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Sunday, June 8, 2008

WHITE THUNDER/THE VIKING (1931)


A combo-pack DVD on adventurer-photographer Varick Frissell, who died young in an explosion on the eponymous seal hunting ship. WHITE THUNDER is a bio of Frissell that barely lives up to its fascinating subject, but nicely sets up the early talkie it's paired with. THE VIKING is officially directed by George Melford, an A-list silent director who faded fast with sound. (His swansong, EAST OF BORNEO/‘31, is an unintentional laugh riot.) Fortunately, Frissell seems to have been in charge of all the Newfoundland location shooting, and his reality footage is so filled with extraordinary shots of sealers, churning ice floes, full-rigged ships, sea & sun that you’d gladly put up with twice the cornball "two guys & a gal" hokum so mechanically delivered by the talent-challenged cast for the precious glimpse Frissell captured of life on the sea as it had been lived for generations.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Frissell & The Viking get a chapter in Kevin Brownlow's typically terrific film history book THE WAR, THE WEST AND THE WILDERNESS.

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