The Red Tent Movie Review

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Since they realized they were there, explorers everywhere have had a fascination with visiting the poles of the earth. By 1928, the North Pole had been well visited and documented by the likes of Peary and Amundsen, but Italian Umberto Nobile decided he wanted to head up there anyway. Only Nobile's crackpot idea was to go there in a blimp.

Strangely, because of Nobile's renown in working with Amundsen on his 1926 flight to the Pole, no one said this was a bad idea. One day after daparting, heavy wind ripped the blimp apart, stranding the crew on the Arctic ice, where they holed up in a makeshift red tent, waiting for aid to arrive. For a month they were presumed dead, until an amateur radio operator picked up a transmission. A massive rescue operation commenced, with Amundsen himself even getting in on the deal.

The rescue only continues the tale of woe of this expidition. The crew was located, and Nobile was airlifted out first. (The reasons behind this are much in debate (and concern a large part of the picture), and the aftermath would haunt Nobile for his remaining life.) After Nobile was safely dropped off in Spitsbergen, the rescue pilot returned for the rest of the crew, only to crash along the way. Nobile would remain the sole survivor of the expedition. Most notably, Amundsen himself would perish during the rescue attempt.

Heavy stuff, and it gets the full 1970s treatment in The Red Tent -- complete with mood music, flashbacks, and the ghosts of the dead holding a trial for Nobile, who's mournfully reliving the event as an old man, obviously for the hundredth time.

As Nobile, Peter Finch makes for a tragic figure, but it's Sean Connery who steals the show as Amundsen, largely seen as a ghost chastising Nobile for his foolishness. It also never hurts to have Claudia Cardinale in your flick, though I won't spoil her role.

While The Red Tent is often haunting, it's frequently obtuse and conceited in the way that only a Russian-Italian-American production from the early 1970s can be. The dead holding court over an old man wracked with guilt? Spare the art. Give me the adventure.

Aka Krasnaya palatka.

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The Red Tent Rating

" Good "

Rating: G, 1971

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