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Archive for March 29th, 2012

by Allan Fish

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, leader of the doomed team who tried to be first to the South Pole in 1912.  In tribute, my piece on Herbert J.Ponting’s criminally little known documentary released to Blu Ray and DVD in the UK last year.

(UK 1924 108m) DVD2

Great God, this is an awful place

d/w/ph/ed  Herbert J.Ponting  m  Simon Fisher Turner

I believe it was Woodrow Wilson who, upon seeing The Birth of a Nation for the first time, described it as like “history written with flashes of lightning.”  Though one understood what he meant, not until now, upon seeing a film shot before Griffith’s film but not seen until nearly a decade after, did I feel something akin to the same genuinely ghostly sensation.  The name of Herbert J.Ponting FRGS FRPS FZS is not one generally known today, but he was one of a heroic hardy bunch who trekked to the Antarctic in 1911 on a mission to try and reach the South Pole.  Along with him were five fellows who were to make the final push to 90°S; Evans, Bowers, Wilson, Oates and their leader, Robert Falcon Scott.

            The public image of Scott a century on has gone through a rollercoaster, from initial praise for his heroism as an embodiment of what made Britain great, to some denouncing him as a bungler who put his men’s fate in unnecessary danger by allowing himself to take such a fatally long route to and from the pole and leaving his rival Roald Amundsen the opportunity to blindside him from an easier starting point.  Then there was the 1948 Ealing movie, with John Mills, James Robertson Justice et al allowing their upper lips to be frozen stiff.  (more…)

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