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Antarctic Adventure

8 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Perfectly timed to cash in on the recent spate of interest in the ill-fated 1914-16 Antarctic expedition led by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, this large-format documentary of the fascinating tale is a natural for science museums. "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" will have no problem translating to its eventual berth on public television as it was co-produced by NOVA/WGBH Boston. Directed by George Butler -- who also made "Endurance", a recent Sundance documentary about the same subject -- the film is necessarily condensed. Those looking for a comprehensive telling of the story should look elsewhere. But the giant-screen format adds immeasurably to conveying the visual starkness of the frigid settings.

As a quick reminder, Shackleton wanted to lead the first expedition to cross Antarctica. Recruiting a 27-man crew despite an advertisement promising "small wages ... bitter cold ... constant danger ... safe return doubtful," he led them and 70 sled dogs on a wooden ship called "Endurance", which eventually was crushed by ice floes. Their rescue was accomplished only when Shackleton and a few of his men made two hazardous journeys. First, they made an 800-mile voyage on rough seas on only a lifeboat. Second, they trekked on foot more than 30 miles of rugged and uncharted terrain.

The most powerful attribute of the film, which is narrated well by Kevin Spacey, is the inclusion of amazing footage that consists of still photos and 35mm film shot by Frank Hurley of the original expedition. (The footage was previously seen in the classic 1919 documentary "South".) The film also includes new footage shot by Butler replicating the original journey. Butler's footage was shot in the actual locations, and it is thankfully free of the cheesiness so normally prevalent in such re-creations. A retracing of Shackleton's steps across the Antarctic tundra by a trio of renowned modern-day mountain climbers demonstrates well the hazards he and his comrades must have faced.


WGBH Enterprises and Giant Screen Films

Director: George Butler

Screenwriters: Moses Richards, Crystal V. Spijer

Producers: Susanne Simpson, Scott Swofford, George Butler

Co-producer: Louise Rosen

Executive producer: Susanne Simpson

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Additional photography: David Douglas

Music: Sam Cardon

Narrator: Kevin Spacey

Color and black & white/stereo

Running time -- 40 minutes

No MPAA rating


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2004 | 2001

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