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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

S.O.S. Eisberg (1933)

A German explorer (Gustav Diessl) lost in the Arctic is presumed dead. But when evidence that he is still alive appears, his partner (Sepp Rist) and a small four man search party return to the nether regions of Greenland to find him. But when they become trapped on an iceberg floating out to sea, the explorer's aviatrix wife (Leni Riefenstahl, who would direct TRIUMPH OF THE WILL the following year) joins the search. This was filmed twice, once in English and once in German. The English version was directed by Tay Garnett (THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE) with Rod La Rocque replacing Gustav Diessl but the rest of the cast repeating their roles. It is markedly different than the German version and ten minutes shorter. I watched the German language version which is directed by Arnold Fanck. Its narrative may be simple but visually, it's astonishing. Shot in Greenland and Switzerland, the footage of the Arctic landscape, the formation of the icebergs, Eskimo villages and the all around remarkable record of the force that is nature makes this a must see. Add to that the spectacular aerial sequences and it's a veritable movie feast for the senses. Some of the scenes are hard to take: a starving man gobbling a raw fish head, two polar bears tearing a seal apart, a sled dog drowning in the icy water and when someone shoots a spear into a polar bear, it sure looked real to me! With Gibson Gowland, Max Holzboer, Ernst Udet as himself and Nakinak, the sled dog who gives one of the best performances in the film.

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