A French explorer enlists the help of the US Navy in an expedition to the South Pole. There is competition between the airship division and fixed wing fliers, resolved in triumph and ... See full summary »
A French explorer enlists the help of the US Navy in an expedition to the South Pole. There is competition between the airship division and fixed wing fliers, resolved in triumph and disasters. Written by
Michael Crew <email@example.com>
The Motion Picture Herald reported that the rough cut before final editing consisted of 28 reels. 125,000 feet of film were shot at the Naval Air Base at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The estimated cost of production of $1,000,000 made it the most expensive Columbia film to that date. See more »
Okay, I know, they are not blimps. They are Zeppelins. "Airships" was the preferred term by the U.S. Navy.
This is a very exciting action film for 1931. Apparently made with quite a high budget. I saw model shots, large sound stages filling in for Antartica, thousands of extras, real airships, and a gigantic ticker tape parade shot on location in New York City. All of these things cost much money. The U.S. Navy's use of airships was so brief that this film also marks one of the few stories about this chapter in our military history.
This film proves that Capra was also adept at high intensity action directing (for 1931) as well his usual character-driven morality plays that he became so well-known for.
The one thing that is the most striking to me about (some) early talking pictures, of which this is one, is that they have hardly any music score. This is true here, and only adds to the isolated feeling in the scenes of the doomed expedition struggling to escape from the frozen tundra. Plenty of sound effects in the scenes of the doomed Pensacola going down, but no music. In fact, the film even uses a few silent film style narration cards.
Anyway, in spite of this film dating from 1931, it has aged really well and doesn't seem too dated at all. A nice action/adventure film. The print they showed on TCM on television was in very good shape, even the sound was strong in most places. Yes, the love story seemed tacked on, but there are thousands of films in the history of Hollywood that could have survived artistically with their romantic subplots (probably inserted at the insistence of cigar-chewing studio bosses to get "the female market") jettisoned. In any case, this movie is quite entertaining and Worth checking out.
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