetah, and large roaming gangs of hyenas, yet still managing to keep their population robust and healthy. A clever cat, to say the least!

There's not much new here in terms of nature documentaries. If you've seen one episode of Nature, you've seen this one: lots of scenery and nature shots (some of it unapologetically gruesome) and steady narration by Jim Conrad. It is impossible not to be enamored by big cat footage, and Revealing the Leopard gives us oodles of material to gawk at. Leopards playing, leopards hunting, leopards hiding—you name it, they've got it. Strikingly handsome creatures, it is hard not to admire their tenacity and cunning, living in such close proximity to humans and still remaining so distant and secretive.

I can't say I'm a fan of the narration. Jim Conrad does a fine enough job, but the hackneyed dialogue is laughably questionable in terms of facts. Being wild animals, most documentary features are content to simply observe the events on-screen, giving play-by-play on antelopes being digested and such. Not so with Revealing the Leopard; the show seems obsessed with the idea of getting into the psyche of the leopard, explaining its feeling and motivations, assigning it all kinds of inappropriate human emotions and characteristics. This is something I am absolutely okay with doing to my pet cats—they are little people, after all!—but I expect a bit more objectivity in my nature documentaries.

Revealing the Leopard offers a straightforward technical presentation: anamorphic widescreen and stereo audio. Colors are balanced, detail levels are solid, and black levels are balanced. Some aliasing and edge effects crop up now and again, but nothing intolerant. The stereo transfer offers clean dialogue and a balanced mix between the two channels with average bass response. English SDH subtitles are included, but inexplicably are in all caps. Watching a documentary about predatory cats IN ALL CAPS IS VERY STRESSFUL AND NOT RECCOMENDED. Just saying.

Color me cynical, but it's hard to get too excited about this DVD. Interesting, to be sure—I do love me some cats—but Revealing the Leopard amounts to tenuous value at best. One episode of a TV show for twenty dollars is a stiff sell, no matter now fascinating leopards are.

The Verdict

Not quite guilty, since cats are pretty swell.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 71

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Science and Nature
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb
• PBS Nature

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