A long out of print DVD that will cost you some serious cash
if you want a copy, The Endurance is
an engaging documentary relating the amazing events of Sir Ernst
disastrous 1914 expedition to Antarctica. Now the film is available again through the
Sony Choice Collection, their MOD program that puts hard to find movies
shows into the hands of fans. This disc
is identical to the earlier release, including all of the extras and
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold.
Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return
and recognition in case of success."
With that newspaper ad, Sir Ernst Shackleton started recruiting
his expedition to be the first person to cross the continent of Antarctica. He
received over 5000 replies, and from that selected a group of men who
on one of the most harrowing journeys in the history of exploration. This documentary chronicles that mission,
using stills and film footage taken by expedition photographer Frank
along with excerpts from the members diaries, vintage interviews, and
recollections from the offspring of the survivors.
By the time Shackleton placed his newspaper ad, he was one
of the most experienced explorers of the southernmost continent. He has accompanied Falcon Scott on his 1901
attempt to reach the South Pole (Ernest came down with a case of scurvy
nearly killed him on the trip that Scott interpreted as a weakness in
character). He made his own attempt to
be the first to the Pole in 1907, getting closer than any man before
him. He could have easily reached the
realized that the team would run out of supplies on the way back and
die, so he
abandoned his quest within 100 miles of his goal. (Falcon
Scott would die along with four of
his men on his next attempt. After
reaching the pole (five weeks after his competitor, Roald Amundsen,
Scott ran out of provisions on the way back.
He was a pretty incompetent leader.)
With the Pole having been reached, Shackleton planned an
even great feat... crossing the continent.
He raised money, bought supplies, hired a crew, and on August 8th,
1914, his ship the Endurance left British waters, just as WWI was
The ship traveled to South America, took on fresh
provisions, and then departed the whaling island
of South Georgia on December 5th
bound for the continent of Antarctica. It would never get there.
On January 15th the Endurance
became trapped in pack ice. The crew
and worked to free her, but to no avail.
They planned on spending the winter frozen in the Weddle Sea.
That was bad, but things became worse when the ice shifted
and crushed the poor ship. Shackleton
had already given the order to abandon ship and remove the supplies,
his men were stranded in the Antarctic, hundreds of miles from shore,
middle of a frozen sea. That's when
things really got tough, and they would get more and more desperate as
adventure wore on.
This is one of those stories that you wouldn't believe if it
was fiction. Their situation was so
fraught with danger even the most outrageous filmmakers would have
some of the crew. The fact that Shackleton
returned with all of his men alive is simply astounding.
This film is an excellent look at the horrific journey.
The thing that comes through the most is that
Shackleton was an amazing leader who could adapt to situations quickly
wasn't easily led to panic. It's was his
force of will, more than anything else, that got he and his men through
It's amazing that so much of expedition photographer Frank
Hurley's work survived the journey back to England
and then was
preserved. The haunting images that he
took, of the ship trapped in ice and the faces of some of the crew
really make their situation real.
Director George Butler also insisted on filming the movie on
much as possible. He included footage of
Elephant Island, the rocky, uninhabited
the middle of the ocean where the group eventually landed.
In the commentary track he says that it is
impossible for men to survive on such a desolate spot, and from looking
you'd think he was right.
This film arrives on a DVD-R disc in a standard case with
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is fine. The
dialog comes through nicely and everyone
from narrator Liam Neeson to the interviewed relatives of the survivors
to discern. No audio defects are
The 1.78:1 widescreen image is just so-so. There's
a good amount of ghosting in some of
places (the opening credits for one) and the image is a bit on the soft
side. Ironically Frank Hurley's still
are some of the best looking parts of the whole film.
Even with these defects the image isn't bad,
just not very spectacular.
These studio direct-to-consumer discs are usually bare bones
affairs, so I was very pleased that all of the extras from the original
were included. These start off with a
by producer/director George Bulter. It's
an informative track where he discusses some of the difficulties in
relates some trivia and anecdotes that didn't make it into the film,
about what he learned over the course of the shoot.
The video bonuses include: Iconic Images, an
expedition photographer Frank Hurley's twin daughters; The
Tale of the Endurance a 16-minute film where author Caroline
Alexander gives her account of the expedition; a making-of piece In the Wake of Shakelton; and Past and
Present which gathers some of
the descendants of the Expidition's crew.
These were all entertaining and well worth watching.
Shackleton's Endurance Expedition is one of the greatest
tales of survival from the golden age of exploration and this
a great job of illustrating just how harrowing and impossible the
after their ship was crushed by ice. Anyone
who is interested in a truly amazing tale should check this out. Highly Recommended.