Lorne Greene personified the great outdoorsman in many acting roles, but was best known to American viewers as patriarch of the Ponderosa-based Cartwright family in one of TV's all-time series, "Bonanza." To his countrymen to the north, he also was the "Voice of Canada" during World War II when he was chief announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
As one of his last projects before his recent death, Greene was not only host and narrator but also executive producer for a series of videos -- Lorne Greene's New Wilderness by Prism. The first six volumes were released in April and have been syndicated for television.
The videos, which explore the world through the eyes of a particular animal or species, won three Emmys, the endorsement of the National Education Association and the Humane Society of the United States, and several special recognition awards from wildlife and conservation groups. The second group of six volumes reaches the video store shelves this week. Prism has not yet announced that Greene also completed 12 more reels, six of them to be released in the spring. Each is 30 minutes long and priced at $14.95.
Lorimar Home Video also has joined the great outdoors trend that has been successful on public broadcasting and cable stations and, of late, in the video stores. Lorimar has packaged PBS' most-watched series, "Nature," which explores the wonders and mysteries of nature and the struggles for survival. The first three titles were released less than three weeks ago. Three more are scheduled to follow in January. Each is 60 minutes long and priced at $29.95.
The initial releases focus on dogs, leopards and Yellowstone National Park. "Man's Best Friend" is an in-depth study of the special relationship of man and dog, how they communicate through "body language" and how the animals are treated around the world. In the United States, there are 57 million dogs, one in every three homes. "Leopard -- Darkness in the Grass" features great photography by Hugh Miles, who got rare footage (and maybe more than necessary) of this nocturnal animal in Kenya's Masai Mara, on its successful searches for food. The other release, "Yellowstone in the Winter," is immensely captivating. Renowned wildlife filmmaker Wolfgang Bayer spent five winters in the famous national park to capture its splendor when the place belongs not to the 2 million summer visitors, but to the wildife. His film also shows how the animals endure the bitter winter months.
The three titles due for release in January are: "Cats," "Wild Horses" and "Saguaro -- Sentinel of the Desert."
On Nov. 11, National Geographic Video adds three more titles to its highly acclaimed series: "Realm of the Alligator," which explores the 700 square miles of the Okefenokee swamp on the Florida-Georgia border; "Among the Wild Chimpanzees," a look at the behavior of man's closest living relative by English scientist Jane Goodall on the Gombe Stream Game Preserve in Tanzania; and "Jersualem: Within These Walls," an in-depth close-up of the tiny historic enclave that is the center for three major religions and home to people of profoundly different cultures. Each is 59 minutes long and $29.98.
The six "Lorne Greene's New Wilderness" titles being released this week are: "Close Encounters of the Deep Kind" (exploring the mysteries of the humpback whale); "A Love Story: The Canada Goose" (few creatures are as loving and devoted as the Canada goose parent); "Tales of the Snow Monkey" (how the clever and adaptable snow monkey survives in the northern mountains of Japan); "Inky Dinky Spider" (a Florida Everglades insect can be a safe and effective pesticide); "The Enchanted Forest" (featuring the red deer and their extraordinary antlers in a northern tip of Yugoslovia, one of the continent's last wild life wildlife oases), and "Huntress" (a female cougar, driven from the den by her mother, finds a new home in the Colorado rockies and a mate). Some striking, some startling and some downright amazing footage is not only informative but also immensely entertaining.
As Greene takes you high into the Rockies, the roof of Colorado, he informs you that the Indians used to call the cougar "Ghost Walker" and "Cat of God," and that "nothing kills for food more cleanly and quickly than a cougar." Praised for its frankness by wilderness societies, the story tells how the 130-pound cougar can leap 40 feet to a young buck's neck and instantly sever the jugular. When the cougar kills for food, Greene says, it also serves to "thin out herds," killing more when the herd is thick and less when it is sparse.
The entertaining episode on the Japanese snow monkeys shows how these thriving animals are constantly inventing fascinating and ingenious new ways to survive as man encroaches into their habitat. And in the video story of the Canada goose, it's heart-warming to watch the birds take off into the sunset in a symphony of flight, a species that not long ago, before a miracle in the wetlands, was almost extinct.
"The Enchanted Forest" offers great footage from filmmaker Peter Lalovic's "The Last Oasis," but more uniquely it offers sound, the sound of hoofbeats and the clash of the red deer's distinctive antlers, sight and sound that can come only from the wilderness.
The Lorne Greene set will total 24 when the remaining episodes are released. In addition to the six out this week, other titles are:
Six Releases for Spring 1988
"Death on a Wing" (golden eagle, U.S.A.)
"Devil Island" (iguana, Caribbean)
"Yesterday's Heroes" (donkeys, camels, horses, Australia)
"It's a Male's World" (baboon, Africa)
"Kindness Kills" (black bears, Rocky Mountains)
"White Lightning" (snowy owl, Quebec)
Six Future Releases
"Bald Eagle Rising" (bald eagle, New York and Alaska)
"Five Seasons of the Fox" (red fox, Alaska)
"Soft White Death" (polar bear, Hudson Bay)
"Cry Wolf" (wolves, Michigan)
"Like Cats and Dogs" (nobcats, cougars, Rocky Mountain foothills)
"Mother Goose" (Canada geese, Ontario)
Six April 1987 Releases
"Hunters of the Chubut" (sea lions, killer whales, penguins, South America)
"Master Hunter of the Night" (owls, North America)
"Old Dog, New Tricks" (coyotes, U.S.A.)
"Frozen Eden" (caribou, Canada)
"The Ascent of the Chimps" (chimpanzee zoo colony, Holland)
"Pretty Poison" (monarch butterfly, North America and Mexico)