Sir Sean Connery, who received top billing, spent three weeks filming in Moscow. Peter Finch spent nine months on the production.
The film features a disaster involving the famed Italian aviator Umberto Nobile (1885-1978). Nobile was blamed for a number of poor decisions leading up to the air disaster. At the time of the accident, he was suffering from sleep deprivation which likely impaired his cognitive functions. He was awake for at least 72 hours at the time of the accident.
The script, based on Yuri Nagibin's novel of the same title, was adapted by Yuri Nagibin and Mikhail Kalatozov. Due to a series of conflicts with the producer, who insisted on expanding the role of his then wife Claudia Cardinale, Nagibin couldn't complete the script and it was completed by De Concini and Bolt.
Filming went for 62 weeks. It included location work in Estonia, the Baltic Sea and the Spitzbergen Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, and studio work in Moscow and Rome. Shooting was completed on 12 April 1969.
The circumstances of Amundsen's death are faked. In the film, he found the crash site of an airship shell and crashed while landing. In fact, the fate of the "Alessandrini group", who were carried away on the shell, and the circumstances of Amundsen's death are still unknown.
The song "There is a tent in the snow, paraponzi-ponzi-po ..." (it is sung by aeronauts on an ice floe so as not to go crazy with despair) was composed by Yuriy Vizbor to the tune of a very famous and extremely indecent song in Italy.
The film the crash of the Airship Italia in May, 1928 and the rescue efforts that followed. The disaster caused the deaths of 17 people, including some of the rescuers.
For filming, a helium-filled 20-meter model of the Italia airship was built and towed from the ground and from the water on cables. The model suffered an accident several times, bumping into various objects in a gust of wind.
Another icebreaker, the Sibiryakov, built in 1926 in Rotterdam (Holland) and owned by Finland until 1945, where it was called Jaakarh (Polar Bear), was filmed as Krasin. "Sibiryakov" had a similar design of the hull and superstructures, but it was noticeably smaller: length 78.45 m, width 19.3 m, displacement 4 850 tons - against 99.8 m, 21.64 m and 8832 tons for "Krasin".
The film was shown in the West and in the USSR in different editing versions and with different soundtracks: in the Soviet version, sounds the music of Aleksandr Zatsepin, in the Italian version - Ennio Morricone's.
The main fiction in the film is the nurse from Kingsbay Valeria and her relationship with Malmgren, Lundborg and Amundsen. In fact, Finn Malmgren had a bride in Sweden, Anna Nordenskjold, and a wedding was expected shortly after the expedition.
In 1972, the film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film in English.
Sean Connery's arrival at the shooting of The Red Tent in the USSR became the theme of Vladimir Vysotskiy's joke song "A Song About James Bond, Agent 007".
At least four direct participants in the events and heroes of the film were alive by the time the film was released: U. Nobile, airship navigator A. Villieri, Soviet polar pilot B.G. Chukhnovsky and Professor F. Begounek. Nobile attended the premiere in Rome.
The epilogue of the film - the formation of an iceberg - was filmed off the coast of Norway.
According to Zatsepin, his music was not included in the international version of the film because at the moment when the Italian producer requested the recording of the music, it was not yet ready (the studio was editing the film), and after waiting two weeks, the producer said that he " loses money "and is forced to approve the version with music by Morricone.
During field shooting in Tikhaya Bay, an ice floe broke, on which the decoration of the Nobile camp was located. People were urgently evacuated.