DVD REVIEW: Looking at ‘Big Cats’ from the inside out

Courtesy of PBS

Inside Nature’s Giants: Big Cats is one of the grossest documentaries to ever appear on PBS. The hour-long show looks at various monster animals with an unusual focus. Rather than solely scrutinizing wildlife footage of living animals, the series dives into the innards of these beasts. This means guts, muscles and skulls — all laid bare for the audience to see.

The Big Cats episode is particularly stomach-testing, featuring a full dissection of a lion and a tiger. With no striped fur, these cats are positively strange looking. Still, the results are fascinating and a lot of important information is discovered. More than most nature programs, Inside Nature’s Giants actually finds answers to the questions of the planet. These researchers, including veterinary scientist Mark Evans and comparative anatomist Joy Reidenberg, don’t just skin these cats for novelty’s sake. They unearth many scientific truths, and it’s great to have the cameras rolling when the discoveries surface.

Both lions and tigers take the spotlight during these 60 minutes. Many topics are covered, including hunting, mating and roaring. The researchers grab hold of skinned claws, leg muscles and intestines, constantly looking closer for more answers to how these cats rule over so many other mammals. I could have done without the constant marionette action, when the team members grabbed hold of tendons and pulled on them to see how the tiger’s digits moved.

The most interesting aspect dealt with the larynx in each cat. There’s a lot more to their roars than meets the eye (or the ear). So much more than just a mating call, the roar is a protective guard, one that lets other cats know who’s the boss.

Everything isn’t gross. Many of the scenes feature wildlife footage from South Africa, where the lions roam around, eating, sleeping and eating again. We see the big cats in all of their glory and ferociousness, reminding us of how cruel the food chain can be.

Documentary series like Inside Nature’s Giants are valuable for so many reasons. There’s a great deal of information discovered, and it’s all presented in an informative, slick format. Thankfully the Big Cats episode features specimens who died a natural death in a British zoo, because if the series teaches us anything it’s that the animal kingdom is unique, fascinating and worthy of protection.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Inside Nature’s Giants: Big Cats

  • Directed by David Dugan

  • Featuring Mark Evans and Joy Reidenberg

  • Running time: 60 minutes

  • Not rated

  • Rating: ★★★☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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