Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tonight's Movie: South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition (1919) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The silent documentary SOUTH: ERNEST SHACKLETON AND THE ENDURANCE EXPEDITION (1919) was released on Blu-ray last September by Kino Lorber.

For those unfamiliar with this remarkable true-life tale of adventure and survival, Wikipedia has a fairly good summary. Shackleton's 1914 scientific expedition to the Antarctic abruptly ended in early 1915 when the ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice.

In November 1915 the Endurance finally sank -- but not before photographer and cinematographer Frank Hurley saved movie footage and heavy glass photographic plates.

Initially marooned on ice floes, the crew used three small boats to relocate to Elephant Island in the spring of 1916; the island at least had more stability than the ice floes but was rarely visited. Shackleton and five other crew members then set out in an open boat to obtain help. The voyage was successful, and on August 30, 1916, a ship made made it through the ice and the crew members on Elephant Island were rescued.

Remarkably, not one man from the expedition died despite the isolation and freezing conditions.
The same could not be said for the expedition's many sled dogs, which are featured prominently in the first half of the documentary; fortunately viewers are spared watching their ultimate fates.

The story of Ernest Shackleton and The Endurance has long fascinated me. My Amazon shopping history tells me it was all the way back in 1998 when I purchased the wonderful book THE ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON'S LEGENDARY ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION by Caroline Alexander.

Around the early 2000s we were fortunate to take our children to the Endurance exhibit at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, which featured photographs made from expedition photographer Frank Hurley's glass plates. The photographs were absolutely stunning, looking as crisp and clear as if they'd just been taken.

Hurley's documentary being recently released on Blu-ray was particularly timely as the Endurance was discovered early last year, 107 years after it sank.

SOUTH is a lively, fascinating 88 minutes, which turns a legend of over a century ago into something quite real. Like Hurley's photographs, there's an immediacy to the movie footage which enables the viewer to imagine what it must have actually been like standing there filming.

There's some fascinating wildlife footage, particularly of penguins. The film also underscores just how bleak and cold the circumstances were and makes this survival story all the more remarkable, including the productivity and good cheer apparently maintained during the long months when the crew had no idea if they'd be rescued.

The film is accompanied by a score by Neil Brand, played by the Covent Garden Sinfonia.

Disc extras include a 2002 commentary by Luke McKernan, newsreel recordings, and a 31-minute documentary, SHACKLETON'S BOAT JOURNEY (1999). Audio recordings of Ernest Shackleton also help to bring the story more alive for the modern viewer.

This is a fine package which will be appreciated by those who are interested in the story along with viewers for whom it's completely new subject matter.

Kino Lorber regularly releases documentaries on a variety of interesting topics. Previous reviews of documentaries released by Kino Lorber: OBIT: LIFE ON DEADLINE (2016), HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (2015), DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (2016), THE GODDESSES OF FOOD (2016), BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY (2017), CHEF FLYNN (2018), LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (2019), DIANA KENNEDY: NOTHING FANCY (2019), THE DONUT KING (2020), FIDDLER'S JOURNEY TO THE BIG SCREEN (2022), THE AUTOMAT (2021), and FACING NOLAN (2022).


Blogger Vienna said...

Fascinating. I share your interest. Also have been reading about Roland Amundsen who’s journey to the South Pole was far better planned than that of Captain Scott.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad to know you share my interest in "armchair adventuring," Vienna. I've always enjoyed reading and watching documentaries about both the Antarctic and Everest.

I need to read up on Amundsen!

Best wishes,

7:06 PM  

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