Sunday, January 10, 2010


This weekend, with a deep freeze still upon us, seemed a good time to view this run-of-the-mill biopic about the explorer Robert Scott who eventually made his way to the South Pole, but didn’t return. The film begins as he's trying to raise money for a second expedition after an earlier one in 1904 in which his ship got stuck in ice. Scott (John Mills, pictured) can’t get enough funding through traditional means, so he goes to the public for support. He doesn't get as much as he needs, but is able to hire some good men and manages to cut some corners so that by 1910, he's off to the Pole. Despite the crew's optimism, there are setbacks, partly due to limited resources, partly due to uncertain leadership. At one point, they have to shoot all the ponies, and when the small group of five finally do reach the pole, they are dispirited to find the Norwegian flag already planted there by the rival explorer Amundsen. Because we know from the beginning that Scott and his men will die on the ice--they die one by one on the way back from the Pole--the film feels gloomy, not at all like a tribute to a spirited adventurer, and there isn't much suspense, but the acting is good all around, especially Mills in the title role, but also from Kenneth More and James Robertson Justice. The filming of the expedition, done mostly in studio with some second-unit footage as background (including some nice penguin footage), is solid, despite the occasional obvious artifice. It helps that the film is in color, but the print used on the Trinity DVD is in bad shape, with lots of rough splices and a few blurry patches. [DVD]

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