Cry of the Penguins (1971) Poster

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Carry on Up the Antarctic!
Emma Ryan (EmsR2D2-3)30 September 2003
This film is thought-provoking yet remarkably sweet and funny. The first half is like a Carry On film, then, once deposited in the Antarctic, John Hurt goes from womanizing man-about-town, to eccentric, slowly-unravelling biologist very convincingly. Some remarkable wildlife photography and the baby penguins give the 2nd half of the film great 'Aah' potential. Given that I only saw this on DVD because a friend is mad about penguins, it was a great surprise! If it doesn't make you want to rush off to the South Pole, I'll be very surprised!
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An amazing character study
jhooke7 June 2005
It is many, many years since I saw this film, but unlike so many others I have seen, I have not forgotten the title or the substance of the film itself. I thought the way that Mr Forbush became so protective of the penguins and their eggs was wholly understandable and it was a hard lesson for him (and us, for that matter) to learn that he was the intruder in that landscape and he had to leave the penguins to protect their own eggs from the skuas. I just love watching penguins, so I got a good dose of that too. As a character study on what living a solitary life can do, I found it quite fascinating. It was not exactly an 'action' movie, but I found it very thought provoking and it sucked me right in from the start and kept me emotionally involved till the end. Well worth a look if you get the chance.
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The Cry before the March....
pingvuiini18 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Comparisons between The Cry of the Penguins and March of the Penguins (English version) are probably inevitable. The US release of March of the Penguins is converted documentary, while Cry of the Penguins can be viewed as a documentary with an added human dimension/love story that some viewers may consider to be superfluous. Naturally, COTP is stylistically dated, and this is not helped with the very poor transfer quality of the DVD. But the movie is very watchable even today, and the scientific/documentary aspects hold up particularly well.

Richard Forbush, played by John Hurt, is first shown as a very talented and capable biology student who also happens to be an immature high society philanderer, cad, and a snazzy dresser. He reluctantly accepts a post graduate field assignment to observe the population of Adelie penguins in the Antarctic partly to fulfill his 'debt to science' but more so to impress a beautiful aspiring biology student, Tara, played by Hayley Mills.

After a half hour preamble set in London, we are transported, Lawrence of Arabia style, to the Great White Silence where Forbush sets himself up in a dilapidated scientific outpost built by famed arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton decades earlier. As he waits several days for the penguins to arrive, Forbush yearns for the high life of home, and expresses disdain for the penguins and his miserable plight in the frozen wasteland on their behalf. His attitude changes almost immediately upon sighting the very first lone penguin ambling down the side of a snowy slope. Hundreds of penguins quickly join them, and as the rookery grows Forbush gets down to business and performs all his assigned scientific tasks in a somewhat professional if eccentric manner. The scenes of the penguins and their occasional interaction with Forbush lead to some very endearing and humorous moments.

As time transpires, Forbush finds himself increasingly involved emotionally with the penguins, marveling at their will to survive, watching them care for the eggs and the eventual birth of the chicks. He seems to forget his own self, undergoing a Londonesque transition into an unkempt and disheveled figure among his tuxedoed subjects. His haggard appearance is a marked contrast to the fresh faced chopper pilots who stop by and his college buddy Starshot who visits during Christmas, all of whom fear Forbush is taking the penguins much too seriously for his own good.

Eventually, Forbush's obsession with the penguins' welfare, coupled with the madness brought on by months of isolation, lead him astray. After weeks of watching helplessly as the skuas attack the rookery, destroying hundreds of eggs and killing many chicks, he discards the scientific creed of strict neutral observation and takes action against the predatory birds. His plan, while carefully conceived and exhaustingly executed, is almost laughable and fails miserably. He soon regains his senses, he realizes he was foolish to try and interfere with the pattern of nature that has been going on for thousands of years. His last taped messages to Tara raise questions about his very soul and about humanity's relationship with nature which are relevant even today. By listening to these tapes during Forbush's six month tenure in the wild, Tara keenly senses his maturity as a scientist and as a man.

The documentary aspects of COTP are interspersed throughout the film in the form of lectures at the university and narrations of Forbush's audio tapes and written letters to Tara. These are accompanied nicely by veteran wildlife videographer Arne Sucksdorff's film footage illustrating the concepts being described, somewhat in the style of National Geographic. While not as deeply probing into the penguins' lives as MOTP, viewers of COTP will definitely carry away something educational if they have never seen either movie before (differences in species notwithstanding). The DVD could definitely use a cleanup and better transfer of the source material. With the recent popularity of penguin themed movies in the last 3 years, Cry of the Penguins has sadly been overlooked and forgotten. Penguin lovers owe it to themselves to watch this one.
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A little lost treasure on DVD
lucashowe29 March 2004
Alfred Viola, not everyone may know this, was a major American commercial director for several decades. If you watched television in the US for any amount of time in the last 30+ years you have assuredly seen some of his work. Keeping in mind that this film is the first feature by a commercial director, you will see the technical efficiency and streamlined storytelling of a VERY experienced filmmaker at work here. The backstory behind this production is that the studio performed some major hacking on the original Alfred Viola cut and brought in a new director to shoot a tacked-on slapstick opening, and the film suffers from this quite a bit. The first 10 minutes of the film lack style and indeed cohesion of any kind, but once we reach the glacier and John Hurt is left alone with his penguins, it is like a breath of fresh air. This is a beautiful piece of cinema history and although the DVD transfer is of extremely low quality, it is good to know that this piece has not been lost forever. A wonderful forgotten film of the 1970s.
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Oddball, uncategorizable, yet watchable.
Stephen Tilley (Yellit)23 January 2002
Look at the cast and crew list and you will see this is a film of the highest pedigree. Sometimes you get the impression that there are several films happening here and the multiplicity of directors may be a clue to the reason of this.

The title may confuse, but yes they are real penguins!

I suspect that this is one of those films that gave the deskbound money men at the studio many nightmares.
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I love John Hurt!
Toni Huehnerfuss13 August 2005
I saw this movie on TV, under the title "Cry of the Penguins", sometime around 1980. I was in high school at the time and my young heart was breaking as I watched the character of Forbush struggling against the elements to study the penguins. I became strangely obsessed with John Hurt and began following his career. It seemed like every time I turned on the TV I would see him on something. I Claudius, The Naked Civil Servant, Crime and Punishment. (I watched a lot of PBS in those days.) Of course the Elephant Man was the ultimate trip. I was blown away by his versatile acting abilities, and couldn't understand why he wasn't very well known in this country! Although I am married and 43 years old now, my heart still beats a little faster when I see or hear of him. And I still remember how I felt watching him struggle to save those penguins!
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uneven, but very entertaining
aplantage26 November 2011
According to Bryan Forbes' autobiography as well as David Nathan's biography of John Hurt, the story behind this film is as interesting as the film itself.

When the producers saw the finished material, it was decided that the opening in London should be completely re-shot, with a different director - Roy Boulting instead of Alfred Viola - and a different leading lady - Hayley Mills (Boulting's wife at the time), instead of an unnamed RADA actress who reportedly did not photograph well. According to Boulting, the reason was that "It presented a ridiculous picture of a character who lived in a swinging London that never ever existed and who was totally artificial, totally unreal and totally unsympathetic." Even though Hurt seems to have agreed at least in part, he was very unhappy about the prospect - understandably so, after the ordeal of the long and difficult location shooting in the Antarctica. Producer Bryan Forbes persuaded him not to quit.

Hurt's feelings about the animals were quite different from his character's. "The penguins were a real pain in the arse. They have all the faults of the human race without the redeeming gift of occasional intelligence. I preferred the predators, greatly admired the skuas. They farm the penguins, taking only a certain percentage of the eggs. The other skuas fish and battle for existence on the mountains in extreme conditions. If you killed off the predators the penguin colonies would become so huge they would probably become extinct. That would be a bad thing for the skuas. There's only one good thing to say about penguins and that is that they taste delicious - fishy, but nice." The film team actually had a few penguins for dinner - with HP sauce.

Several years later, Richard Burton happened to see this film, and it motivated him to suggest Hurt for 1984.

I enjoyed the film more than I expected. I am not a sentimental animal lover, and for scientific subjects, I prefer to watch a documentary or read a book. What I enjoyed about this film is Hurt's tour de force performance, the great location footage (by Arne Sucksdorff), but also the humour and style of the opening (as a fan of British swinging sixties films in general). The machine Forbush builds for his futile fight against the skuas reminded me of the Acme contraptions in the COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER cartoons.

I find it interesting that - probably male - commentators write that Hurt is not convincing as a ladies' man. Judging from the number of - probably female - commentators who fell in love with him in this film (and others such as IN SEARCH OF GREGORY), Hurt's quirky sex appeal seems to have been underused. Pity, but typical, because most of the decision makers in the industry are male.
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John Hurt, I Love You
bojohite-21 September 2008
Like so many good films, this one is obscure, brought out of "hiding" perhaps by the popularity of other penguin movies. The wildlife footage in this film is amazing and wonderful, taking the viewer directly into the Antarctic. It also has a nice British-humor edge to it. Get past the slow beginning and you will discover a good love story between two people as well as between animal and human. I watched this to see what Halley Mills looked like when she was older and got a nice surprise; I couldn't take my eyes off John Hurt, not only because of good looks but his superb acting and the interesting character he played. I wanted the film to go on much longer and I believe it could have been improved by at least 5 minutes more. The penguins, his interaction with them, as well as his believability in that role, were amazing.
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Poor quality DVD
treeline122 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Richard Forbush (John Hurt) is a part-time biology student and full-time playboy in swinging London. He has no trouble attracting the ladies until he meets the lovely Tara (Hayley Mills) who is immune to his charms. Determined to impress her, he takes a job studying penguins for six months in Antarctica - alone.

First of all, the picture and sound quality on this DVD are terrible. While the movie is filmed in color, the part set in Antarctica is just gray, with no blue skies or water even on sunny days. The script is predictable and cliché, too. It is quite interesting to see John Hurt as a young swinger if you've only seen him as old Mr. Ollivander from the "Harry Potter" films, but he's hardly convincing as a lady-killer. Thankfully he does mature as he endures the rigors of Antarctica and falls in love with the penguins.

The second half of the movie is semi-documentary with Forbush's dry, sarcastic commentary adding some humor, but the focus is on him, not nature. We never spend time with or really engage with the penguins because the photography is jerky and rushed. This movie doesn't hold a candle to more beautiful and emotionally-compelling movies like "March of the Penguins;" it's just a low-budget story of a self-centered man who grows up while living among the penguins.
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