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Probable scenario exposed at expense of British legend
Thom A. Marsh | Ashland, Ky United States | 02/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This dramatization is based on the book, Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford. It is a detailed study, centered around the 1910-1912 Great Race for the South Pole by two brave explorers; the Norwegian Capt. Amundsen and the British Capt. Scott. The legend of Capt. Scott had long been considered sacred. Afterall, Capt. Scott and his five-man party died on the return journey from the Pole after having reached it a month after Capt. Amundsen. Roald Amundsen, conversely, has largely been overlooked and even slandered for his achievement of safely reaching the Pole first. Mr. Huntford's research had uncovered so much information about Capt. Scott and Capt. Amundsen that it created a public scandal - a public outcry that even came to condemn the author. After all, a long-cherished British legend was being questioned to its very sanctity. So great was this outcry, that when the book was reissued in 1985 as The Last Place on Earth, it inspired this excellent PBS dramatization. True to Huntford's book, this dramatization plumbs every subtlety of the author's historical revelation. Depicted is the Great Race for the South Pole that pitted the British explorer, Capt. Robert F. Scott against the Norwegian, Capt. Roald Amundsen. Amundsen claimed the Pole in 1911. Captain Scott and his five-man party died of starvation and exposure on their return. This fine production captures the European nationalistic mood of the 1910's and beautifully enshrines the respectful eloquence of an era long past. Every aspect of this dramatization has been meticulously represented, from the period clothing to the detailed manifestation of each expedition's supply stores on the southward journey. Roland Huntford never set out to exploit the incompetence of a British legend. He sought merely to compare and contrast these two explorers in their 1911 quest for the South Pole. For the first time in his book, Amundsen, who had long been characterized as a broody and sour man, is considered an equal to Scott; and is revealed to be extremely charismatic, respectful of men and reverent of nature. On the other hand, the long revered hero Captain Scott, is exposed through extensive research to be insecure, paranoid, petty, careless and vindictive in his leadership. Scott made too many critically foolish decisions - one cannot help to at least question his fitness as a leader. This dramatization reflects the book well in contrasting the differences between the two leaders; in style, in personality, in each party's morale and loyalty, and even the difference between the ageing empire of Britain and the fledgling country of Norway, which at the time had just attained independence from Sweden. I viewed this presentation of "The Last Place on Earth" when it originally aired on PBS's Masterpiece Theater in 1985. This historical tale, and understanding the lengths to what ALL these brave men were willing to subject themselves to, is truly inspiring. I have been deeply interested in this epic story ever since. Being a mountain climber myself, I know what it takes to be prepared in case of the unexpected. And although the footage is extraordinary, one cannot truly understand how these brave men felt as they traveled hundreds of miles across a barren, inhospitable landscape, where losing one's bearings is easier than freezing to death. As excellent as this dramatization is, anyone who views it must read Huntford's book The Last Place on Earth, revised for 1999 whereby Huntford has since found much more background information to support his account."
Possibly the Finest Adventure Series Ever Televised
givbatam3 | REHOVOT Israel | 09/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I decided to write this review after seeing the television dramatization of Ernest Shackleton's "Endurance" expedition. Although I have seen "Last Place" many times, seeing "Shackleton", which is not bad, made me appreciate how good "Last Place" really is. Ultimately, "Last Place" gives a very good presentation of the different approaches to polar exploration that Amundsen and Scott had. Unfortunately, "Shackleton" did not do this as well. Scott, a typical product of the hidebound Royal Navy and the class-ridden society that made up late Victorian Britain believes that technology combined with immense will-power and "natural superiority of the Englishman" will overcome all obstacles. Amundsen, a citizen of newly independent Norway, was much more open-minded and willing to make due with less. Unlike the British who believed they were a superior civilization and had nothing to learn from "inferior natives" like the Eskimos had clothing and food that was less well adapted to life in the very harsh polar climate. This flexibility that Amundsen had led him to adopt the clothing of the Eskimos and also led him to be more concerned about the problem of scurvey which plagued previous expeditions to the polar regions. This meant that Amundsen's men were much healthier (they actually gained weight on the journey!) than Scott's. By using dogs, there was less physical strain on the Norweigians than on the British who pulled their sled by themselves for much of the trip. Amundsen was a meticulous planner whereas Scott had a tendency to rely on the British habit of "muddling through" and hoping that things will work out. In the end, these differences meant the difference between life or death for the two expeditions. It is true that Roland Huntford whose book of the same name is the basis of the series has a real hatred for Scott which comes out again and again and showing a negative image of Scott which is probably exaggerated in the series, but Amundsen's flaws are also brought out such as his hiding the truth about his plans to go to the South Pole instead of exploring the Arctic as he claimed he was going to do and his almost disastrous too-early start to the South Pole which brought out his conflict with the legendary Hjalmar Johansen. Thus, I believe the viewer does come out of the series with a pretty honest idea of the truth about the race to the Pole and the very different outcomes for the two expeditions. Beside the outstanding script and acting, the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking and the almost hurculean efforts to film this in the harsh environment of Greenland really paid off in making making one of the most impressive productions ever to be seen on television or the cinema. Anyone who is interested in history, exploration, or the psychology of men in extreme conditions will immensely enjoy this treasure."
Definitely Five Stars!!!
Harald T. Arnesen | Reno, NV United States | 04/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first watched this film when it was aired on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre back in 1984. Roland Huntford's account of the big race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott speaks out the truth that was omitted when Scott's diary was first published, and kept from public interest so that Scott could be claimed as a hero throughout the British Empire. Though Amundsen claimed the South Pole one month ahead of Scott, the British looked upon him as an inferior and giving Scott all the glory. I've had the opportunity as a boy to meet the real Tryggve Gran, the youngest member of the South Pole Expedition more than once, who accompanied Scott to Antarctica as ski instructor. Gran, who was in his late seventies when I met him at his home in Norway, had written several books about the South Pole Expeditions of the two men. Gran knew that Scott was in trouble from the very beginning. The filming sequence was shot in the Arctic regions of northern Canada and Greenland where the actors could experience the real effects that those they portrayed had felt. Temperatures dipped down as low as -60ºF and howling winds were prevalent. This was done in order to get as close to reality as possible. I highly reccomend this video."
One of the Greatest Masterpieces on Film
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 12/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this mini-series in 1984 and remember how breathless I was, waiting for the next episode (Only Reilly - Ace of Spies and Rumpole of the Bailey had this effect on me.). The film shows the different approaches between the Norwegians team and the English team to get to the South Pole - the last undiscovered country. Their planning, their failures, their strategies to survive are deeply emotional experiences. Amundson is the better Arctic explorer and planner...and so he wins. Scott is well intentioned, heroic, but unprepared. He doesn't make it to the Pole but gets lionized by his country as an example of someone willing to die for his country. Thrilling photography and intelligent film-making...it doesn't get any better than this."
A good adaptation of the book
Tina Morris | Rockville, MD USA | 01/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very detail-minded, yet well-paced adaptation of Roland Huntford's great book. The 7 tape series tells the story of the 2 competing expeditions of Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott en route to the South Pole in 1911. It was hard to imagine that the director and the actors would be able to convey a lot of the atmospheric, historic, and background information that makes the book so special, but they managed it just fine in a very subtle way. Martin Shaw gives a fine performance as Scott, as he walks the lines between arrogance, vanity, cluelessness and tragedy. Max von Sydow has the relatively small but important part of Nansen, Amundsen's mentor and idol, and the great actor once again shines in this role. The films are athmospherically dense, the cinematography, both in places antarctic and at home, is wonderful. As in the book the Norwegian side is favored for their superior planning and execution of the expedition, and the long prevailing picture of Scott as the self-sacrificial British hero is thoroughly and justly shattered."