OmahaThe Movie

Before Animal Planet, before The Crocodile Hunter, there was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Longtime host Marlin Perkins may seem a bit square now--compared to the more rambunctious, media-savvy likes of Steve Irwin--but despite his stiff posture, his sincere and infectious delight at the animal world came through. The African Wild collects ten episodes, all focused on gorillas, elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, lions, cheetah, and other fauna of Africa. Among the standout scenes are Dian Fossey (author of Gorillas in the Mist) reuniting after a three year absence with the mountain gorilla family she'd spent 10 years befriending; Perkins and co-host Jim Fowler using a road grader to cull a hippo from its herd; and several impressive encounters with elephants, which look like they could crush a jeep like a toy. The editing and staid dialogue may feel old-fashioned (these episodes are from the 1970s and '80s), but the wildlife footage remains as beautiful as ever. --Bret Fetzer

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