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Image Entertainment presents
Grand Canyon—The Hidden Secrets (IMAX) (1984)

"Is this great canyon the work of God or a symphony of nature?"
- Narrator

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: October 28, 2002

Stars: Daniel T. Majetich, Armando Leon Diaz, Coby Jordan, Bruce Simballa, Stuart Reeder
Director: Keith Merrill

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for all audiences)
Run Time: 0h:34m:52s
Release Date: September 17, 2002
UPC: 017078980424
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+BB+ C

DVD Review

A lone glider floats silently over the vast Grand Canyon, easily the most stunning natural landmark in the entire United States of America. Choral voices sing loudly over shots of the majestic landscape, which can stir even the most stoic observer. The rocks appear almost unreal due to their large scope, which reveals countless formations within the area. The IMAX format thrives in this type of setting and generates an up-close feeling of exploring places not easily visited in person.

Packaged in the three-disc "America the Beautiful" DVD set, Grand Canyon—The Hidden Secrets reveals numerous corners of the immense area while providing a historical overview. The best moments give us a "first-person" perspective from both the clear skies and the treacherous Colorado River. This IMAX film inspects the canyon by recreating several notable moments in the site's recent history. We first observe "the gatherers," a mysterious group of ancient traders whose origins are mostly unknown. The story quickly moves onward to 1540 where Spaniards searched for the fabled lost cities of gold. These elements are not too exciting, but they serve a purpose in showcasing the Grand Canyon.

Director Keith Merrill (Yellowstone) once again explores a famous natural monument by presenting mankind's relationship to it. Instead of conveying the scientific aspects, he focuses on our attempts to discover its secrets. The lengthiest segment covers the 1869 expedition by John Powell into the canyon's interior. Impressive scenes showcase daring rides through the muddy, rough waters where danger lies only seconds away. Within the nasty rapids, men appear almost insignificant when compared to the strength of nature. Powell faces trouble when much of his team abandons him, but they run into some fierce unknown obstacles and disappear. Although the survivors have ventured through the Grand Canyon and lived to tell the tale, it is clear that man does not hold the power in this setting.

Grand Canyon—The Hidden Secrets does provide some interesting history, but it really takes off during its final sequence. Following the Powell Expedition, a collection of brief scenes presents the canyon's grandeur. While a cameraman prepares to photograph the scenic landscape, we see his breathtaking vantagepoint. Typical shots of rafts and kayaks traversing the rapids also appear, which helps to showcase the Grand Canyon's diverse elements. The standout entry from the three-disc collection, this film truly reveals the beauty of America.

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


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Even home-video shots of the Grand Canyon look amazing, so this transfer has no difficulty in presenting its grandeur. The majestic rock structures appear more similar to a painting than an actual landscape, and their colors look impressive on the screen. There are some noticeable defects on the print, which may stem from its age or the transfer from IMAX film to the DVD format. Given its minor flaws, the picture still nicely conveys the canyon's visual power.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Swedish, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Koreanyes

Audio Transfer Review: Grand Canyon—The Hidden Secrets contains a significant amount of grandiose scenes that should impress even the more cynical viewer. Much of this force stems from the effective audio transfers, which appear in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and eight different languages. While the daring explorers raft down the Colorado River and face the raging rapids, the sounds increase the intimate atmosphere.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Whales: An Unforgettable Journey
1 Documentaries
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The primary extra feature is The Making of Grand Canyon—The Hidden Secrets, a promotional documentary that offers an adequate look at the production. While this does provide a nice companion piece, we see too many shots from the film that are completely unnecessary. There are some insightful tidbits, including the fact that filming took 78 days. Director Keith Merrill also discusses the intended emphasis on mankind's presence in the canyon instead of the usual travelogue. While not fascinating, the overall featurette is a worthwhile addition to this release.

This disc also contains the preview trailer for Whales: An Unforgettable Journey and chapter stops for both the feature film and documentary. Oddly, you cannot access these cues until the film has begun. Once you start the picture, pressing the menu button returns you to the list of chapters.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time several years ago and arrived with high expectations. However, its enormous size and beauty was even more astounding than I could have anticipated. While most travelers only reach the South Rim, The Grand Canyon—The Hidden Secrets takes us well beyond the typical elements. We venture far into the interior and explore areas only seen by the most ardent outdoor enthusiasts.


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