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White Thunder (2002)

| Documentary
A riveting account of the tragic adventure of filmmaker Varick Frissell and his filming of "The Viking" (1931) and the tragic events that befell that adventure into early film-making.

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Victoria King ...
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A riveting account of the tragic adventure of filmmaker Varick Frissell and his filming of "The Viking" (1931) and the tragic events that befell that adventure into early film-making.

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Nice Documentary on The Viking Tragedy
25 April 2010 | by See all my reviews

White Thunder (2002)

*** (out of 4)

Nice documentary about the life and career of Varick Frissell, a man who along with twenty-six others would be killed on March 15, 1931 while filming footage for a movie that would eventually be known as THE VIKING. The documentary covers Frissell's early career as he at one point wanted to become a singer but then got into film-making with a couple documentary shorts including THE LURE OF THE LABRADOR and GREAT ARCTIC SEAL HUNT. He then wanted to show off his passion of Newfoundland by making an epic film but this here is what ended up costing him his life. The final twenty-minutes are the most entertaining as we get into the making of THE VIKING, which today is pretty much only remember due to the tragedy that happened and it remains the most lives lost while making a movie. We are given somewhat of an explanation on why the explosion happened but the real highlight are some interviews with those on the ship that day. We get a couple audio interviews with people on board the ship and we even have one video interview from a survivor, which appears to have been shot sometime in the 1950s. One of the new interviews is with a man who was 18 at the time the ship exploded and was standing on shore and able to see it all. Film historian Kevin Brownlow is also on hand to give his impressions of Frissell and the movie itself. Apparently Paramount demanded the added love triangle that was in the film but after the first cut they were unhappy with it so Frissell went to film more documentary footage for the picture. Had this not happened then perhaps the tragedy would have been avoided. We also get to hear from Frissell himself through various letters that he wrote his parents throughout his life and one seven days before his death. Hearing about the desperate search his parents had done was pretty heartbreaking as was what happened to them.


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