Plot: What’s it about?
In the 1930s, one of the main exports for Australia was sugar cane, but they had a real problem, in the form of the cane beetle. This insect would invade the sugar cane fields and when it was able, fly to the top of the plant and devour it, from top to bottom. Of course, this meant yields were lower than expected and when the depression’s impact on prices kicked in, local farmers knew a solution was needed. At a convention of sugar merchants, a leading expert suggested cane toads, which have done wonders in Hawaii, where they’re native to. So a small group of cane toads were introduced to Australia, but the results were not as expected and the ripples of the decision can still be felt today, stronger than ever. The cane toads never even tried to erase the cane beetles, but decided to spend all their time mating, which meant lots of eggs were laid. But where the salt waters of Hawaii ensured a low survival rate, Australia’s fresh waters allowed a high yield, way too high, to be sure. Now the beasts have taken over the countryside and increase in number by the second, but are cane toads a curse…or a blessing?
I’ve seen some programs about cane toads, but this is the definitive cane toad program, hands down. The story of the cane toads is an amazing one and in truth, it is sometimes hard to believe such events could happen, if you ask me. But these events have happened and of course, the cane toads continue to thrive and their numbers increase by the minute, it seems. The whole idea seems humorous to be sure, but it is also quite serious and this documentary remains well balanced, which is good news. I was quite taken with the history of how the toads were introduced and why, when compared to the results of doing so, which turned out to be minimal. But this documentary never focuses on one element for too long, as we’re shown the past, present, and future of the cane toads, as it concerns their home, Australia. This is not all serious business however, as the normal information is often joined by humorous sequences, including a hilarious one with a resident in the shower, surrounded by the little beasts. This is a fun, very informative documentary and as such, I recommend it to anyone interested. But whatever you do, don’t try to bring colonies of cane toads to your neck of the woods, ok?
Video: How does it look?
Cane Toads: An Unnatural History is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. This documentary was made in 1988 and looks rather worn, but I suppose that is to be expected, at least to some extent. The image is stable, but shows a lot of grain at times, as well as signs of damage and debris on the print used. The colors look a little faded also, while contrast is weaker than I’d like, both due to wear & tear on the source print, I assume. This is still good enough to watch, however and I doubt this will ever be restored, so don’t hesitate because of the video score, as this is as good as the flick will look, I’m sure.
Audio: How does it sound?
As this is a documentary feature, the audio isn’t too impressive, but then again, it doesn’t need to be. The music and various sound effects are well presented, with solid presence and clean overall tone, which is more than enough here. I don’t think a surround option would enhance the experience here, so the included audio track is more than adequate, to be sure. The dialogue is always easy to understand and never falters at all, which is the main factor in the audio mix, I think. This won’t dazzle your ears, but it is solid enough, given the nature of the material involved.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a bonus short film titled Signing Off, as well as a number of brief featurettes, which offer more information on those wacky cane toads.