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Scott of the Antarctic

CC
3.9 out of 5 stars (42) IMDb 7.1/10

This is the true story of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his ill-fated expedition attempt to be the first to videoover the South Pole only to be beaten there by the Norwegian expedition of Amundsen.

Starring:
John Mills, Diana Churchill
Runtime:
1 hour, 49 minutes

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By Stephen Balbach on January 8, 2009
Verified Purchase
`Scott of the Antarctic` (1949) is an early technicolor film made in England (the B&W DVD cover is inaccurate). It is a fictional re-telling of Scott's last voyage to the South Pole in 1913. The best written account is The Worst Journey in the World (1922). I watched this after finishing `Worst Journey` and didn't have high expectations but was very surprised and delighted, the film added to and enhances the book, at least the part about Scott's trip to the pole. This was a big budget studio film, the actors and sets and music are all top rate, some critics say it was robbed at the Oscars that year. The film goes to lengths to be accurate - the gear is just like one sees in the old pictures and films, the actors look like the real people, the events are for the most part all correct. More so, the film was able to capture an aspect that I had read about elsewhere, but didn't pick up in `Worst Journey`, and that is the sort of pseudo-Medieval errant knights romanticism that was a sub-text to the expedition. The actors look, talk and act like they belong in the era - a film like this could never be made today because there are no actors that could play the parts convincingly. This is really a must-see for anyone who has read Scott or `Worst Journey` as it will bring alive in full color the gear, people, scenes, and the general spirit and mood of the time.

There is another DVD edition of this film on Amazon with the blue cover and from the reviews there are complaints of a poor transfer. I'm no expert on these things but I didn't see any problem with the version reviewed here (with the B&W cover). The color looks a bit off only because it's an early Technicolor and the sound is perfectly fine. It's a "print-on-demand" DVD, but looks like a normal factory product.
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Format: VHS Tape
Director Charles Frend showed he could turn real life stories into stirring drama with war films like The Foreman Went to France, and here turned his hand to a different sort of heroism. Whilst the war films showed small victories in what we hoped would prove to be a big victory, Scott Of The Antarctic shows a peculiar sort of victory, that of the human spirit in the midst of failure.
Whilst Scott is held up as a role model to every schoolboy, he was a flawed man, sometimes putting his own vanity and the desire to win above the safety of his crew. The film does not dwell on this, but the shoestring budget and hasty preparations are shown, as are some of Scott's own misgivings. The war had honed Ealing studios' skills in making films in the drama-documentary style and the realism of the sets is to be applauded. Photographs of the hut Scott built look almost identical to that shown on screen and the recreation of the Antarctic on Soundstage 1 in Ealing Studios is a marvel (though some scenes are shot on location in Norway).
The casting is very nice, with square jawed leading men Kenneth More and John Gregson in supporting roles here, James Robertson Justice in an unusually subtle role as Taff Evans and of course John Mills as Scott. The length of Mills's career, spanning from 1932 to date is surely tribute to his acting skills, as well as his amiablity. He isn't the John Gregson type you would necessarily associate with the heroic lead, but a smaller man, more human than super-human, and this probably works better in portraying a man like Scott.
A major contribution to the film's success is the rousing music by Vaughan Williams, which somehow adds a sense of realism and scale to the landscapes. Vaughan Williams cited this score as a particular favourite of his, and it makes a change from the usual Benjamin Frankel music that Ealing employed during this period.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'll have to agree with the previous reviewers both in appraisal of the story-- it's great, and denigration of the technical quality of this particular DVD version. Just be forwarned to prepare yourself for only fair to poor video quality (grainy & high contrast) and continous distortion in the audio.

Having said that I kind of doubt we'll see a better transfer anytime soon of this 1948-49 film. I'm willing to give the DVD's technical weaknesses a pass in order to have this important film in my library.
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TRINITY and SYNERGY are two of the many smaller DVD purveyors who market public domain films that are often in unrestored condition. Picture and sound quality is solely dependent on source material. "Below fair to good" is typical for their product.

SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC was chosen the Royal Command Performance motion picture of 1948. Astounding Technicolor scenery abounds in this superb biopic of the 1911-12 Scott expedition tragedy, which is made all the more realistic by Capt. Scott's actual diary and many of the explorers' personal effects, loaned to the production by The British Museum. A magnificent film score was provided by Vaughan Williams.

The hut where the Scott expedition hunkered down during a bitter Antarctic winter still stands and is a tourist destination for any souls hearty enough to endure the harsh climate of Earth's southernmost continent.

SYNOPSIS--
Robert Falcon Scott and a small crew's attempt to be first at the South Pole is thwarted by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, and their return to base becomes impossible in blizzard conditions. All perish when supplies run out. A well-acted story with realistic weather conditions that leave a viewer chilled to the core. Highest possible recommendation!

Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 imdb viewer poll rating.

(6.8) Scott of the Antarctic (UK-1948) - John Mills/Diana Churchill/Derek Bond/Kenneth More/Christopher Lee
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