Scott Of The Antarctic


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Scott Of The Antarctic
"A stiff upper lip doesn't save you, the message reads. Only luck and preparation can do that."

In the Forties, he was every schoolboy's hero, the man who reached the South Pole with four companions and then died of exhaustion, starvation and cold on the way back only 11 miles from safety. In Charles Frend's 1948 film there is little mention of Amundsen, the Norwegian who was first to the Pole, nor Shackleton who didn't get there but saved his men after being trapped in ice for the better part of a year.

Scott made odd decisions, taking ponies rather than dogs and big machines with caterpillar treads that stuck in drifts which meant manhauling sleighs in terrible conditions for hundreds of miles. He was a brave man. Was he a foolish one? What on earth were they doing, ill equipped, waiting for the next blizzard to engulf them? A stiff upper lip doesn't save you, the message reads. Only luck and preparation can do that.

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The film has the indomitable John Mills in the lead, a quietly spoken James Robertson Justice in support with soon-to-be-famous Kenneth More and John Gregson, and Derek Bond as Titus Oates. It feels its age however, not because of Jack Clayton's admirable cinematography but due to archaic dialogue and some dodgy performances.

The first half is about money, finding the stuff, giving speeches throughout the country, searching for sponsors. And then there is the team, who to take from the thousands of applicants. Equipment comes next. The latest machines or tried-and-true huskies?

He takes 16 men from which he will choose four for the final push to the Pole - he chooses five in the end, but no matter. Every single one is a jolly good fellow who might win the Loyalty prize but not the Interesting Chap award.

Things pick up once they arrive in Antarctica because it's all about fighting the elements, not making conversation. In these pre-David Attenborough years when effects were not so special and wildlife documentaries in their infancy the filming of the long trek across glaciers and over crevasses is well done and the agonising return even better - yes, Oates does say, "I am just going outside. I will be away for some time."

Reviewed on: 10 Jun 2016
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The story of the ill-fated South Pole expedition

Director: Charles Frend

Writer: Walter Meade, Ivor Montagu, Mary Hayley Bell

Starring: John Mills, Diana Churchill, Harold Warrender, Anne Firth, Derek Bond, Reginald Beckwith, James Robertson Justice, Kenneth More, Norman Williams, John Gregson, James McKechnie, Barry Letts, Dennis Vance, Larry Burns, Edward Lisak

Year: 1948

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


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