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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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This DVD is a handsome testament to a remarkable episode in the annals of Antarctica exploration. It was filmed by the indefatigable Australian Frank Hurley. It is a fascinating glimpse back through time. We are made to feel like time travellers landing in a different time and place. The film covers that well documented expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1914-16. It was an epoch changing time just before the grim reality of the trenches set in. Britain needed heroes and that is what it got.

Hurley captures the excitement of setting out on the great adventure. Scenes of life on the boat are captured. We see Hurley hanging off the Endurance's prow, for that special shot. Then as we know the ship becomes entombed in the slow crushing grip of the ice. We watch enthralled at the ships death throes. All captured magnificently on film. Most memorable perhaps, and an iconic picture, was the night film of the doomed ship festooned in ice like something from a fairy tale. Thankfully at some risk Hurley retrieved all the film from the sinking ship. It was interesting to see the huge snow piles made in a circle around the ship to prevent people getting lost in storms. That was how bad the weather could be. Of course the final epic journey across the tempestuous Southern ocean in the little boat the "James Caird", and the subsequent crossing of South Georgia to summon help from the whaling station could not be captured. But what is left is a reminder of a glorious epic of cameraderie, endurance and leadership.

This wonderful restoration is a fitting eulogy to these brave men, many of whom went on to fight and die in the trenches during the Great war. It is also a tribute to the leadership of Shackleton who died too young and is buried appropriately on that remote island of South Georgia, constantly scoured by polar winds from the great ice shelf.

Please pause to remember when this film was made. The equipment Hurley worked with was very primitive compared with today. The wildlife scenes are very poor fare compared to the David Attenborough programmes we have today. But at the time it was exciting stuff to see such strange animals in their own environment.

If you have any interest in the history of Polar exploration then this is essential viewing. Not only has Hurley managed to produce a piece of art but it is also a national treasure. This is a very worthy restoration. I am sure those men would be most surprised to learn that all these years later people would be able to watch this film in the comfort of their own homes. It is a privilege we should not take for granted.
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on 22 September 2003
I couldn't bear to give this less than five stars after everything expedition photographer Frank Hurley went through. The film from Shackleton's expedition is wonderful glimpse into a past age, and Hurley's daring efforts provide some awesome and dramatic images. The last twenty minutes or so is of little interest to the modern viewer as it consists mainly of wildlife film of South Georgia - fascinating to the public in 1919 perhaps but far surpassed by more recent work.
The commentary adds greatly to the disc, pointing out many details that might otherwise be missed, such as Shackleton in the background of one shot, evidently in a grumpy mood and kicking a dog.
Curiously, some of the most interesting film is in the 'deleted scenes' section - the crew playing football on the ice, and playing with the dogs - being unedited, these scenes have a greater feeling of naturalness and spontanaiety than the film itself.
Also on the disc are a few scenes that appear to record a whaling voyage, though there are no notes or commentary to accompany these pieces so I can only guess.
Anyone interested in the history of polar exploration hardly needs me to recommend this. I hope the BFI follow it up with Ponting's '90 Degrees South', from Scott's last expedition.
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on 3 November 2004
With the recent two-part television movie of "Shackleton," there should be renewed interest in this documentary feature. "South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition" is Frank Hurley's 1919 film record restored in 199 by the British Film Institute. Quite simply, this is the historic film record of the now famous survival story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance taken by Australian cinematographer and documentararian Frank Hurley, who accompanied the expedition on the first leg of its voyage from Buenos Aires to the Antarctica. It is still absolutely amazing to see the actual film of the Endurance, trapped and being crushed by the ice flow. The details of what happened after that always seem to pale in consideration of the fact that not a single one of the crew lost their lives. The only disappointment is that because Hurley stayed behind on South Georgia to await rescue while Shackleton and a small group traveled by small boat 800 miles to find help, the last part of the film becomes more of a nature documentary. But then, reality is like that sometime. Hurley's amazing film has been restored with its original, intended tinting, and a new piano score (uncredited). This DVD includes audio commentary by the British Film Institute's Luke McKernan and an excerpt from "Southward on the Quest." My understanding is that the British version runs 81 minutes. Hurley's original working title for this film was "Endurance," but when it was released in known as "In the Grip of Polar Ice" in Australia and "Shackleton's Expedition to the Antarctic" in the UK. Clearly, any one interested in the story of the Endurance Expedition is going to want to Hurley's unforgettable documentary.
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on 31 December 2000
Hurley's film lacks the overall structure of Ponting's 90 Degrees south with Scott and the informed commentary which added to the interest in the everyday life and tasks of pre-war polar explorers, but it is certainly an involving and fascinating film for anyone interested in the story of Shackleton and his ill-fated Endurance expedition. The music is loud an constant enough to be an annoyance and early parts of the film are slightly repetitive but it is, overall, an excellent shapshot of the times and conditions and a valid testament to the courage and determination of Shackleton and his men in their quest for survival.
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on 24 August 2007
Frank Hurley's 1919 film must have been awe inspiring when showing it at the time and to really enjoy this footage you need to look at it purely in the context of its time. For me, the most interesting part of the footage are the spontaneous scenes, men `fighting' with the dogs and the football game, which are on the `cut' scenes - they have a much more natural and relaxed atmosphere. To the `uninitiated', there is no story, just a series of scenes with a few notes of commentary in between. However, if you've read any of the biographies, diaries or commentaries on Shackleton and his men, then you'll find the animation adds to the posterity and reinforces the understanding gained from the words read.
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South is a remarkable historical document: not just because of the very fact it survived at all but because of the way with time it turned someone who was regarded as a failure into an iconic hero as much because of the fact that there was so much dramatic footage for later documentaries to draw on as the man's achievements. Shackleton's ship wasn't the first to be trapped in the ice and destroyed, but it was the only one whose death throes were caught on film, and that image is one of, if not the most indelible of the Heroic Age of Polar exploration.

With so many of the great Polar explorers of the Heroic Age all but forgotten today despite remarkable feats of endurance and survival, it's perhaps debatable whether Shackleton's doomed Endurance expedition would be in the same situation today if Frank Hurley hadn't brought along a movie camera. The expedition was part-financed by pre-selling the film rights, though of necessity there's no footage after the Endurance was destroyed and they had to start walking. Hurley's footage is truly amazing - he had a great sense of visual drama and took absurd risks getting shots, ensuring that his footage is still regularly used in documentaries while Herbert Ponting's footage of Captain Scott's doomed expedition is more rarely revived. You don't get much sense of Shackleton's character, but you do get a real sense of the expedition as a whole, with human moments often as memorable as the remarkable land and icebound seascapes. Hurley wasn't immune to enhancing his photos when he felt the results didn't truly reflect the drama of events (this is discussed in the excellent documentary Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History, which is sadly only available on DVD as an Australian import), but the results are certainly stunning.

The BFI's DVD of the 1919 feature film made from Hurley's footage, South, is quite a cracker - as well as the remarkable film in equally remarkably well-preserved condition considering the vagaries of both the initial expedition and time, for once the BFI have put on plenty of extras, including 17 minutes of deleted scenes (including the oft-mentioned footage of the crew playing football on the ice as well as some obvious studio shots) as well as other bits of footage such as Shackleton's funeral, footage of the ill-fated Ross Sea Party who weren't as lucky as Shackleton's main expedition and lost three men (with audio commentary by Kelly Tyler), a brief audio extract of Shackleton talking, a narrated map of the expedition, stills gallery and an audio commentary on the feature by Luke McKernan.
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on 2 April 2008
After reading the book whatching this documentary makes it all come alive.
Truly a wonderful gemm (Cousteau avant la lettre).
I preferred watching it without sound (so I don't hear the piano) and try to imagine the true sound and atmosphere. Come the think of it I should try crawling into my freezer and watch it from there.

For those who love Antartic and Artic exploring this is a must.
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on 6 February 2011
This DVD has the potential for being very dull but it is anything but. The story does not end with the ship becoming trapped in the ice, it covers the explorers trek to inhabited land and has some amazing widlife shots. Watching this DVD is like watching living history and shows explorers surviving and showing true British endurance and spirit without any of the modern trappings. I would thoroughly recommend for anyone interested in a true and almost forgotten historical event.
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on 26 July 2014
If you are interested in the exploration of the South Pole by Ernest Shackleton. Then this film is a must for you.
It begins with the start of the exploration and, goes on to show the ship becoming icebound. It covers how the men endured, and the decision to sail for help to Elephant Island.
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on 11 December 2013
If anyone can show me a better example of endurance, I would like to see it.It is inconceivable how Shackleton and his men survived both physically and mentally.Then to wrap it all up,when they returned the first thing they done was to enlist into the 1st world war.I am in total awe of these incredible men.
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