AMERICA’S CROWN JEWELS (Questar Video Inc., 48 minutes, 1992).
This is a beautiful tour of three of America’s national parks
Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone. The photography is excellent, with some effective time-lapse scenes and aerial views. Old film footage, drawings, maps and an informative narration help present a clearer picture of these wondrous areas.
The Grand Canyon is shown in all seasons and in the ever-changing sunlight. Viewers explore the Colorado River on an exciting river-rafting trip and follow mule riders down into the canyon, passing early cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and an ancient religious site.
The Yosemite segment features broad vistas of the park’s magnificent granite domes and waterfalls, plus scenes of its lakes, rivers, flora and fauna. Against this background there are scenes of the many outdoor activities available, such as mountain climbing, skiing and fishing. Viewers hear the history of the park and the roles played by early American Indians, explorers, loggers, gold-seekers and naturalist John Muir, illustrated with early drawings. There is also a tour of the grand old Ahwahnee Hotel.
At Yellowstone, viewers get a dose of history while viewing some of the park’s wonders in winter and again in spring when animals are shown with their young. There are scenes of Old Faithful and Beehive geysers, the strange bubbling mud pots, Mammoth Hot Springs and the thunderous waterfalls that flow into the grand canyon of Yellowstone. There also are shots of the horrendous 1988 forest fire, with aerial views of the damage plus film of its gradual rebirth.
Tapes are available from Questar Video Inc., P.O. Box 11345, Chicago, Ill. 60611, (800) 544-8422. Price: $29.95.
CEMETERIES ARE FUN (William Stockdale Productions, 75 minutes, 1992).
Against a musical background of “Where Will We All Be a Hundred Years From Now,” traveloguer William Stockdale introduces his extensive, sometimes humorous tour of cemeteries and their environs around the world.
Burial sites include elaborate shrines such as those of Al Jolson, Elvis Presley, King Tut and Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal.
A few of the most unusual graves that Stockdale photographed on his travels include the tentlike cover over explorer Sir Richard Burton and his wife in England, where visitors must climb a ladder to peer down through a window at the coffins and souvenirs, and a Yukon Indian cemetery where graves are covered by little houses and visitors bring food and flowers.
Viewers can also visit the graves of many famous writers in the Authors’ Roost at the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, and the grave of Henry Thoreau at Walden Pond, both in Massachusetts, plus the burial sites of Brigham Young and his wives in Utah.
Some cemeteries of special interest include two of the world’s oldest Jewish sites, one in Prague and one in Jerusalem; pet cemeteries, and the City of the Dead in Cairo--a home for the living as well as the dead.
Tapes are available from William Stockdale Productions, 88 Farrows St., Putnam, Conn. (203) 928-6819. Price: $29.95.
GREAT FESTIVALS OF EUROPE (Questar Video Inc., 60 minutes, 1992).
Europe’s annual calendar of events is crammed with festivals, and for those who can’t participate in person, this video offers a worthy substitute. These colorful celebrations, most based on ancient traditions and folklore, feature elaborate costumes and masks, parades, food and music, which, along with brief glimpses of nearby tourist sites and a bit of history, provide interesting viewing.
One of the best-known festivals highlighted is Oktoberfest in Munich, where Germans and visitors are shown indulging in fun and games while consuming an estimated 1 million gallons of beer.
In Venice, there’s the annual September frenzy of the historic gondola race along the Grand Canal, and in Basel, Switzerland, it’s the pre-Lenten festival of Fasnacht, where the usually somber Swiss let their hair down in a seasonal fling that concludes with a “Wurst” band concert.
The ancient wine town of Limoux, France, is the site of a January Carnival where vintners celebrate the wine harvest with a confetti battle in the streets and the burning of King Carnival.
In Alcoy, Spain, viewers see the Moors and Christians festival featuring a colorful re-enactment of the battle when the Moors were driven out of Spain with the help of St. George. Then there’s Ommengang, “the most magnificent bash of the Renaissance,” held in April in Brussels. This elaborate party re-creates the 1549 visit of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to the city. The traditional entertainment includes a chess game played with people as pieces.
Tapes are available from Questar Video, Inc., P.O. Box 11345, Chicago, Ill. 60611, (800) 544-8422. Price: $29.95.