Today: May 25, 2024

Antarctic Expeditions on Blu-ray

Described as among the earliest examples of the documentary genre, Frank Hurley’s South (1919) and Herbert Ponting’s The Great White Silence (1924) make for a truly compelling double-bill. The films, which cover Shackleton’s and Scott’s historic expeditions respectively, offer a spellbinding time capsule of early filmmaking while also serving as fascinating snapshots of remarkable feats of expedition. First and foremost these films are indispensable historic documents, giving life and personality to these iconic figures of travel and adventure.

Stunningly restored with a great deal of love and care by The BFI National Archive, the two films are bursting with immaculate insight – bringing Shackleton and Scott, usually confined to the pages of history books, to life. For both history and film buffs alike, these films are absolutely essential viewing. There are no other films that can take you back onto the deck of these legends of exploration to this extent. 

Both available on Blu-ray and DVD from the BFI longside a veritable wealth of special features and never-before-seen extra films and recordings, South and The Great White Silence are mesmerising examples of the documentary genre and surprisingly poignant tributes to the brave men who embarked on these historic and unprecedented journeys.

South & The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration on Film

Photographed by Frank Hurley, South is the film record of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s heroic but ill-starred attempt to cross Antarctica in 1914-16. It is both a unique historical document, and a tribute to the indomitable courage of a small party of men who set out on a voyage of discovery that turned into an epic struggle for survival. Restored by The BFI National Archive from a wide range of materials, tinting and toning was applied to match the original prints and has produced this handsome and richly coloured testament to a remarkable episode in the history of exploration. It is presented with an extensive collection of films (many previously unseen) from around the world, highlighting various expeditions from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

The Films

  • Antarctic Expedition: Sir George Newnes’ Farewell to Officers and Crew (1998, 1 min)
  • Departure of Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition from Lyttelton, New Zealand, 1908 (1908, 8 mins)
  • Nihon nankyoku tanken (1912, 19 mins)
  • Fram’s South Polar Expedition (22 mins)
  • Australasian Antarctic Expedition Films aka The Home of the Blizzard (c1916, 68 mins)
  • Pathé’s Animated Gazette No. 140 (extract, 1911, 45 secs)
  • South: Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic (Frank Hurley, 1919, 81 mins)
  • Topical Budget: Dogs for the Antarctic (extract, 1914, 1 min)
  • Dogs for the Antarctic: Sir Ernest Shackleton’s dogs in quarantine at Beddington (extract, 1914, 1 min)
  • Australasion Gazette: Captain Davis returns to Sydney… (extract, 1917, 30 secs)
  • The Late Sir Ernest Shackleton Bathing Query (extract, 1922, 2 mins)
  • El Homenaje Del Uruguay A Los Restos De Sir Ernest Shackleton (1922, 11 mins)
  • Shackleton’s Funeral (extract, 1922, 5 mins)
  • Shackleton South Georgia Birds (1920, 13 mins)

Special Features

  • South: Audio commentary by Luke McKernan (2002) 
  • Neil Brand on scoring South (2022): the composer talks about his approach to the new score
  • Neil Brand’s 2002 score for South
  • Map of Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with commentary by Kelly Tyler-Lewis (2002, 2 mins)
  • Ross Sea Party (1917, 9 mins): footage was shot by Aubrey Howard Ninnis, the Aurora’s purser, and Alexander Stevens Chief Scientist presented with Kelly Tyler-Lewis 2002 narration
  • My South Polar Expedition (1910, 4 mins, audio): Shackleton’s voice recorded on an Edison Amberol wax cylinder a week after returning to New Zealand
  • Shackleton Speaks (1910, 1 min, audio): another recording of Shackleton naming his crew

The Great White Silence (Reissue)

Herbert Ponting’s official record of Captain Scott’s legendary expedition to the South Pole, restored by the BFI and featuring a score by Simon Fisher Turner, captures in breathtaking detail the alien beauty of the landscape, and ensured that the heroism involved would never be forgotten. The BFI National Archive – custodian of the expedition negatives – created this award-winning restoration using the latest photochemical and digital techniques and reintroduced its sophisticated use of colour.

Special Features

  • 90° South (1933, 72 mins): Ponting’s final sound version of his legendary expedition footage
  • The Great White Silence panel discussion (2011, 15 mins): a panel of experts discuss the remarkable restoration of Herbert Ponting’s extraordinary record of Captain Scott’s ill-fated race to the South Pole
  • The Sound of Silence (2011, 13 mins): documentary about Simon Fisher Turner’s approach to the score
  • Location field recordings (2010, 5 mins): celebrated sound recordist Chris Watson’s document of Scott’s expedition hu
  • Archive newsreel items (1910-1925, 5 mins): coverage of the expedition’s departure and return
  • Newly created optional English subtitles for the d/Deaf and partial hearing on 90° South and The Great White Silence panel discussion
  • ***FIRST PRESSING ONLY*** Fully illustrated booklet featuring a lead essay by the BFI’s Bryony Dixon, selected biographies and notes on the extras

SOUTH & THE HEROIC AGE OF ANTARCTIC EXPLORATION ON FILM and THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE are available on Blu-ray/DVD from February 28 2022 courtesy of BFI


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