Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Another deep freeze movie today. As a rule, I don't review movies which for one reason or another I don't see all the way through. I admit to a tendency to nod off for five minutes or so during the middle of a movie, especially in the comfort of my own home, but if that happens, I can just back the disc up and see what I missed. This movie, on an Alpha DVD from Netflix, froze up at it approached the climax, with about 12 minutes left to play, and I could not get past that spot no matter what I did. Still, I think I suffered through enough of it to give it a fair review here. Adventurer Conway Tearle is leading a dirigible expedition to the South Pole, and he's not a bit suspicious when his wife (Virginia Valli) invites his best friend (Ricardo Cortez), who's also going on the trip, to accompany them to a banquet the night before they leave. Turns out Valli is in love with Cortez, and Tearle sees them kissing (while "Liebestraum" plays in the background), which rather puts a damper on Tearle's last night with his wife, seeing as she asks him to give her a divorce when he returns from the Pole. The dirigible, named Explorer, makes it through a bad storm, passes over the Pole where it's seen by the men at a polar base, disappears from radio contact, and crashes. The men decide to split up in small groups, hoping to run into search parties. Help does come, but the only survivors are, yes, Tearle and Cortez. There's only room for one on the rescue plane: who will go and will be left behind hoping for a second place's arrival?

This is the kind of film that gives early talkies a bad name. The plot moves excruciatingly slowly, and the camera doesn't move much at all. Everyone delivers dialogue in a slow and stilted manner, as though they were on stage performing an adult play for small children. It's theoretically an action/adventure film reminiscent of the "mountain movies" that the Germans were producing at the time (and it's a lot like S.O.S. ICEBERG, a German/American production of a few years later), but as it was made by Tiffany-Stahl, a small independent B-movie studio, the budget wasn't there for the kind of effects or location shooting that would have made this film interesting. Tearle and Valli are deadly dull; Cortez, whom I normally like, is not much better, so I blame the director (and the new sound technology) for the bad performances. Some of the effects and South Pole sets aren't bad, with the crashed zeppelin (see picture) looking the best, but overall this is just too dated to be of much interest (except historical) to viewers today. [DVD]

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