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Image Entertainment presents
National Parks of Alaska (1985)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: April 12, 2002

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:54m:19s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 014381115024
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+A- D+

DVD Review

Featuring the sounds of the natural wilderness set to soothing music, National Parks of Alaska takes us up north to several of the state's attractions. Part of the Wilderness Video collection, which has included other National Parks titles such as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Glacier National Park, this video is a montage of images collected from the wild, demonstrating the character of these national treasures.

We begin at Denali National Park, first established after being set aside as a nature preserve in 1917, when it was named after its most dominant feature, the majestic Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 19,470 feet above sea level. Renamed Denali (the original Athabascan native people's designation meaning "High One") in 1980, its wealth of wildlife, particularly Dall sheep, caribou and grizzly bears, enjoy a virtually unspoiled wilderness on its now 6 million acres, an area larger than the state of Massachusetts. With the lofting Alaska Range as its backdrop, the glacial valleys team with plant life adapted to the tundra, over 650 species of flowering plants in addition to algae, lichens, mosses and fungi, existing in the thin topsoil region that thaws each spring over its bed of permafrost. Here you'll also find a vast assortment of animals, including beaver, ground squirrels, caribou, the mighty moose and grizzly, who wander the plains, or fish in the shallow lakes and rivers that course through the valleys.

We next move to coastal Alaskan panhandle, and Glacier Bay National Park, a favorite of cruise ships who pass by its cloud-blanketed glacial masses on the Inside Passage, awing tourists with the display of the perpetually frozen transitory formations. At 3.3 million acres—more than a quarter covered by glaciers—this area was first established in 1925, becoming a National Park in 1980. The park is home to more than 2,500 bald eagles, who are its most abundant occupants. Located on the southeastern Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords National Park follows, created to preserve the 700 square mile Harding glacial field, one of only four remaining ice fields in the United States. Thunderous displays of ice calving off the shoreline glaciers can be witnessed, and here we see Bear Glacier, Holgate Glacier, and the three-mile long Exit Glacier, which moves forward from the Harding field at the rate of two feet per day. The park's marinelands are the breeding ground for seal, sea lion, and otter populations, while inland, salmon spawning beds can be found.

Located almost 300 miles southwest of Anchorage at the head of the Alaska Peninsula, and home to brown bears and some of the world's longest salmon runs, our next stop is Katmai National Park, which covers over 4 million acres of land and water. The park was established in 1918 to preserve the geological landscape created by the 1912 eruption of Mt. Katmai and Novarupta volcano, the second largest eruption in recorded history, which buried over 40 square miles of formerly lush green valleys in volcanic deposits up to 700 feet thick. A 1916 National Geographic expedition saw the resulting landscape for the first time, naming it the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes for the plumes formed by escaping gases through fissures in this newly created crust. Here, silt-laden waters charge through narrow crevices along the valley floor, and we see the obligatory image of grizzly perched on the ledges of small waterfalls, awaiting the jumping salmon.

In contrast to most of the other titles in this series that are centered on geographical interests, wildlife is the dominant subject of this video, though the abundance of bear footage paints an unrealistic picture of the state, especially for prospective tourists who may not delight in the idea of the creatures wandering around their lodgings. There is a good balance created between the landscape and its inhabitants, and a few time lapse features of clouds breaking over the rugged mountaintops or pouring into valley floors. This makes another nice addition to a wilderness video collection, providing some different views of the features to be found in our northern parklands.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is quite impressive for a video-based source. Colors are bright and vibrant, contrast good, and black levels proper. Detail is respectable, even if the image is just slightly soft in places. There are some typical source anomalies, such as overly hard borders on high contrast ares, and a few minor dropouts.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is clean, with no sign of distortion present. Music and natural ambience are pleasantly blended, and provide a wide soundstage. There was no extraneous hiss and no other technical deficiencies were observed.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Packaging: EastPack
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery
Extras Review: Aside from the occasional subtitle denoting a location or subject of interest within the programming, the extras are limited to a photo gallery which plays as a 01m:45s slide show.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

An enjoyable addition to the Wilderness Video's National Park collection. Lots of animal footage is included, from bears suckling their young, to moose and caribou grazing, or sea lions and otters swimming or basking on seaside rocks. Impressive glaciers, the spectacular Mount McKinley, and the volcanic Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes are just some of the attractions.


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