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  • Asked to give his assessment of Umberto Nobile's leadership in the Italia airship disaster of 1927, his friend and colleague, Samoilovich, offers this sage advice, "Men are judged by their actions and their actions by their success". What exactly are the qualities needed for leadership? "The Red Tent" is a wonderful meditation on that question. At the time Nobile was disgraced, he was accused of abandoning his men, and made a scapegoat for the disaster by Benito Mussolini's Fascist government. Forty years after the event his rest is still disturbed by doubts he has about the leadership he exercised. Could the tragedy have been averted? Was it his vanity to be the first to cross the pole by air, that led to the calamity? These and other questions are tackled in this thoughtful film.

    The entire film actually takes place in the General's mind. He calls back various participants to the event, to re-live what happened, and ultimately to pass judgment on him. It is this framing device that makes the film unique, for it examines Nobile's leadership from a divergent points of view, allowing the viewers to make their own judgment as well. It is a theatrical device to be sure, but it works in this film. In time we come to learn that truth often walks on two legs and has a left and right hand. "Yet we must have judgment", says one of the participants, and so they do. These scenes which all take place in Nobile's apartment in Rome with it's warmth and comfort, provide a wonderful contrast to the stark reality of the struggle for survival at the Arctic Pole.

    The film is beautifully written and the acting is of a high level throughout. Sean Connery, ridding himself of his Bond image, plays Roald Amundsen, the great Arctic explorer at the end of his days. It is Amundsen who exemplifies the qualities a great leader should have. It is the first and in some ways still the best of Connery's wise old man performances. He is also the one participant Nobile has most conspicuously not brought back. After intruding on the proceedings like some force of nature, he describes how he had reached the wreak of the Italia, only to crash land and be stranded. With nothing to do but wait to freeze to death he finds solace in his final moments of life with a book he has found strewn among the wreckage. The cynical Lundborg scornfully rejects this "final touch" as "theatrical" "But who would I be acting for?" Amundsen asks. "Yourself" Lundborg replies. "But that isn't acting," Connery wisely replies, "That's necessary. The trick is to choose the right part." The film is filled with great lines like this. Claudia Cardinale, as Nurse Valaria, provides the emotional center of the film. She resents the good people of King's Bay capitalizing on the disaster, yet she has no misgivings whatever in playing on Amundsen's sense of guilt to get him to mount a rescue attempt. After all he had introduced her lover, the Meteorologist, Finn Malgrem to Arctic exploration. She is also willing to offer herself to Lundborg if he will risk his life to fly in unsafe weather conditions. It is her bitter confrontation with Nobile after he has been safely brought back to King's Bay while the others were left freezing on the ice, that is the beginning of his sleepless nights. His inability to stop Zampi, his ambitious second in command from leaving the red tent with Mariano and Malgrem in a vain attempt to reach help, would result in the Meteorologist being lost on the ice. "You cracked like the ice." she tells the General. "We shall never meet again I hope. And I hope you never forget." He doesn't.

    Peter Finch as Nobile carries the film, and he is in every way up to the task. He manages to convey the intelligence, courage, vanity and despair of this self-doubting individual. He is a man who both admires Amundsen and resents always being compared with him. Hardy Kruger plays the dashing Aviator Lundborg with a nice blend of charm and hard edge cynicism. He is the first to reach the survivors. His motives for rescuing the Nobile over the General's objections that he take the other members of his expedition first, some of whom are badly injured, may have been less than admirable, but it is this act that will ultimately save the others. Lundborg finally persuades the General to go with a combination of threats,(he will leave him and the others behind), reassurance,(six quick trips and it will be over), and finally reason, (the General is badly needed at King's Bay to organize the rescue). The others also agree the General must go. It is only when he is safely back at King's Bay, that he realizes his actions have been badly misconstrued as an act of desertion. By that time weather conditions have changed again and it is impossible to go back and rescue the others by air. "What do they think I've done?" he asks Captain Romagna, the ineffectual rescue coordinator, after reading a cable from Rome placing him under arrest. "They think you have done what you have done, I suppose." Romagna lamely replies. While aboard ship, Nobile radios his friend Samoilovitch to use the icebreaker Krassin to rescue the others. This he does. "Men are judged by their actions and their actions by their success." The General's decision to leave his men led to his being able to radio the Krassin which in turn led to the rescue of his men. "His actions, therefor were correct."

    Lastly, Ennio Morricone's lush score captures both the romance of a great endeavor being undertaken and the desolate, ethereal beauty of the Arctic. This film deserves to be seen and heard, and one can only hope that one day it will be restored.
  • "The Red Tent", as it was called when released in most of the world, is a fascinating historical epic of Arctic exploration. In the 1920's, Italian General Nobile sought to be the first to fly over the North Pole in a dirigible, of all things! Much of the movie focuses on these efforts; unfortunately, the winds kick up and the air ship is ripped apart. Surviving crewmen end up in various locations on the ice and then procede to battle the elements and polar bears. The great arctic explorer Raoul Amundsen is called in as are the Soviets who pick up radio messages of the disaster; an ice breaker is then dispatched to assist in the rescue. Yes, it is an involved and realistiuc spectacle.

    Peter Finch is very good as Nobile, and so is Connery as Amundsen - and it's an historic well-known fact that the first man to reach the South Pole, Amundsen, vanished in his attempt to save Nobile.

    Of note is that the story is recounted in flashback much later in a sort of trial of Nobile in his home in Rome, as characters living and dead appear to confront or defend him. Whether or not Nobile was reckless or had bad luck, or just over reached himself, is for the viewer to determine from putting the stories together.

    Somewhat long and overinvolved this is still an engrossing account of an epic Arctic disaster and the heroic rescue attempts that followed. If you see it, GRAB it.
  • This Italian-Russian endeavor is a lost treasure and one of the great historical dramas. The movie is really a dream of General Nobile, a survivor and commanding officer of the Italia, a dirigible that met with disaster in a grand Artic exploration during the Mussolini era. It is about the psychology of guilt, accountability, and leadership. Beyond the human psychological profile of the film, it captures the harsh, expansive grandeur of nature better than almost any movie I've seen. The cinematography of the Artic is unlikely to be ever met again with the computer-generated film of today. The Russian ice-breaker ship which rescues the Italian crew survivors requires no special effects and remains a challenge for today's movie producers to emulate. The iceberg film sequences were spectacular. Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale, Peter Finch and the rest of the cast give very fine acting performances. Ennio Morricone composes one of his greatest scores. As great as a film composer he is, he still is not remembered for one of his most haunting compositions in this film. There is an equally beautiful soundtrack in the Russian version by composer Aleksandr Zatsepin. It is a shame this film was not recognized perhaps in part due to its Soviet influence in a Hollywood-dominated market. It is a bit rough around the edges (meaning editing and directing could be smoother) but in terms of great film-making, it rarely gets better. When you watch it a couple times, you begin to appreciate the raw beauty and human drama of this film.
  • Since viewing this film 35 years ago I have been in awe of it, it is certainly my all-time favorite and would most likely get my nomination for best film ever. On this point I probably stand in splendid isolation (or to quote Finn Malmgren: "emptiness, loneliness, beauty, and purity"). I mention this in the hope that this will encourage readers to view the film. If you are seeking a comparison, "Krasnaya Palatka" ("The Red Tent") is most like the original "Flight of the Phoenix"; both are superficially action adventure films, with deep allegorical elements about the dynamics behind the functioning of a civilized society. "The Red Tent" even gets a little philosophical along the lines of life as a journey and not a destination.

    This is Director Mikheil Kalatozishvili's tribute to Sergei Eisenstein, a disorienting yet organized montage of vast scale juxtaposed with claustrophobic confinement (its worth watching again just to focus on the scene transitions-the editing is brilliant). The scenes inside the dirigible and the red tent (the title character) are carefully cut into spectacular exterior shots of arctic landscapes and the dynamic energy of crowds in the Russian countryside and city.

    There is a fusion of European expressionism with Hollywood realism in this film unlike anything I have ever seen before. This is possible because of the storytelling device of having everything unfold in flashbacks by the main character General Nobile (Peter Finch). Nobile was the organizer and commander of Italy's ill-fated attempt to reach the North Pole by dirigible. This generally true (certain historical liberties are taken to simplify things) story is told entirely from his point of view.

    Forty years after the expedition Nobile is a disgraced figure living in Rome and burdened by guilt and sleeplessness. You learn that on sleepless nights he conjures up participants in the expedition fiasco (both members and rescuers), letting them judge him for his actions 40 years ago. These sessions have been largely inconclusive but this night he pulls out all stops and convenes a full trial in his living room-with almost all the central figures present. More importantly, for the first time he names the ruthless Lundborg (Hardy Kruger) as his prosecutor-a move that Lundborg assures him will mean that the jury will reach a verdict for the first time. These are not ghosts but rather figments of Nobile's imagination and they behave according to his perception of how they would behave.

    This storytelling device allows the film to have its own commentary, making it not just an exciting adventure film with wonderful visuals, but an examination of the concept of leadership (much like "Command Decision", "A Gathering of Eagles", and "They Came to Cordura"). More importantly it becomes an allegorical study about free will and destiny, as careful planning and good judgment are just two factors in any complex operation; subject to luck and unforeseen events.

    The many characters are a representative cross section of society; with heroes, opportunists, martinets, dreamers, and average Joes. Ultimately, things happen (both good and bad) not because of the challenge of man versus nature, but because of the placement and misplacement of human resources (i.e. the right or wrong person assigned to a particular role in the expedition and the rescue efforts).

    From the events portrayed in the "The Rent Tent" it is difficult to fault Nobile as a leader. He wisely turns back to Kings Bay when the weather gets bad, he is genuinely devastated at the loss of some of his men, and his actions after the crash are all reasonable. He can be blamed for allowing Lundborg to bring him out before his men but under the circumstances it was a sensible decision if not a politically correct one. As Samoilovich, Captain of the Russian Icebreaker Krassin points out, a leader is judged by their actions, and their actions by their results, Nobile's early rescue is the reason the other surviving crewmen are ultimately rescued.

    Nobile's fantasy trial eventually dredges from his subconscious the realization of why he choose to leave with Lundborg (1000 reasons to stay-1001 to leave). That such a trivial and self-indulgent reason was the difference maker accounts for his continuing guilt. This realization, along with the belief that Amundsen (his peer) is the only one fit to judge him, allows Nobile to finally forgive himself for being human. They go out with Amundsen's advice to reflect not on their failures but on the things they attempted and the wondrous things they saw. There is no guilt in not achieving an ambitious goal, making the attempt is more important than succeeding.

    The music is also great.

    Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
  • Considering that from 1900 to 1937 dirigibles were part of the world of aviation, it is odd how few movies deal with them. I suspect it is because the film of the crash of the Hindenburg seems to summarize to us the fallacy of using lighter-than-air craft, but many aviation experts believe that there is still use for zeppelins and similar craft - that their cargo carrying capacities exceed aeroplanes. However, other experts deny this.

    To date, the following films deal with this chapter of aviation history.

    ZEPPELIN (Michael York has to stop the Kaiser's airforce from stealing the Magna Carta with their most modern designed Zeppelin.) THE COURT MARTIAL OF BILLY MITCHELL (Reference to the crash of the U.S. Navy Zeppelin Shenandoah in 1925, and the death of General Mitchell's (Gary Cooper's) friend, Captain Zachary Landsdowne. Mitchell was aware that the damaged Shenandoah was sent on a stupid political publicity tour in Ohio when it should have been repaired, and it was sent straight into a dangerous thunderstorm pattern.) THE RED TENT HINDENBERG (A film about the destruction of the great Zeppelin, with the emphasis on the theory that an anti-Nazi crewman put a time bomb on board. George C. Scott finds the bomb too late to stop the plot. It incorporates the footage of the Zeppelin's destruction).

    THE RED TENT is an excellent film about the 1928 ITALIA disaster. I have referred to this in my review of the movie SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC. Briefly, General Umberto Nobile was an Italian aviation pilot and designer of "semi-rigids", a type of hybrid between a balloon and a zeppelin. A balloon has no shape, but is a bag full of heated air or hydrogen or helium, attached to a small carriage for the passengers (usually from two to five people. A zeppelin has a total framework and keel, which contains separate bags within, each containing hydrogen or helium gas lifting it. Unlike a balloon, which depends on the wind currents to steer the bag, the zeppelin has electric/gasoline motors that propel it in one direction or another. As zeppelins are large they require crews (usually of 24 or more men). The semi-rigid is a keel with half a framework, but the bags are not supporting a metal cover. Rather the bag is like an elongated balloon.

    Nobile had great belief in his semi-rigids, but (like the zeppelins) they met with some success, some failure. In 1922 a semi-rigid he designed and sold to the U.S. Government, the ROMA, blew up in Hampton Roads, Virginia, when it touched a high tension wire that was across part of the field. It killed several dozen crewmen. On the other hand, in 1926 Nobile had designed a semi-rigid called the NORGE, which was used (successfully) for a flight over the North Pole.

    THE RED TENT does not go into the details of this 1926 flight, which is a pity. If it did, it would explain some of the reasons for the immense public relations disaster the ITALIA proved to be.

    To begin with, Nobile is an Italian. He was fully willing to work for the fascist government of Benito Musolini, but his work was only supported by that dictator as long as it's success was useful in advertising his regime's ability to make things better in Italy. However, one of the heroes of Fascist Italy, and one of the brightest men in the government, was the Italian war hero and aviation pioneer General Italo Balbo. Balbo is forgotten today, as he was tarred with being a supporter of the Fascists. What is forgotten is that in the 1920s up to 1935 fascism in Italy had many supporters, including Winston Churchill, who felt it was necessary to give Italy a strong centralized government. Balbo, within the Fascist regime, was a smart man who did his best to modernize the Italian air force and Italy's aviation industry. He also tried to emphasize Italy's ties to the democracies in the west - flying a flotilla of planes across the Atlantic in 1933 to the Chicago World's Fair on a good will tour. His attempts to keep friendly relations with the U.S., England, and France ran afoul of Il Duce, and may have led to the accident that ended Balbo's career (he was killed by "friendly fire" shooting down his plane over Libya in 1940).

    Balbo was suspicious of the advantage of "lighter-than-air" aviation. He knew planes were getting larger and faster, and that the claims that long distance travel would only remain the province of zeppelins was a lot of hooey. So when Nobile presented him with his latest semi-rigids, Balbo questioned their real use. To be truthful (although Nobile did some fine work) history was on Balbo's side on this.

    Nobile had to maintain his own friendship with Il Duce, and to do this, he needed successful results. Now the NORGE proved (as a machine) to be wonderful. It did fly to the North Pole. But the expedition was not so wonderful. The expedition was planned by the American explorer, Lincoln Ellsworth. He asked his friend, the great polar explorer Roald Amundsen to co-direct the expedition. And then they got Nobile to design the NORGE. The problem was that Nobile was insisting he was a co-leader with Ellsworth and Amundsen on the expedition. It is possible that if Ellsworth and Nobile had been alone there would have been no problem. The problem was Amundsen. He despised Musolini's regime, and considered Nobile nothing more than a talented mechanic and chauffeur. This was hardly fair, for it was an expedition to the Pole by air, and as such it would not have gotten anywhere without Nobile and his machine.

    To make matters worse, while the NORGE was waiting in Spitsbergen for the right wind to travel to the Pole, a plane piloted by U.S. Navy Captain Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett arrived. Byrd took off while the NORGE waited, and flew north. Within half a day it returned, and Byrd claimed he reached the Pole! Today we know from writings left by Bennett, and by some papers of Byrd showing his calculations, that he didn't reach the Pole, but in 1926 it was believed he did. This apparent success of heavier-than-air travel over lighter-than-air travel did not help endear Nobile's work with Amundsen.

    So, despite the successful flight to the Pole and back (nobody seemed to notice that Byrd's American flag could not be found there), the NORGE voyage was not the great success Nobile needed. Balbo kept carping at the obvious comparison of the semi-rigid and Byrd's trimotor. And Il Duce was upset at the way that Nordic upstart Amundsen had slighted his representative. So Nobile decided he would design a larger semi-rigid and fly to the Pole leading this expedition by himself. Il Duce approved. Balbo just glared and said nothing.

    THE RED TENT follows what happens. The voyage was a success again at the start. But an accident caused the ITALIA to crash on the ice, causing one of the gondolas to land on the ice with most of the crew. The out of control semi-rigid bounced back with nine men on board. It and the nine men drifted out of sight and were never seen again. Nobile (fortunately) had the main gondola, with the supplies and the radio. A red colored tent was set up on the ice, and distress signals were sent out. Certainly help would come.

    But it didn't come. A very conservative and timid second in command had been left by Nobile in Spitsbergen, and although he got some of the signals he kept from releasing any requests for international assistance. After all, this fool reasoned, Nobile and the survivors should be rescued by Italians. Ordinarily this made sense, but Balbo and Musolini could not find the huge resources needed to assist in the rescue by themselves, particularly as the survivors were hundreds of miles north of Spitsbergen. So valuable time was lost.

    Some of the survivors, the Finnish meteorologist Malmsen and two Italian crewmen, talked Nobile into letting them try to cross the ice to Scandanavia to get help. What happened next is not really known. In the film Malmsen dies of exhaustion and starvation but the Italians manage to survive. In reality the possibility exists that Malmsen was killed and eaten by the Italians (his body was never found).

    Malmsen's girlfriend (Claudia Cardinale in the movie) goes to get Amundsen's assistance. In realty this was not necessary. Amundsen recalled Nobile with considerable distaste. As mentioned before he disliked the fascist regime, but there is a lingering feeling that he actually was a nordic racist who disliked Italians. He decided to get a plane and rescue Nobile (and proceed to humiliate the uppity "chauffeur" for his temerity at challenging Amundsen in polar ability). But the plane he got, a modern French plane, had an air cooled motor. Amundsen may have known much about planning depots of food, and knowing how much food to leave per member of an expedition, but he was not a mechanic (ironically enough). He and a small crew took off and were never seen again. Years later some wreckage was located, showing (according to Amundsen's fellow polar explorer, Vihiljamar Steffenson)that the plane must have crashed in the gulf stream, and that Amundsen and his crew died trying to use one of the wings as a raft.

    A plane, piloted by an Italian, finally did arrive, but it only rescued Nobile. Nobile made the error of going first, presumably planning to return for the others. It turned out he did not have to - a Soviet ice breaker, the KRASSIN, arrived and rescued the remaining survivors (including the two Italians last seen with Malmsen).

    Of course, Musolini was furious. There was a huge death toll. There was a humiliating example of possible cannibalism by two Italians. THere was a question of the cowardice of General Nobile in leaving his surviving crew behind. Finally the remaining men, all fascists mind you, were rescued by sailors from Communist Russia!

    Balbo gleefully was able to convince his boss to shelve further "lighter-than-air" travel adventures (indeed further "lighter-than-air" transportation design). Nobile was openly disgraced by Il Duce, and left Italy (ironically he ended working for the Soviet Union, where Dirigibles were used for transportation for decades after the west stopped using them).

    The movie is well acted by Peter Finch as Nobile, Sean Connery as Amundsen, and Cardinale as Malmsen's girlfriend. It glosses over the odd attitude of Amundsen towards Nobile, and the actual death of Malmsen. Amundsen, as one of the ghosts Finch talks to, says his plane crashed near the wrecked dirigible, and he was the last survivor of both groups. Supposedly, his final hours are spent reading Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. But the film does tackle the issue of command and leadership, and all the figures in the disaster are found to be lacking it. Nobile may not have been the coward Musolini claimed he was, but when asked by Amundsen what he thought of when he boarded the plane that took him away from the Red Tent, he realizes he did abdicate his responsibilities to his men: he only thought of taking a hot bath!
  • petra_ste23 May 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    The Red Tent gives a fictionalized account of the ordeal faced by the crew of airship Italia, which in 1928 crashed on the North Pole; among survivors are general Nobile (Peter Finch), second-in-command Zappi (Luigi Vannucchi), radio operator Biagi (Mario Adorf) and scientist Malmgren (Eduard Martsevich). Nobody knows their position and ice starts to break. Meanwhile, explorer Amundsen (Sean Connery), Nobile's friendly rival, and Malmgren's fiancée (Claudia Cardinale) react to the tragedy.

    Structure is unusual. The story is told in flashbacks as a conflicted Nobile confronts the ghosts of his past in a dreamlike trial. It's peculiar and a little kitsch but effective, culminating in a memorable moment where Nobile, pressed by Amundsen, recalls his main motivation behind a key choice.

    The most interesting characters are Nobile, portrayed by Finch as a man haunted by his decisions, and Connery's Amundsen, who has a relatively small but crucial role. Cinematography is solid; Morricone's haunting soundtrack - one his best works, and that's no small feat - conveys the epic, bittersweet mood of the movie.

    8/10
  • An Italian/Russian co-production and featured by a great cast as Peter Finch as Nobile, Sean Connery as Amundsen , Massimo Girotti as Romagna, Claudia Cardinale as Nurse , Mario Adorf as Radio Operator and Hardy Krüger as Lundborg . This interesting flick reminisces about General Nobile and his 1928 failed Arctic expedition aboard the aircraft Italia . An exciting account dealing with bids to rescue the survivors of a dirigible which crashed in a blizzard near the North Pole .

    Highly imaginative, fictionalized version of these sad events . The film deal with General Nobile and Amundsen , but this is not a story of his race with Captain Scott to reach the South Pole -similarly to Cook and Peary in North Pole- , but a later episode in his moving career . Interesting and thought-provoking screenplay by prestigious writers : Richard DeLong Adams and Ennio De Concini though the script holds some inconsistencies in the dialogue . Big name cast who has to struggle hard to come to terms the strange happenings as when there appear ghost roles and all of them form a peculiar jury against General Nobile to be judged accused for desertion and cowardice . Very good acting by Peter Finch as Italian General Umberto Nobile torn by personal guilt . In between his last two assignment as James Bond , Connery gave some nice acting for the cinema and this portrait of the Norwegian explorer Amundsen is one of them . Sensitive and moving musical score by the great maestro Ennio Morricone . And colorful pictorial qualities of the cinematography are very strong . The yarn was compellingly directed by Mikhail Kalatozov (The cranes are flying , I Am Cuba) .

    This roust man-versus-nature epic picture was well based on historical and biographic accounts , there are the followings : Umberto Nobile was an Italian aviator, aeronautical engineer and Arctic explorer. Nobile was a developer and promoter of semi-rigid airships during the period between the two World Wars . He is primarily remembered for designing and piloting the blimp Norge, which may have been the first aircraft to reach the North Pole, and which was indisputably the first to fly across the polar ice cap from Europe to America. Nobile also designed and flew the Italia, a second polar airship; this second expedition ended in a deadly crash and provoked an international rescue effort . The Italia, nearly identical to the Norge, was slowly completed and equipped for Polar flight during 1927–28. Part of the difficulty was in raising private funding to cover the costs of the expedition, which finally was financed by the city of Milan; the Italian government limited its direct participation to providing the airship and sending the aging steamer Città di Milano as a support vessel to Svalbard, under the command of Giuseppe Romagna . On 23 May 1928, after an outstanding 69-hour-long flight to the Siberian group of Arctic islands, the Italia commenced its flight to the North Pole with Nobile as both pilot and expedition leader. On 24 May, the ship reached the Pole and had already turned back toward Svalbard when it ran into a storm. On 25 May, the Italia crashed onto the pack ice less than 30 kilometres north of Nordaustlandet . Of the 16 men in the crew, ten were thrown onto the ice as the gondola was smashed; the remaining six crewmen were trapped in the buoyant superstructure as it ascended skyward due to loss of the gondola; the fate of the six men was never resolved. One of the ten men on the ice, Pomella, died from the impact; Nobile suffered a broken arm, broken leg, broken rib and head injury; Cecioni suffered two badly broken legs; Malmgren suffered a severe shoulder injury and suspected injury to a kidney; and Zappi had several broken ribs.The crew managed to salvage several items from the crashed airship gondola, including a radio transceiver, a tent which they later painted red for maximum visibility, and, critically, boxes of food and survival equipment which quick-witted engineer Ettore Arduino had managed to throw onto the ice before he and his five companions were carried off to their deaths by the wrecked but still airborne airship envelope and keel. As the days passed, the drifting sea ice took the survivors towards Foyn and Broch islands.A few days after the crash the Swedish meteorologist Finn Malmgren and Nobile's second and third in command Mariano and Zappi decided to leave the immobile group and march towards land. Malmgren, who was injured, weakened and reportedly still depressed over his meteorological advice that he felt contributed to the crash, asked his two Italian companions to continue without him. These two were picked up several weeks later by the Soviet icebreaker "Krasin". However, there were persistent rumors that Malmgren was killed and cannibalized .
  • Wow. After a fortnight of seeing movies that were mostly interesting but a little disappointing (Skyfall, Looper, Sahara, The Cabin in the Woods) I was fortunate enough to come across The Red Tent.

    And what a refreshing change.

    A good range of character actors, each allowed enough screen time for us to understand who they are and what they mean.

    Real special effects, not CGI. OK, some of the ice breaking scenes may be from stock footage but they clearly show real activity.

    And the style of the movie is made interesting by the combination of English speaking actors in an Italian-Russian co-production.

    I found myself captivated by the story telling and wanting, now, to find more like it. Unfortunately the IMDb "People who like this also liked" feature doesn't seem to be working here.

    Probably more of a guys movie than a general interest movie. The issues raised are something every man will be able to relate to.
  • An English language film starring Peter Finch, Sean Connery, and Claudia Cardinale, this is nonetheless pure Kalatozov, more imbued with man's madness than Herzog. General Alberto Nobile (Finch) takes airship Italia to the North Pole in what appears to be no more than a public relations effort, with pretensions of scientific endeavour. The film is reminiscent of an earlier Kalatozov effort Neotpravlennoye pismo / The Unsent Letter (1960) in terms of there being a love interest, and also many people looking for explorers in peril and specifically in terms of the representation of joy (wacky music and speed). Kalatosov and Mosfilm were no doubt inspired by a real-life story where Uncle Joe's bestest commies manage to save a bunch of foolhardy imperialists. This seems to be a favourite theme of superior Soviet drama, and the film reminded me of the Soviet sci-fi film Nebo zovyot / Call of the Heavens (1962) in many ways, including Soviet harbour scenes of cheering crowds and self-sacrificing efforts to save the deluded. The film at least acknowledges that the first successful expedition to the North Pole was American, and so some of the revolutionary fervour I'd come to expect had diminished by this stage in Kalatosov's career. There is however a glorious purely dogmatic shot of a Russian sailor heaping coal into a furnace which has coloured him red.

    The film is not condescending in that there is a genuine awe and respect for the great polar explorers. Roald Amundsen's spectral presence (played by Sean Connery) is magnetic and haunting.

    Another cinematic precursor of this one may be Battle of the River Plate (1956), also starring Peter Finch, a film fascinated with the concept of historical spectacle. The actual crash is a matter of history, indicated at the start of the film and is not a spoiler. The filming of the crash is spectacular and crazy glorious cine-trauma.

    Finn Malmgren is one of the most interesting characters, he has a death wish, a love of the emptiness and Arctic loneliness. I think maybe it's something that they all share. Why would anyone venture into this morass of crumbling ice otherwise?

    The film is framed by a trial, Nobile trying himself, in his mind, for the disaster, this is very trippy.
  • The Red Tent (1969)

    Plot In A Paragraph: Torn by personal guilt Italian General Umberto Nobile (Peter Finch) reminisces about his 1928 failed Arctic expedition aboard the airship Italia.

    Not many people have seen this movie, it runs a little too long, and it's not what I'd call an enjoyable movie, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good one. The entire movie takes place in the generals mind. He calls back various participants to the events, to re-live what happened, and then ultimately pass judgement on him. It's well directed, well acted and it has a nice score too

    Attempting to rid himself from Bond, it is the first time Connery would play the wiser, older man, he turns up late on, in what is only a supporting role (at best) or a glorified cameo.

    The Red Tent was another Connery movie to fail at the box office.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Showing how out of touch some people can be in the 1970s, myself included, I was assigned to see that "Russian Blimp" film and tell the guys who made the Warner flick "Zeppelin" producers Ownen Krump et al exactly what our "compeition" was up to.

    I was at a loss to begin. Sean Connery vs. Michael York? Elke Sommer vs. Claudia Cardinale? Model ships vs. Russian Atomic Icebreakers using burning tires to simulate coal streaked sky trails. A twenty two foot fiber model vs. an actual flying reduced scale one? The Irish AirForce stunt pilots vs Soviet test pilots? $1.5 million dollar flick vs $10 million

    Most importantly,

    ..a boorish Hollywood product vs. the philosophical Slavic outlook on life...

    Naturally, I exaggerated the unhappy conclusion to the Russian EPIC... and.... broke down and admitted that the Red Tent was possibly one of the most beautiful film I had ever seen....

    Owen, Arthur and the rest looked at me as if I had sung "The Internationale".

    Owen was still smarting over the disastrous "Darling Lili" that tossed him off the Paramount Lot... Ron looked so strange - was daddy (J. Paul)Getty right about the biz and his abilities? Arthur glared so intently - as if I was blowing his only shot (and it practically was) in the feature film world.

    But I still loved the Red Tent....
  • tedg13 April 2007
    A reader saw that I am on a frigid historical adventure movie kick and recommended this. I'm glad.

    For background, 100 to 80 years ago the world was captivated by polar explorers. All sorts of complex and powerful drama unfolded, reflecting both the power of natural forces and the destiny of nations. What got me into this global story was the confabulation of the Scott and Shackleton expeditions to the south pole. The world saw this as the end of empire for the Brits, and so it was. An aristocratic bearing and feeling of manifest destiny are thin tools to take into Antarctica. And the process of encounter and defeat had filmmakers along!

    But once you get captured by the story, all sorts of other stories emerge. What's a great adventure is to track those through the films made to recount the original events, either as dramatizations or new fiction. One slant of course is films made by the Brits about themselves. Truly intriguing, sort of a "50 Up." Another are films made that focus on the technology. "Dirigible," sort of blew me away, even though I hardly realized that the events depicted here (the Nobile disaster) were only two years earlier. Ignorance of history thwarts the senses.

    Now this. Here's the most interesting of them all so far as cinema is concerned. First let me say that the version I saw was the 2 hour one released to the world. Somewhere in post-Soviet vaults are two other "director's" cuts (whatever that means in a Soviet film industry), at a half hour the other an hour longer.

    Mixed in here in a single stew are all sorts of threads and traditions.

    Its by a great Soviet filmmaker. I've send one of his masterpieces and have yet to see the second. This, well this is a mess, obviously something that ran out of control. And that's one reason to love it: its just the sort of disaster it depicts: overblown, a second rate country trying to score internationally with a bold stroke and then unable to back out. There are wonderful scenes of a Russian ham operator intercepting the SOS and being left ashore on a rising drawbridge as the icebreaker sails without him. This sequence reminds you why Tarkovsky and Eisenstein matter. Its brilliant. Simply brilliant.

    Its an international project. Though the main story here is of inept Italians, and the outcome was a major kick of that nation down stairs to the basement of relevance where it squats today, it was financed and coproduced by Italians! Italians and Soviets! What a mix. As a result, you can see the tussle in the story and staging, part "Dersu Uzala," part spaghetti western. Its set as a trial of the Italian general by ghosts from the story, and this (obviously inspired by later Bunuel). You have a Scot playing a Norweigian, a Brit an Italian, a Frenchwoman some nationality unknown , a Russian a Swede...

    The arctic scenery is not as amazingly photographed as I would have expected, and footage from all sorts irrelevant spots are mixed helter skelter. It negates the coherence of the frigid threat.

    Elsewhere, it attempts to find some complexity in the decisions and "accountability" of failed leaders, something the Italians share with Soviets of the era. This is a disaster, even with Sean Connery at his most renown, playing the one character that really mattered in the drama. That was the Amundsen, the man who was the first to the South Pole, a story of intelligence, planning and resolve over class and national arrogance. He literally changed the face of the earth. He was killed while looking for these inept adventurers.

    We also have Claudia Cardinale shoehorned in. She's been in some massively great film experience. There are scenes with her in a romantic revelry in the snow that are among the most embarrassing I have ever seen. I mean this. She is lovely and redheaded here, but she should have been excised, though there is an intended great scene where she talks Connery into his doomed search for her already perished lover. Her scenes look like they were shot by an unknown Italian second unit guy.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
  • The Red Tent chronicles the series of polar disasters beginning with the crash of the dirigible piloted by Italian General Umberto Nobile trying to make a historic air crossing of the North Pole. Nobile is played by Peter Finch in this epic film that unfortunately due to a bad publicity campaign and an indifference to the subject by western audiences made this historic Russian-Italian jointly produced film a financial disaster.

    That's a pity because photographically it's one of the finest things ever put on celluloid stock. There are some absolutely breathtaking shots of the frozen tundra and the performances of the actors battling the elements are first rate. Maybe a straight narrative might have been better instead of having the aged Nobile confronting some angry spirits of the past. Nobile was still alive when this film came out, he would die in 1978 still a figure of controversy. The dream with the angry spirits is a device frankly ripped off from George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan.

    Maybe the film could be best compared to William Wellman's Island in the Sky that starred John Wayne. The fictional characters there are mostly rescued and held together by Duke's leadership. Of course some thirty years advance in aviation and no political interference helped Wayne's men. And Island in the Sky is a work of fiction.

    Maybe it wouldn't be so if men of science could simply be men of science without answering to competing ideologies. Nobile and his men got caught up in the politics of the time. Politics claimed a lot of their lives and the lives of Roald Amundsen and party who vanished in a rescue attempt.

    Nobile also made some bad choices and had some bad choices forced on him by Mussolini's fascist government. He was also a man out of his element, he was great aviation pioneer, but not a polar explorer. He paid with his reputation, some of his party paid with their lives.

    Sean Connery has a small role as Roald Amundsen and I wish we had more of him here. Finch has a very effective scene with Claudia Cardinale the widow of one of his men where she takes him to task. Hardy Kruger does a fine job as the aviator presenting Finch with a very disagreeable choice.

    I'd recommend seeing it, but only on the big screen. Or definitely in a letter box version. The formatted VHS I have definitely hampers the spectacle.
  • 9632145 September 2004
    The Red Tent grows on you. The story line intrigues me so that I have watched the movie time after time. The footage is beautiful. My only complaint is that the movie is not available in DVD to watch in wide-screen.

    This is not a high action movie. Much line the explorers, the movie is a slow treck. You meet the characters and you learn how play into the story.

    Most importantly, you learn about the disaster and the quilt and shame associated with it by the ships captain. At the end, you feel resolution, but as he does.

    Worth watching. Certainly, not one of Sean Connery's most commanding roles.

    However, the "star" is the air-ship and the beautiful back-ground scenery.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'd never heard of the 1928 airship "Italia" disaster, hence throughout the movie I was convinced this was a made-up event, and for this reason I showed less interest in the story than I would have otherwise. I enjoyed the scenery though; the movie looks very good.

    To my astonishment, not only did this event really occur (WHY would anyone attempt this nonsensical feat in a fluffy little zeppelin?!), but the events don't appear to have been drastically changed in the script. The biggest change - and the worst one by far - is making General Nobile appear to be the "bad guy" (in a manner of speaking). It is true that rescue pilot Lundborg evacuated him first, but in the movie Nobile is fit and uninjured, unlike in real life where he had a broken leg, arm, ribs and a head injury. So yeah, defecating all over Nobile was an unkind decision by the film-makers, to say the very least. Or was it? (Read on.)

    The movie gives the impression that this was Italia's 1st flight. It was actually its 3rd flight to the Arctic. In other words, the mission wasn't an instant failure as the movie would have us believe. (Those bloody film-makers, liars the lot of them...)

    One could easily guess that Claudia Cardinale's character was made up, not to mention the idiotic plot-device of Lundborg agreeing to search for her boyfriend Malmgren only because he managed to coerce her into having sex with him (Lundborg, not the missing boyfriend) should the search-and-rescue succeed. But that is about as Hollywoodesque i.e. as dumb as the movie gets. There weren't too many liberties with facts.

    Many events that seem invented/altered/exaggerated were actually quite true. Malmgren killing a polar bear - true. Malmgren suffering from frostbite and tragically asking the other two to leave him behind - true. (Indeed, picking Malmgren to have a romantic interest - i.e. his fictionalized involvement with Cardinale - was a logical choice because he was the most tragic person in all of this. In reality, Malmgren had blamed himself for the crash and attempted or threatened suicide - by drowning and by pistol - on several occasions. This is never addressed.) The airship's envelope taking away the rest of the crew to their doom - true. Even Amundsen's involvement and eventual demise, which I at first considered an example of preposterous writing - absolutely true! The Russian aircraft crashing - true.

    Amundsen did go on a flight to find the rescuers, and he did perish. However, he was never found. In the movie he finds the envelope's wreckage and dies there alone and without supplies: a fictionalized addition that I find acceptable. In the movie, it is Cardinale who persuades him into looking for his friend Nobile, which is a typical filmism i.e. nonsense.

    As for Lundborg, he did insist he take Nobile with him first, but not because he wanted Nobile to push the rescue effort to have Malmgren saved - so he can shtoop Cardinale. (Sexual favours as sole motive for rescue? Only in Hollywood...) No, that was definitely utter nonsense. In fact, the movie doesn't show that Lundborg actually crashed while attempting to save a second survivor, and ended up on the ice with the other survivors for a few days until a pilot colleague rescued him.

    So why is Nobile a controversial figure in the film? Well, aside from the fact that film-makers are obsessed with "conflict", especially stuff such as guilt and redemption, it may be because Nobile was a Communist. He certainly wasn't a friend of Mussolini with whose regime he had a mutually hostile relationship. It is also interesting that Nobile was alive when the movie was made, so it'd be interesting to read his opinions on it.

    But yeah, finding out that Nobile was a communist - even AFTER Stalin's reign - makes me doubt Nobile's moral fibre. In fact, perhaps the movie was too kind with him?

    Sean Connery gets star billing but doesn't appear until the 2nd hour, and Peter Finch is his usual boring self.
  • This is one of the greatest movies i've ever seen, and i wish it was available on DVD. I'm a guy, and i'm not ashamed to say that it's one of the two or three movies i've ever seen that actually made me cry!!! Yea, it's really that good!!! Forget the macho bullshit, this is about real men, and real courage... It's about the courage to survive in the most adverse conditions... And, it's done with that incredible style and cinematic brilliance that only the Italians seem able to achieve (and this from a self-professed anglo-phile...) Oh, yea, and it's actually a true story too...!!! Watch it, if you ever get the chance, and i'm sure you'll agree that this movie deserves to be in the top ten of anybody's list...

    Greg, the anglo-Italian movie buff
  • What can I say? There is so much here to recommend this movie. 1. First, it appears to be historically accurate. 2. The cast is fantastic. OK: Enough with the numbers. We have an unusual setting (for any movie) where a man is in conflict with himself. He questions whether the decisions he made were the right ones, and continually brings "ghosts" from his past to judge him. Some are hostile, and others benign. But, I think that the "ghost" of Amundsen sums it up. "You must forgive yourself, and sleep". How many of us have made bad decisions, and have seconded guessed ourselves? Anyone who has been in a similar situation have the same feelings. Stop, and listen to the message here! This is the crux of the movie. Do not destroy yourself by "what ifs". Deal with your folly, and then carry on. Combat, survival, bad business decisions: So what? Press on. This is what makes this movie so great; the message.
  • lahpez19 December 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I reckon I must have seen this as a young boy, probably around the age of 11, in the late 70'es. I saw it on TV at that time. The images of this movie to this day are very vivid in my memory, the ice, and the desperation it depicts. Although I don't recall much of the plot, and perhaps didn't even grasp it completely at the time, a few scenes are simply as etched in my brain: The scene where they struggle to repair the radio with graphite from a pencil. And of course Nobile's talks with the ghosts. I also seem to recall that Amundsen as portrayed by Connery came across as a rather self-righteous and arrogant person.

    A movie that can make such a lasting impression must possess some significant qualities.
  • I looked up this little-known gem because the director Mikhail Kalatozov had also directed Letter Never Sent. Though the story is a bit hard to follow, since it is told as a recollection and an imaginary reunion of the principals involved. The cinematography is outstanding, capturing the desolateness and starkness of the arctic, along with a haunting soundtrack. The cast is very solid, the story - true life outweighs fiction. I have always found films dealing with survival in the elements to be fascinating. This film keep the viewer engrossed, without resorting to cheap dramatics, or sentimentality. Just solid filmmaking.
  • Great acting all round in this polar disaster/one man's guilt story. I've been on a polar explorer kick lately and this helped bring the events of the Italia disaster more into focus. A lovely score by none other than Moriccone!

    The version I watched didn't have subtitles for the Russian parts, which was a bit off putting at times since I don't have a word of Russian, but I gathered the meaning mostly I think.

    Overall well worth a watch.