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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

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on 4 June 2011
I have just seen this film at the cinema and it was wonderful. It was made in 1924 so the commentary is in written words on the screen, like the old silent movies. The first half is an account of the journey to Antarctica and then a light hearted wild life documentary about the gulls, seals and penguins. The journey starts with the whaler, Terra Nova, setting off from New Zealand and includes wonderful footage of members of the crew taking a turn at Irish and Russian dancing. When the boat is crashing through enormous waves, you almost feel the lurching sensation. The first glimpse of an enormous iceberg is breath taking. We see the bow of the boat breaking through the ice, and then we see how Ponting filmed it, lying precariously on a wooden frame hanging off the side of the boat.

We then see the expedition men setting up camp, using dogs and Siberian ponies to pull the sleighs. Current writing about Scott's journey to the South Pole tends to emphasise the flaws in the operation: the ponies were ill or unsuitable, the men didn't know how to ski etc. but this is a wonderfully cheerful and optimistic view of the start of the expedition where all seems to be going to plan.

About two thirds of the way through the film, (and just when you are beginning to tire a little of the penguins), there is a shift of tone and the story of the race to the Pole begins. Ponting uses maps and animated models aswell as still shots of the five men who went all the way to the South Pole. There is footage of the men hauling the sledges and then setting up camp for the night: cooking up the beef soup, drying out their layers of damp socks and wriggling into their fur sleeping bags. It feels quite incredible to see this on film.

For anyone with an interest in this expedition, the footage of the stormy sea, the Great Ice Barrier, Mount Erebus billowing smoke, and the men themselves brings the story to life in a way that books can't do. I'm so glad that it is being issued on DVD.
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on 17 January 2012
Simply amazing and totally atmospheric. This is a must have if you are remotely interested in Antarctic exploration and Scott
in particular. Haunting images and a subtle sympathetic soundtrack make this historic document indispensable. I will be watching it again on March 17th, the day 100 years ago this year ( 2012 ) that Captain Lawrence Oates walked out into a raging blizzard to his certain death saying to the rest of his companions the fateful words " I am just going outside and may be some time ". This film gives you an idea of the task they faced and the vastness of the Antarctic wilderness in which the British heroes perished.
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A wonderful restoration of a real-life epic adventure - one of the most famous in British history, and one of the most poignant, too.
The reconstruction of the original footage shot before WW1 is magnificent, and the extra features genuinely enhance your understanding both of the original undertaking and the work of the BFI in putting this version together.

However... it's not quite an unreserved five-star film, unlike 'The Epic Of Everest' (which has been given a similar treatment). That's because TGWS was originally edited to serve the needs of the entertainment industry in the 1920s - and what they wanted to see was wildlife. So there's extended sequences of penguins and seals, frolicing, nesting and trying not to be eaten. These parts are mildly interesting in themselves, as a record of how early nature films were shot, but they are pretty repetitive.
The challenges of filming in the Antarctic (and the need to 'entertain' the original cinema audience, not depress them into misery) means that the main event - Scott's actual expedition to the South Pole - almost feels like an afterthought.
Even so, the hand-drawn map showing the doomed party's painfully slow progress back towards their final food depot is achingly effective, as are the final entries from Scott's diaries.

A significant restoration, then - but not as enjoyable as 'Everest'. Better to watch this one first and save the best until last.
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on 11 November 2011
What the BFI has done here is nothing short of magnificent. This is the original footage of Scott's ill-fated voyage to the Antarctic, in his quest to be the first to reach the South Pole. While that quest may have ended in tragedy, his endeavor is of value as an example of old-school British chivalry and the spirit of scientific exploration. The (silent) film of the voyage was shot using a hand cranked camera, and then later presented by cinematographer Herbert Ponting with specific tinting. This has been lovingly recreated by the BFI and much of the footage looks shockingly good for its age. For the score they have used a specially commissioned new score which underlines the action beautifully. Extras include the shorter sound film version put together by Ponting, and featurettes on the restoration and scoring of the film.
This is a priceless piece of film from the past and deserves to be in every serious film buff's collection.
0Comment| 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Film restorations surely don't get much more important than this one. This wonderful slice of British history is surely the most important film in the National Film Archive and very worthy of this sumptuous DVD release with the extras it is so deserving of. The film which was originally released to cinemas in 1925, was made from the original film taken by Herbert Ponting the official photographer of the legendary Captain Scott's tragic expedition to the South Pole in 1910. The film is accompanied by Ponting's own amusing inter-titles, and has a very distinctive new soundtrack. The film gives a true flavour of a more innocent bygone age when men were truly willing to put their lives on the line for the honour of their country. Scott has been alternately hero worshipped and vilified, but recently the pendulum has swung back to the hero position and this film certainly goes far to convince the doubters. Whatever your opinions no one can doubt the courage of these men and the stoic way in which they met their end. Scott's final letter which must have been penned when he was in a terrible state are some of the most moving words ever written in the English language. Undoubtedly the words of a brave man. Scott's very words are used in the film, together with rare footage of the man himself and the men who died alongside him. It is like looking at the flickering ghosts of long dead men and being reminded of your own mortality. Some of the blu ray images of light on ice are a joy to behold, with some particularly interesting pictures of the sea ice forming in giant pancake like patterns.

You get a lot for your money with this release, which is accompanied by the hour long "90 degrees South" film, released in 1933, featuring much of the same film from 1910 with a commentary this time from Ponting who died two years later. There is also an interesting documentary into the many years of painstaking work it took to make this restoration. Then there is another documentary about how the splendid soundtrack was put together. The BFI should be proud of their efforts, which is a timely reminder of a more noble age. It seems that the nation is still in need of such heroes to rise up! Ponting's fine photography bears very favourable comparison to that of Frank Hurley on the epic Shackleton expedition to Antarctica in 1914-17, which was also made into the excellent film "South", also restored by the BFI. "The Great White Silence" is not just important, but should also be considered a national treasure. For anyone remotely interested in Arctic/Antarctic exploration, then this is an absolute must have. A wonderful work of restoration. For those who would like further reading then try Apsley Cherry-Garrards "The Worst Journey In the World" a harrowing account of the Scott expedition and an incredible tale of a winters journey to a penguin colony, which is simply the best travel/adventure book ever written. Incredible to think that there were two such gifted wordsmiths on one expedition. Highly recommended.
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on 4 July 2011
What can one say? Surely one of, if not the, greatest documentary ever produced. The restoration is remarkable. The film lasts 108 minutes, mostly to allow time for the huge number of inter-titles to be read. A music track has been added to what was a silent film, but if one does not want to hear this then the volume can be turned down. The audio is mostly modern electronic type sounds that fit the story rather well. Some etherial uncredited extracts from Puccini's Turandot are used and at the close a psalm sung at the original memorial service, (which I did not particularly care for). The extras, which include a quite large booklet, are, with two exceptions, very good. My disappointment was that the later, and in some ways almost more interesting, sound version, "90 degrees South", and narrated by Ponting himself, is included as an extra but has not been restored and no subtitles have been added for the hearing impaired. This is a great shame. The cost of optional subtitles would have been minimal and as the sound track is very old and a bit crackly it may be hard for everyone to hear clearly. Another oddity is that 4 minutes of old newsreel are left off the Blu-ray and one must put in the DVD to see them. I cannot imagine adding them to the Blu-ray would have made much difference but anyway they are not there. Equally odd, nearly 8 minutes of silence against a picture of Scott in his hut are included as an extra. The traditional 2 minutes would have been quite enough! Despite these irritations this is an extraordinary treasure and a bargain. The disc of the year for me. Just a shame it was not quite complete!
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on 10 May 2012
This encases original footage of the early Anrarctic exploration. The moving images convey so much more than fixed photos can of the great hardships undertaken by the early explorers. 2DVDs mean you buy one for yourself and another for someone lucky enough to have Blueray.
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on 8 January 2012
What an amazing restoration. I've got so used to the idea that old film is just black and white, jumps about and has scratches and wriggles that it's really quite disconcerting to see this as our ancestors would have done. The image is so steady, and the tinting of the film provides all sorts of extra clues about what we are looking at. Congratulations BFI! Except now all the other ancient footage I see just seems unloved.
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on 15 June 2012
A very interesting documentary about Captain Scott's last expedition. The cine photography by Herbert Ponting is outstanding when you consider the weather conditions and the comparatively primitive equipment he used of that era.
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on 17 January 2017
Truly awesome film. This at the time was the equivelent of the first Men on the moon.

Marvel at the cinematography and the realisation that some of these men will die during the filming of this movie. These men became legends, the have been imortalised in folklore, they are from a different time in history.

The silent soundtrack coupled with the piano playing makes this a historical experience which few movies can ever replicate. The cinematography is truly stunning, the Antartic one of the most beautiful wilderness you can imagine and this all done over 100 years ago.

Pour yourself your favourite drink, make it a large one. Watch history.
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