The Secret Land (1948)

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1948, .  Commentary by , .  Produced by .  Music by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1948.

The relatively unknown continent of Antarctica is explored by scientists and covered by a camera crew in this fascinating documentary. Just the facts and few frills are relayed as , Van Heflin and Robert Montgomery (themselves still serving in the Navy) narrate the voyages of thirteen different ships who, under the name of Operation High Jump, travel to different points of the icy land and encounter different species and phenomena. The expedition, which also involved twenty-three aircraft and approximately four thousand men, was under the command of Admiral , who was not going there for the first time. Byrd’s finding his frozen supplies left behind on his previous trip is among the light-hearted adventures recounted here, as well as the friendships struck up with penguins, footage of walruses and seals and some very cool ice floes. There’s also a look at the camaraderie between the men that keeps spirits afloat on this long and arduous journey (including a joky beauty contest) likely meant as a great way to further assure the world of American might following victory in the war. Like many documentaries of the time, it doesn’t go too deep, but it’s a great record of the experience.

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