“Soar over blue-hazed Himalayan peaks and sweep down towards the thundering Indian Ocean as we celebrate the power and beauty of India’s greatest ambassador — the mighty Bengal tiger.”
Almost six years ago when DVDs first appeared, it was a little company familiar to laserdisc collectors — Lumivision — that marketed the first three titles. Among them were two IMAX films, Tropical Rainforest and Antarctica. Soon thereafter, Lumivision metamorphosed into a company known as Slingshot Entertainment, but the focus on public domain titles and specialty items such as the IMAX films remained. The latest IMAX offering from Slingshot is 2002’s India: Kingdom of the Tiger. It’s essentially an ode to the Bengal tiger told through a blend of the varied images of India as well as tigers caught unawares on film and dramatized material that outlines the pioneering wildlife conservation efforts of Jim Corbett in India. The IMAX images feature the usual awe-inspiring panoramic and swooping you-are-there shots, but they are equally effective in giving us fly-on-the-wall glimpses of tigers in their natural habitat. I’ve not seen many of the recent IMAX films, so I don’t know if including dramatized material is a new approach for them, but it certainly works effectively in this instance. Christopher Heyerdahl gives a convincing portrayal of Corbett in the vignettes we see of him. The film runs 42 minutes and is over far too quickly.
Equally as impressive as the title featurette is how well Slingshot has treated the film on DVD. The full frame transfer (in accord with the original IMAX aspect ratio) is beautiful to behold. The image is crisp and clear with no debris evident. Colours are bright and accurate and some of the images just seem to leap off the screen, so sharp and realistic do they appear. Equally satisfying is the sound, whether you choose the DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Both are provided in English while the latter is also provided in French and Hindi. (There appears to be no Mandarin as advertised on the packaging.) The dialogue is rich and the music is very dynamic, with the surrounds being used effectively. Optional English subtitles are provided.
The supplement package is admirably thorough. It begins with a detailed scene-specific commentary by director Bruce Neibaur and director of photography Matt Williams provide that is very informative about both the mechanics of the filming as well as their reasons for the various casting decisions, camera angles, music choices, and location selection. Both have pleasing voices and convey their enthusiasm for the project. Next up is a well-done 22-minute making-of documentary that provides plenty of location footage with interviews with the producers, the director, and several other members of the cast and crew. The difficulties of filming with the bulky IMAX cameras (particularly the sequences involving the tigers) are clearly explained. Not content with these two fine supplements, Slingshot also includes a 46-minute National Wildlife Federation production called “Tiger” that documents a young performer’s love of the tiger and her return trip to India to the Ranthambhore National Park where tigers may be observed in the wild. The film is more crudely made than the IMAX production, but does make its point about the precarious future for tigers in both India and elsewhere in the world. The disc concludes with some tiger trivia questions, the film’s theatrical trailer, and trailers for three other IMAX films available on DVD from Slingshot.