Peter Finch plays Umberto Nobile, an Italian general and explorer who is haunted by his disastrous attempt to fly over the pole in a dirigible in 1928. In the present day, sleepless, he summons the ghosts of his crew and the people affected by the disaster to sit as judge and jury, and the film then proceeds to tell the tale in flashback. When the dirigible crashes, Nobile and his men are marooned on pack ice, while rescue attempts are met with one tragic setback after another. Among those s…arching for Nobile is Roald Amundsen (Sean Connery).
Top-billed Connery’s role is quite brief, and when one thinks of this as a co-production between Italy and Russia, remember that the latter in 1969 is very much the USSR, and thus we have some incongruous scenes of heroic, happy peasants charging on horseback to report news of the survivors. But there is also a terrific sense of terrible cold, emptiness and despair, and of the awful guilt experienced by survivors. There are also images that will linger in the mind long after the film is over, especially the awful fear on the faces of the men who are trapped in the dirigible as it flies away like a deflated balloon from its gondola. While flawed, this is a compelling picture, overall more satisfying than the similarly themed Island in the Sky.
The sound comes in both 5.1 and 2.0 versions. Though there are some moments of decent surround FX and music, the 5.1 mix is generally quite weak in this department, with very low sound levels in the rear. The 2.0 might not have to extra separation, but has a much stronger surround presence.
There is some grain here, sometimes quite noticeable. Here and there the picture is bit soft, too. The print is generally in very good shape, however, and the coloursa re excellent, with fine blacks and contrasts. There is no edge enhancement visible. Not a bad-looking transfer for an older film. The format looks like 1.78:1, which is neither the cropped 1.66:1 international version of the film, nor the original 2.20:1.
Stately in pace and serious in tone, this is very hard to stop watching. Pity there are no extras of any kind.