The Red Tent (1969)

Article 2151 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-4-2007
Posting Date: 7-3-2007
Directed by Mikheil Kalatozishvili
Featuring Peter Finch, Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale

When an expedition to the North Pole via dirigible ends in disaster and leaves a handful of men lost in the arctic regions, the commander does what he can to keep his men safe and to facilitate the rescue efforts underway to save them.

Usually when I list the actors, I just take the first three names listed in IMDB, which usually reflects the order in which they were billed in the credits of the movie. Every once in a while I feel compelled to make exceptions, such as in this case. Peter Finch only receives fourth billing, despite the fact that he is the central character in the story, whereas Sean Connery, though obviously the bigger name star (and it is probably due to this that he received top billing) plays what amounts to a supporting role; his character hardly appears at all during the first half of the movie, and has only a few scenes in the second half. This is not to denigrate Connery’s performance in any way; he gives one of his best performances as Roald Amundsen, and he gets the best lines of the movie (my favorite has to do with the perils of an arctic explorer having too little or too much courage). But it is Finch’s story, as it is his haunted perception of the events that unfold that gives the movie its themes. The fantastic content is something of a plot device; General Nobile is visited by the ghosts of those involved in the story, who sit in judgment of his actions. The ghosts (like those in THUNDER ROCK) are most likely not real, but they do serve the job of helping us understand the themes of guilt and the nature of leadership which are central to the story. This was a joint Russian/Italian production; it originally ran three and a quarter hours, but this version runs just over two hours, and since most of the cast is already speaking English, there’s no real dubbing issue to contend with. I also quite liked the performances of Mario Adorf as the radio operator on the expedition, and Eduard Martesevich as a Swede whose relationship with a nurse (Claudia Cardinale) ends up driving some of the rescue efforts. The movie is not perfect; even in its shorter form, I feel some of the scenes could have used a bit of trimming, but the ending is excellent, and it didn’t really deserve to be the financial disaster it turned out to be.



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