Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
Unreal Characters Damage "Tent"
Cleveland Press August 27, 1971
"The Red Tent" is a physically impressive movie that has a spare-no-expense feel about it in every category but one -- the script.
The movie is about the ill-fated polar expedition in 1928 by Italian General Umberto Nobile which resulted in a dirigible crash in the Arctic.
The crash left Nobile and a handful of men stranded in the ice, poorly sheltered in a red tent (hence the strange title) and for several weeks thought dead by the outside world.
The movie is a series of flashbacks. The aging Nobile (he is still alive) is pictured as having sleepless nights as he relives the event. He conjures up the ghosts of the participants who sit in judgment. It's an imaginative device in conception that proves to be awkward in execution.
The movie is a joint Italian-Russian production directed by Mickail K. Kalatozov whose work is best when he is outdoors in the open and he can revel in carefully composed massive scenes.
"The Red Tent" might have worked if handled in a straight away semi-documentary fashion. The dirigible Italia was reconstructed, the ice covered terrain is perfect and the movie works well when it pulls back and depicts the action of the events.
It is when it gets close in to take them apart and explain them that it falls apart.
Are we to believe that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen set out to find Nobile because of the pleadings of a pretty nurse (Claudia Cardinale) in behalf of her boyfriend who is in the missing party? Or that the same girl could get a free lance flier (Hardy Kruger) to join the hunt.
Nobile was blamed for the tragedy that befell the expedition, was stripped of his command for flying out with the pilot leaving his men behind. The picture has the flier offering him an ultimatum -- either he flies out or no one goes. It's important to the movie to know why, to understand what other decisions of the general may have been in doubt.
But a script that is full of inanities, that kills time identifying people, places and sounds that are readily apparent to the audience probably couldn't concern itself with motivations.
Peter Finch does well by Nobile, indicating that suffering and indecision of the leader, Sean Connery, Scots accent and all, appears briefly (in spite of top billing) as Amundsen. That part of the movie looks like an after thought.
Miss Cardinale looks pretty in an impossible part and Kruger, another of those underrated actors, puts more into his role than the writers did.