The Expeditionary Storyline | Titles A-Z Page
|Storyline: An expedition travels into a remote unexplored region, meeting challenges all the way.|
purpose of the A-Z listing is to index a range of examples, but coverage is not meant to be comprehensive
(=impractical), with titles added as info becomes available, and the final total being capped at
100 entries. Indexing is by the initial letter of the film title, as per the left-hand column in
the table below, ignoring definite or indefinite articles like 'The' or 'A'. The info-setup for
entries is as follows:
Title / [Nationality if not US; US release title if different / Year]
Identifying Credit (usually ‘Written by’)
The Abominable Snowman / The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas [UK 1957]
Of Tintin: Les Sept Boules De Cristal Soleil / The Seven Crystal Balls + Le Temple du Soleil
/ The Temple Of The Sun [FR/CDN 1992]
The Adventures Of Tintin - The Shooting Star / L'Étoile Mystérieuse [FR/CDN 1992]
Scripted by Peter Meech, JD Smith, Robert Rea from the 1942 Hergé graphic novel
Tintin joins a scientific expedition steaming to where a meteorite has crashed into the Arctic Sea.
Comment - Part of the 1991-2 animated tv series of 23-min episodes, this is a shorter version than Belvision's Aventures de Tintin 1964 one [see Les Aventures de Tintin - L'Étoile Mystérieuse].
The Adventures of Tintin - Tintin In Tibet [FR/CDN 1992]
Scripted by Bruce Robb, Christophe Poujol from the 1958 Hergé graphic novel
Tintin organises a search and rescue for his friend Chang, injured in a plane crash, and encounters the Yeti.
Comment - A two-parter [2x23mins] which is almost all set in the Himalayan snows, this was Hergé's own favourite story.
The African Queen [UK/ US 1951]
Scripted by James Agee, director John Huston, Peter Viertel, and (uncredited) John Collier, from the 1935 C. S. Forester novel
In 1914, to help the British war effort in the Congo, two middle-aged civilians undertake a “river of death” style trip in the steam launch which gives the work its title.
Comment - A pioneering major location shoot in colour: the then-standard second unit approach, where only doubles go on location, was not used. As much footage as possible was shot by Jack Cardiff on location with the two lead actors, which was then supplemented by studio work back in England.
Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes / Aguirre, Wrath of God (GER 1972)
Written by director Werner Herzog
A company of conquistadores head down the eastern slopes of the Andes to arrive at the headwaters of the Amazon and sail downriver by raft in search of El Dorado, only to succumb to hostile natives and the growing madness of their leader.
Comment - A cult film, inspired by actual accounts of conquistadore expeditions that disappeared.
Written by Hans Bauer, Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr
In the Amazon, a boatload of ethnographic filmmakers searching for a remote tribe pick up a mad snake hunter, who is obsessed with catching a giant anaconda, leading to deadly complications all round as it begins to stalk them.
Comment - Despite scathing reviews (the snake is obviously CGI, and impossibly large and agile), this proved popular enough to generate sequels.
Apocalypse Now 
Written by John Milius and director Francis Coppola, with narration by Vietnam War journalist Michael Herr
In this slightly hallucinatory updating of Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella Heart Of Darkness into a Vietnam War allegory, the protagonist, assigned to kill a 'rogue' colonel, travels upriver by Navy patrol boat, into jungle where tigers prowl and Stone Age tribes still survive.
Comment - Acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made, this was shot with great difficulty on Philippines locations, representing a river on the Cambodian border. Some character names and several incidents along the way are taken from Conrad's Congo-set novella.
L'Atlantide / Die Herrin von Atlantis (original title) / The Mistress Of Atlantis / Queen Of Atlantis (GER 1932)
Scripted by Alexandre Arnoux, Jacques Deval, Miles Mander, Hermann Oberländer, Ladislaus Vajda from Pierre Benoit's 1919 novel
In the western Sahara's Hoggar mountains, a pair of Foreign Legion officers search out a legendary lost city hidden in its canyons, and are imprisoned by its sexually predatory Berber queen, Antinea.
Comment - A rather dreamlike take on the expeditionary story, with the protagonists being drugged as potential paramours for the Berber queen, who is descended from survivors of Atlantis. Much of it is a captivity narrative, with one officer after another being seduced and then ritually killed by the queen, their remains kept as trophy statues in her palace. The drama shows the story as an extended flashback, with the protagonist setting off on expedition at the end to locate the lost city he recalls as a dreamlike memory.
This is probably the most satisfying of the several film versions [1921, 1949, 1953, 1961, 1992 etc]. It uses location footage from the 1921 production, and was shot in French, German, and English language versions, hence the different titles.
Les Aventures de Tintin - L'Étoile Mystérieuse / Hergé's Adventures of Tintin - Star Of Mystery [BEL 1963]
Scripted by Charles Shows from the 1942 Hergé graphic novel
Tintin joins a scientific expedition steaming to where a meteorite has crashed into the Arctic Sea.
Comment - Originally part of the Belvision Studios 1957-62 animated series, reissued as a 43-minute compilation based on the series' 11 x 5-min segments.
Bear Island [UK/CDN 1979]
Scripted by David Butler, director Don Sharp, Murray Smith, from Alistair MacLean's 1971 novel
An international scientific expedition to study climate change is used as cover by members with secret Nazi links from WW2 who are after gold bullion aboard a U-boat abandoned there, leading to a series of murders on the icecap.
Comment - A big-budget production shot on the icefields of the northwest-BC/Alaska coast, this is an unconvincing 'hunt-for-Nazi-gold' tale. Although Bear Island is a real place [in the Svalbard archipelago], and here is depicted as a NATO exercise ground, the Nazi U-boat pens are shown as undisturbed, with their gold bullion still aboard three decades later [!]
The Big Sky 
Scripted by Dudley Nichols from AB Guthrie Jr's 1947 novel
In 1832, an independent fur-trading outfit hauls a keelboat up the Missouri River from St. Louis, to reach the previously untapped market of Blackfeet country (in present Montana) with the help of a Blackfoot chief's daughter whom they are returning from captivity.
Comment - Adapted from just the first part of an admired novel, this was filmed along the Snake River with the Grand Tetons in the background. When the film proved a hit, the studio cut it down from 140 to 122 mins to squeeze in more daily showings.
Scripted by John Patrick Shanley from Michael Crichton's 1980 novel
A modern high-tech corporate-sponsored expedition heads for the lost jungle city of 'Zinj' in the Congo's famous (as a mountain-gorilla habitat) Virunga region, and has to battle hybrid killer apes acting as guardians of its diamond mine.
Comment - Despite the high-tech modern gloss, Crichton's attempt at “a modern-day version of King Solomon's Mines” runs the gamut of scenes familiar from earlier jungle melodramas, including the erupting volcano finale.
Der Dämon des Himalaya / Demon Of The Himalayas [SWITZ /GER 1935]
Written by Eberhard Frowein, Fritz Rau, Mila Rau, from an idea by Harold and Prof. Dr. Günter Oskar Dyhrenfurth
A German expedition out to make a first ascent of a Tibetan mountain called the Golden Throne is told it has a demonic guardian (symbolised by a mask) which kills intruders.
Comment - The film was made as a fund-raising adjunct to a real Swiss-German climbing expedition that attempted an ascent of Everest; nearly all the footage was shot for this, an unfinished Günter Dyhrenfurth ethnographic docudrama, Mask Of The Himalayas. Most of the screen time is this actuality footage, accompanied by the music of Honegger. Director Andrew Marton reused the footage (and Honegger score) as the basis of Storm Over Tibet , a US production which has a new script, by Ivan Tors and Sam Meyer.
The Dinosaur Project / The Lost Dinosaurs [UK 2012]
Written by director Sid Bennett, Tom Pridham, and Jay Basu
An expedition by the 'British Cryptozoological Society' to a 'lost valley' area of central Africa, where the dinosaur-like 'Mokele-Mobembe' has been reported by locals, goes wrong.
Comment - Filmed in South Africa, this uses the Blair Witch Project style 'found footage' pseudo-documentary approach to tell the story. As there, the main conflict is the expedition members falling out with one another, while the CGI dinosaurs lurk ready to pounce.
Written by Cdr Frank "Spig" Wead U.S.N. and Dorothy Howell, Jo Swerling from his story
When an airship crashes in the Antarctic, another aerial expedition sets out to rescue survivors who are attempting to walk out.
Comment - Said inspired by the 1928 Nobile “Italia" crash in the Arctic [dramatised in Krasnaya Palatka / The Red Tent], this was made with USN cooperation to help showcase their [shortlived] airship programme. As with other early talkies, it was filmed in 3 different language versions.
An Enemy To Die For (Germany/Sweden 2012) SEE En fiende att dö för
The English Patient (UK 1996)
Scripted by director Anthony Minghella from novel Michael Ondaatje
An archaeologist guiding a pre-WWII reconnaissance expedition in the Sahara becomes involved with the team leader's wife, with disastrous results.
Comment - The expedition is simply the central part of this multilayered 162-min drama, told in flashback.
att dö för / Wenn Aus Freunden Feinde Werden / An Enemy To Die For (Germany/Sweden
The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes [UK 1984]
Hölle / The Green Hell / Kautschuk (GER 1938)
Heart Of Darkness
Incident At Loch Ness [GER 2004]
Scripted by director Werner Herzog and Zak Penn
Behind-the-scenes goings-on during an expedition to Loch Ness by famed German filmmaker Herzog for his film Enigma Of Loch Ness, which producer Zak Penn wants to make more commercial by using actors and planting a fake monster in the loch.
Comment - This is a deadpan hoax, a film-within-a-film mockumentary drama.
Ingenjör Andrées Luftfärd / Flight Of The Eagle [SW 1982]
Scripted by Klaus Rifbjerg, Ian Rakoff, Georg Oddner and director Jan Troell from Per Olof Sundman's 1967 novel
The 1897 Andrée Expedition, using a hydrogen balloon designed by a Swedish engineer, plans to be first to reach the north pole.
Comment - A realist account; the flight itself was short-lived as the ballloon lost lift, with the 3 explorers' remains only found in 1930.
The Island At The Top Of The World (1974)
Scripted by John Whedon from 1961 novel The Lost Ones by 'Ian Cameron' [=Donald G Payne]
A 19C airship expedition to the Arctic to find the 'Whales Graveyard' accidentally dumps the protagonists on an uncharted island where a Viking colony survives.
Comment - Disney's attempt at the Arctic-tropical-valley-lost-world setup, with plenty of pre-CGI special effects shots, but no real story development; a planned sequel was abandoned.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1959)
Scripted by Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett from Jules Verne's 1864 Voyage Au Centre De La Terre
An expedition follows in the footsteps of a previous explorer (who provides the important coded parchment clue) into the earth's [habitable] interior and discover dinosaur type creatures, an inland sea and the ruins of Atlantis.
Comment - Verne's “scientific romance” novel was a trailblazer, introducing many now familiar motifs, but has never had a proper film version; this one is for youngsters, with a dinosaur which is a pet-shop iguana with a plastic fin glued to its back.
Scripted by Justin Monjo from Yossi Ghinsberg's 1993 book
An amateur expedition of 3 backpackers heading for a gold mine in the Bolivian jungle is abandoned by its guide, with no idea how to escape back to civilisation.
Comment - An autobiographical tale of a 1980s event, filmed in Colombia, Bolivia and Australia, with Daniel Radcliffe playing the author in his youth.
Jurassic Park 3 / Jurassic Park III 
Scripted by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor, using character and setup from Michael Crichton's 2 Jurassic Park novels
An expedition to find a boy missing on the 2nd island, where the dinos run free, quickly turns into a survival episode. Luckily, the family has conned JP1 veteran dino expert Dr Alan Grant into joining them.
Comment - A crossover with the old plane-crash jungle-survival setup; the protagonists must continue their search on foot.
King Kong 
Scripted by James Creelman and Ruth Rose from an idea by producer Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace
An expedition organised by an outdoors-adventure filmmaker steams to an uncharted tropical island, where some sort of monster called Kong is rumoured to lurk.
Comment - The producer-director team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack had a background in outdoors documentary, which they wanted to move beyond, and this classic work draws on various motifs present in the outdoors-adventure genre at the time. (King Kong is the ultimate 'bring em back alive' expeditionary story.)
King Kong (1976)
Scripted by Lorenzo Semple Jr. from characters and setup in 1933 film [qv]
A modern-day oil prospecting expedition explores an island whose mountains have permanent cloud cover and, when oil prospects prove poor, pursue its giant-ape 'king' as a captive corporate mascot.
Comment - Set in the present, this has location filming in Hawaii but no animated dinosaurs (just a big snake), with Kong mainly a man in an ape suit filmed on model sets, supplemented by a giant mechanical hand for closeups.
King Kong 
Scripted by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and director Peter Jackson, based on the 1933 film [qv]
An expedition carrying a documentary film crew steams to Skull Island, where an old sketch-map shows some sort of monster lurks.
Comment - An elaborate, 3-hr, mega-budget version of the 1933 story by the Lord Of The Rings team, set in the 30s.
Mines [UK 1937]
King Solomon's Mines (1950)
Scripted by Helen Deutsch from H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel
In 1897, Allan Quartermain, disillusioned with guiding big-game hunting safaris, agrees to lead an expedition into uncharted territory to help an Englishwoman look for her husband, who disappeared searching for the legendary diamond mines.
Comment - MGM went all-out to film this Technicolor spectacle, said to be the first Hollywood feature filmed in Africa since their 1931 Trader Horn [qv]. To include a variety of disparate locations in a single fictional expedition, a huge truck safari travelled around central Africa, using roughly the same route as they had for Trader Horn. In a five-month shoot, it also obtained enough wildlife footage to use in a half dozen backlot-filmed MGM jungle adventures.
Kong: Skull Island 
Written by Derek Connolly
An expedition explores a heretofore unknown island populated by monsters, including a giant ape.
Comment - From the trailers online, this prequel set during the Vietnam War looks to be a shoot-em-up CGI gorefest, and is reportedly to be part of a crossover with the new Godzilla films. Judging by the protagonists' names, it is also modelled on Conrad's Heart Of Darkness.
Kon-Tiki [UK | Norway | Denmark | Germany | Sweden 2012]
Scripted by Petter Skavlan from Thor Heyerdahl's 1948 memoir and 1950 documentary
A biopic dramatising the famous 1947 Peru-Polynesia 8000-km 101-day voyage aboard a specially-built balsa raft, organised by Thor Heyerdahl to prove an ancient-migration theory.
Comment - The surprise success of Heyerdahl's book and documentary opened up the market for outdoors travel adventure books and films shot authentically on location. This biopic was shot and released in Norwegian and English versions, with a shorter cut [96 v 119 mins] shown in the US.
Krasnaya Palatka / The Red Tent / La Tenda Rossa (USSR/ITAL 1969)
Written by Yuriy Nagibin, Richard L. Adams, Ennio De Concini, and director Mikhail Kalatozov
On the 1928 Nobile expedition to land at the North Pole, the dirigible "Italia" crashes on the Arctic ice, and the aftermath leads to disgrace for its leader.
Comment - This dramatisation is enclosed within a framework of Nobile's self-imposed mock trial with the ghosts of key participants - the "Italia" aircrew, the rescue pilots, and the survivors who tried making their way out on foot. Released in different versions, most prints are the cut-down 121-min US version or the 158-minute Russian one, with the director's original 195-min cut yet unseen. Note - the Richard L. Adams who co-wrote the English version (Robert Bolt also worked on it, uncredited) is not the Watership Down author Richard [G] Adams.
The Land Unknown (1957)
Written by Charles Palmer, Laszlo Gorog, William N. Robson
A USN helicopter crew, part of an Antarctic expedition to reconnoitre reports of a warm inland area, come down in a primeval swamp inside a crater, where both primitive humans and dinosaurs still roam.
Comment - Inspired by news reports the 1947 USN expedition led by Adm Byrd found ice-free, warm-water valleys (though these are in fact barren, not full of huge trees, swamps. man-eating plants etc, never mind dinos).
The Last Place On Earth (UK 1985)
Scripted by Trevor Griffiths, based on the 1979 book Scott And Amundsen by Roland Huntford
In the "race to the pole", Scott's 1911-12 Antarctic expedition ends in failure and death, largely due to his inflexible attitudes, while his rival Amundsen succeeds.
Comment - Scott's family tried to object to this 7-part, 396-min ITV dramatisation filmed in Greenland, but the criticism the expedition was not well enough planned has since become mainstream, even making it into the schools curriculum.
Legend Of The Lost 
Written by Robert Presnell and Ben Hecht
An expedition guided by an American stranded in Timbuktu and sponsored by an Italian nobleman out to find his missing explorer father, who claimed to have found the lost Biblical city of Ophir, heads into the Sahara, accompanied by a local prostitute.
Comment - The expedition is shown as a test of character, in the manner of Treasure Of The Sierre Madre. The script's geography makes little sense, placing the lost city so far inland, but the location used [Leptis Magna UNESCO site on the Libyan coast] is spectacular.
Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West (2002)
Scripted by Mose Richards
An expedition despatched by President Jefferson and led by 2 US Army captains crosses North America to the Pacific in 1804-06.
Comment - As the actual events took place before photography, this film (not to be confused with the 1997 Ken Burns documentary), a 42-min National Geographic production shot in 70mm IMAX, is all re-enactment scenes, though using narration rather than dialogue. It is more authentic than The Far Horizons , the only feature drama made so far. (An HBO miniseries is in the works for 2018.)
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
Written by director Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
A Cousteau-style marine expedition is aborted when the protagonist's old partner is eaten by an unknown new species of spotted shark, and the protagonist struggles to organise another expedition, of him finding and killing this 'jaguar shark.'
Comment - This satire is unusual in its focus on the expedition preliminaries - the interpersonal conflicts among the entourage, the sponsorship issues etc; it is only in the last 10 minutes that we get to the followup underwater excursion, by minisub.
The Lost City Of Z (2016)
Scripted by director James Gray, based on the 2009 book by David Grann
After WWI, British explorer Col. Percy Fawcett becomes obsessed with finding a lost city he calls Z in the South America jungle.
Comment - Jungle sequences were filmed in Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for this 141-min biopic.
The Lost World 
Scripted by Marion Fairfax from Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel
An expedition sets out to explore a plateau in South America, where they find living dinosaurs and apemen survive as its sheer cliffs have cut it off from normal evolution.
Comment - This 1925 hit film used a then-new cinematic technique, rubber models animated by 'stop-motion' (filmed one frame at a time, their position adjusted between each frame), an approach that the film's animator Willis O'Brien would reuse in King Kong. Reissues cut down the film's length to focus on the stop-motion dino scenes.
The Lost World 
Scripted by producer/director Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett from Conan Doyle's 1912 novel
An expedition sets out to explore a plateau in South America, where they find living dinosaurs and apemen survive as its sheer cliffs have cut it off from normal evolution.
Comment - This colour widescreen version has a few 2nd-unit aerial shots of the real lost-world plateaux, but is otherwise studio-shot with the dinos played by lizards with glued-on plastic fins or horns, and a female lead-part out of a Monty Python parody.
The Lost World (CDN / US 1992)
Scripted by 'Peter Welbeck' [Harry Alan Towers] and Tim Kirk from Conan Doyle's 1912 novel
An expedition sets out to explore a plateau in Africa, where they find living dinosaurs and apemen survive as its sheer cliffs have cut it off from normal evolution.
Comment - This and Return To The Lost World (1992) were filmed back-to-back [in Zimbabwe] evidently for tv release, with the story adapted to include more modern (eco-aware etc) female and child characters.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park / Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World / Jurassic Park II (1997)
Scripted by David Koepp from Michael Crichton's 1995 novel The Lost World
Two rival groups explore the 'Site B' island, where the dinos are not behind electric fences, to check on or collect dinosaur specimens.
Comment - Crichton's self-serving justification for using Conan Doyle's title was that the original was “actually not a very good book, but it's a wonderful title, and it's about an expedition to a place where there are dinosaurs."
The Lost World / Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World [CDN 1998]
Scripted by Léopold St-Pierre and Jean LaFleur from Conan Doyle's 1912 novel
An expedition sets out to explore a remote plateau where they find living dinosaurs and apemen survive as its sheer cliffs have cut it off from normal evolution.
Comment - This version seems a Cdn tax shelter production, and relocates the plateau to Mongolia, probably to facilitate filming in Canada.
The Lost World / Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World [UK 2001]
Scripted by Tony Mulholland from Conan Doyle's 1912 novel
In 1912, an expedition sets out to explore a plateau in South America, where they find living dinosaurs and apemen survive as its sheer cliffs have cut it off from normal evolution.
Comment - This BBC production is perhaps the most authentic, shot on location in NZ, with CGI dinos by the BBC's Walking With Dinosaurs team.
Mackenna's Gold 
Scripted by Carl Foreman from a 1963 novel by 'Will Henry' [= Heck Allen]
In the old West, an outlaw gang kidnap a marshal to help them locate the Canyon del Oro, aka the Lost Adams Diggings, a legendary lost canyon gold-mine being sought by rival groups, deep in Apache territory.
Comment - This was intended to be a 3-hour roadshow presentation in Cinerama, an epic parable of greed driving men to destruction. However the mid-60s fashion for lengthy reserved-seat roadshow pictures had already passed, and the studio cut the film by half an hour and had post-production work done on the cheap, with laughable miniature effects for the earthquake finale.
The Man Who Would Be King (UK / US 1975)
Scripted by director John Huston and Gladys Hill from Rudyard Kipling's 1888 novella
In 1880s India, a pair of aspirational ex soldiers make an epic trek across the Himalayan 'Hindu Kush' to set up their own colonial kingdom.
Comment - This parable about colonialism and hubris is regarded as a classic of its kind.
Manhunt In The Jungle 
Scripted by Sam Mervin and Owen Crump from 1930 memoir by George M. Dyott
A docudrama recounting George M. Dyott's 1928 expedition to find lost explorer Col. Fawcett.
Comment - Authentically filmed in WarnerColor in the Amazon, with Dyott played by actor Robin Hughes, who narrates a virtually dialogue-free drama.
Mogambo [US /UK 1953]
Scripted by John Lee Mahin from a play by Wilson Collison
In Central Africa, an animal trapper for zoos conducts a young English couple and a stranded society-playgirl on a safari west from Uganda into the Congo, to 'gorilla country'.
Comment - This loose remake of MGM's 1932 hit Red Dust was adapted into an African safari romance to exploit the new trend of location filming in Technicolor there. However the climatic gorilla encounter uses back-projected 16mm footage.
Mountains Of The Moon (1990)
Scripted by William Harrison and director Bob Rafelson from Harrison's 1982 novel Burton And Speke
In the 1850s, two very different characters, the shy Speke and the mordant Burton, join forces for a Royal Geographic Society expedition to trace the source of the White Nile.
Comment - Though the conventional view is the pair wound up implacable enemies over who was right geographically, this biopic portrays the two as friends driven apart by jealous associates.
The Mummy 
Written by director Stephen Sommers with Lloyd Fonvielle and Kevin Jarre
A 1920s treasure-hunting expedition heads for the lost 'city of the dead,' the [fictional] temple complex of Hamunaptra, supposedly long hidden in the crater of an extinct volcano in southern Egypt.
Comment - The central trek sequence was shot in Arizonan plus Saharan locations, with an extinct volcano crater in Morocco as 'Hamunaptra'.
Never Cry Wolf (1983)
Scripted by Curtis Hanson, Sam Hamm, Richard Kletter, with narration written by Charles Martin Smith, Eugene Corr, Christina Luescher, from the 1963 book by Farley Mowat
A government biology researcher travels into the Yukon wilderness to spend a season on his own observing how wolves hunt, to document if they were responsible for declining caribou herds.
Comment - Filmed in the NW BC wilderness during a 2-year period, this is a free adaptation of Mowat's book, itself a polemical account of his own 1948-9 field study. His book was controversial but helped change the perception of wolves as ruthless killers.
L'Odyssée/ The Odyssey (FR 2016)
Scripted by director Jérôme Salle and Laurent Turner from memoirs by Albert Falco and Jean-Michel Cousteau
Despite difficult relationships with his wife and son Philippe, Jacques-Yves Cousteau becomes a pioneer of underwater exploration aboard his yacht Calypso.
Comment - A €20m two-hour biopic of the 30-year career odyssey of the man who became a national icon through his documentaries.
Quest For Fire / La guerre du feu (Fr/Canada 1981)
Scripted by Gerard Brach, based on the 1911 novel by 'J.H. Rosny-Aine' [=Joseph Henri Honoré Boex & Séraphin Justin François], with tribal language created by Anthony Burgess
After a northern prehistoric tribe lose their only source of fire, they despatch a trio on a trek southward to find another source.
Comment - For this storyline almost unique in its early time setting, this is an attempt at a realist version of the caveman drama. Thus no dinosaur encounters, and no narration, only an opening title card to explain the plot setup. It was filmed on 3 different continents [in Canada, Scotland, and Africa] to dramatise how far south the trek takes the protagonists.
Sasquatch: The Legend Of Bigfoot (1976)
Written by producer Ronald D. Olson, Ed Hawkins, and George Lauris (narration)
A modern-day long-range expedition on horseback heads for a 'lost valley' in northern British Columbia, which the native tribes avoid due to Sasquatch activity, to tranquilize and capture a live specimen.
Comment - This is a pseudo-documentary, filmed not in northern BC, but in Oregon's Three Sisters Wilderness area. It uses a man in a fur suit, plus some obviously tame animals as wildlife they encounter en route - a badger, raccoon, bear, cougar. On its release, some still thought it a genuine documentary, and hence more frightening than the other 'bigfoot' films released theatrically at the time. The 102-min film was much sought-after but only available via incomplete poor-quality tv prints on YouTube, until a restored version was released on Blu-Ray in 2016.
Scott Of The Antarctic [UK 1948]
Scripted by Ivor Montagu, Walter Meade and Mary Hayley Bell
Robert Falcon Scott's final 1911-12 Terra Nova Expedition ends in failure and death, when they are beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian explorer Amundsen, all dying in a blizzard on the return journey, only 11 miles from a resupply depot.
Comment - Despite being a prestige early-Technicolor production distinguished by its Vaughan Williams score, this had no main-unit location filming, only 2nd-unit shots of the Swiss Alps and a Norwegian glacier, with the rest shot on a soundstage. In tone, it was so respectful a biopic that film critic Andre Bazin described its depiction as “a Boy Scout moral raised to the level of a national monument.”
The Search For The Nile [UK 1972]
Scripted by Derek Marlowe, Michael Hastings
A series of Victorian explorers get caught up in the great geographical mystery of the age, tracing the source of the White Nile.
Comment - BBC's 6 x 60min-episode docudrama serial was based on the explorers' own letters and journals, was shot all on location [in 16mm] with a distinguished cast, and shown abroad, where it won awards, but only recently became available on DVD.
Secret Of The Incas (1954)
Written by Ranald MacDougall, Sydney Boehm
An unscrupulous American adventurer stranded in Peru gets caught up in an attempt to rob a newly excavated Inca city of its golden royal-burial centrepiece.
Comment - Though exteriors were filmed largely on location in the Andes in colour, the central expedition sequence [by plane, rubber boat, and then afoot] is minor, and this is best remembered as an influence on the Indiana Jones series, right down to the protagonist's outfit.
Shackleton / Icebound In The Antarctic (UK 1983)
Written by Christopher Ralling, based on Shackleton's journals
Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton plays his part in the race to the South Pole.
Comment - This BBC2 4 x 55-mins drama serial, shot in Greenland, covers Shackleton's earlier Discovery and Nimrod expeditions as well as the Endurance one [the focus of the Channel-4 2002 drama as well as an IMAX documentary], plus Scott's failed attempt at being first to the Pole.
Shackleton (UK 2002)
Written by director Charles Sturridge
Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic expedition on the ship Endurance comes to grief when the ship is crushed by ice and the expedition members have to reach safety in longboats, with Shackleton then leading a party overland across icebound South Georgia Island.
Comment - A true story: Shackleton didn't lose a single man out of his 28-man crew, though he himself would die on his return to South Georgia and be buried there. This 2 x 103-min TV serial made by Channel 4 was filmed in Iceland and SE Greenland.
Scripted by Ruth Rose, Dudley Nichols (additional dialogue), from H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel
An American and friend set out for Siberia to find a lost city containing a fountain of youth his dying uncle has given him directions to.
Comment - Produced by Merian C. Cooper as a followup to King Kong, this moves the setting from East Africa to the frozen wastes of Asia. The film was thought lost until a print turned up in Buster Keaton's garage. As Cooper had wanted to shoot in colour, filmmaker Ray Harryhausen supervised a digitised colourisation, with cut scenes restored.
She [UK 1965]
Scripted by David T. Chantler, from H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel
In Palestine, 3 WWI comrades set out for the lost city of 'Kuma', where one is told by its immortal queen Ayesha that he is the re-incarnation of her long-dead lover.
Comment - Hammer Studios's colour widescreen version only has one location sequence [shot in Israel], of the expedition trio crossing the desert, the rest of the film being shot on soundstage interiors.
The Southern Star [UK/FR 1969]
Scripted by David Pursall and Jack Seddon, from Jules Verne's 1884 novel
In 1912 French West Africa, two rival groups set out into the jungle after a stolen uncut diamond.
Comment - A seriocomic adventure romp, with an international cast playing it straight (except for Orson Welles) through various standard scenes (the jungle-pool dip, the rickety bridge etc) in the Senegal jungle. Rarely seen since, it was recently issued as a Sony on-demand DVD.
Tarzan The Ape Man (1932)
Scripted by Cyril Hume [dialogue by Ivor Novello], based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
An expedition to find the legendary elephants' graveyard is haunted by a mysterious figure they learn is Tarzan, who helps them battle various dangers after he becomes interested in Jane, his future mate.
Comment - Of all the early Tarzan films, this seems to focus most on an expedition, which involves ascending an escarpment. The sequel, Tarzan And His Mate, picks up where the first film left off, and wraps up the story of the elephants'-graveyard quest.
Tarzan, The Ape Man 
Scripted by Tom Rowe and Gary Goddard, based on characters from Edgar Rice Burroughs's novels
A crazed Englishman heading upriver to capture a rumoured 'white ape' is joined by his daughter Jane. Tarzan kidnaps her to get her away from her possessive father, and rescues her when she is captured by tribesmen as a chieftain's trophy wife.
Comment - Shot on location in the Seychelles and Sri Lanka, this was given 'worst' accolades for its acting and direction but was a hit, being more sexually titillating than earlier versions. Though the film is set in the colonial era, Jane acts like a modern young woman, whose knowing dialogue to the mute Tarzan winks at the audience.
Tarzan And The Lost City (US/GER/AUSTRALIA 1998)
Scripted by Bayard Johnson, J. Anderson Black, based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan and Jane try to stop an expedition out to find and plunder the lost city of Opar deep in the jungle.
Comment - Filmed in South Africa, with CGI to create the magical defences of the lost city, this is one of the few films to deal with Opar, the lost city which appears in the novels.
Tintin Et Le Temple du Soleil / The Seven Crystal Balls & The Temple Of The Sun [FR 1969]
Scripted by Eddie Lateste, Jos Marissen, László Molnár, and 'Greg' [=Michel Régnier] (dialogue) from the 1943-48 Hergé graphic novels
Following the inflicting of a mysterious Incan curse on the returned members of an archaeological expedition, as told in The Seven Crystal Balls, Tintin and companions set off for the Andes on an expedition of their own, to find the fabled Temple of the Sun, where a surviving Inca priestly enclave is holding their associate Professor Calculus hostage.
Comment - As the main expedition episode Le Temple Du Soleil / Prisoners Of The Sun made little sense without the prequel, Belvision made a feature-length version for cinema release, encompassing both stories as a followup to their 1957-62 tv series.
Tracks (Australia 2013)
Scripted by Marion Nelson, from Robyn Davidson's 1980 memoir
A woman treks 1,700-miles across western Australia in 1977, accompanied by 4 camels she has trained.
Comment - This dramatisation of an Australian travel classic was long-awaited, several previous attempts at filming it having collapsed.
Trader Horn 
Scripted by Dale Van Every, John T. Neville, Richard Schayer, and Cyril Hume (dialogue) based on the 1927 memoir by Alfred Aloysius Smith aka Trader Horn “as told to” Ethelreda Lewis
On an ivory trading journey upriver in the Congo, Horn and his younger companion set out to locate a missionary's daughter kidnapped in infancy, now the cruel white-goddess queen of a jungle tribe, who take them captive.
Comment - This MGM adaptation was sensational at the time and later notorious. The Central African 'travelogue' style scenes of wildlife seen en route, filmed during a lengthy, gruelling location shoot, were supplemented with staged animal fights and killings shot in Mexico beyond animal-welfare scrutiny.
The Treasure Of The Sierre Madre 
Scripted by director John Huston from the 1927 novel by “B.Traven” [=?]
A trio of Americans down on their luck in Mexico join forces to prospect for a gold seam in the Sierre Madre mountains, with ultimately tragic results.
Comment - This has a central expeditionary sequence that demanded an expensive, then-unprecedented main-unit location shoot.
La Vallée / The Valley (Obscured By Clouds) (Fr 1972)
Written by director Barbet Schroeder and Paul Gégauff
A bored French consul's wife joins a group of hippies in Papua New Guinea heading for a valley marked on maps as 'Obscured By Cloud'.
Comment - Accompanied by the music of Pink Floyd, this has been called a 70s counterculture version of the expeditionary story. Supposedly the protagonist wants to collect the feathers of a rare bird, but she seems more interested in the isolated hill tribe (played by real natives, not actors) they meet and stay with along the way, who have a fundamentally different set of values. This is more a journey of self-discovery, a reappraisal of 'civilised' values, and the ending, the arrival at the valley, is 'open.'
The Voyage Of Charles Darwin 
Written by Robert Reid
Darwin launches his career as an evolutionary biologist by joining a naval survey expedition to South American waters.
Comment - This award-winning 7x1hr BBC documentary drama was evidently a source of inspiration for the 2003 film Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World. Though in 1831-5 there is no war on, the route is similar, from Brazil to the Galapagos, as well as the relationship between the captain and the naturalist, and some incidents (the discovery of the camouflaged stick-insect, the marine iguanas, the giant tortoises etc). Luckily the naturalist here gets to spend more time ashore exploring, and there are cross-country journeys though the jungle, the pampas, the Andes etc.
Welcome To The Jungle 
Written by director Jonathan Hensleigh
An expedition by 4 wannabe journalists heads into the New Guinea interior to investigate rumours that Michael Rockefeller, who famously disappeared here in 1961 - possibly killed and eaten by cannibals - was still alive.
Comment - Another shakycam 'found-footage' pseudo-documentary shot with GoPro-style video cams, on Fiji.
White Witch Doctor 
Scripted by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts from the 1950 novel by Louise A. Stinetorf
In the Congo in 1907, an animal trapper after gold accompanies a missionary nurse on an upriver expedition, by riverboat and then dugout canoes.
Comment - This Technicolor production must be about the last of Hollywood's cycle of jungle melodramas. Though based on a book by a missionary, the studio insisted it must be a conventional jungle adventure-romance, with a few 2nd-unit African scenes shot to mask the backlot and soundstage shooting.
The Worst Journey In The World 
Written by co-producer Mark Gatiss, based on Apsley Cherry-Garrard's 1922 memoir
Ornithologist Apsley Cherry-Garrard gets himself invited on Scott's Terra Nova expedtion after donating £1000 to it, but the experience proves traumatic as well as physically debilitating.
Comment - In this low-budget 1-hr BBC docudrama, Cherry-Garrard, played by Gatiss, is haunted by periodic mental breakdowns where he sees himself in his pyjamas in the snow, relating what went wrong.
Zemlya Sannikova / [The] Sannikov Land [USSR 1974]
Scripted by Vladislav Fedoseyev, Mark Zakharov, V.A. Obruchev, from Obruchev's 1924 novel
In the Tsarist era, a 5-man scientific expedition discovers a sub-tropical area north of Siberia, a lost world inside the crater of a near-extinct volcano, with prehistoric fauna and Stone Age tribes.
Comment - Obruchev was the Soviets' leading scientific explorer and his YA novel is his most famous work, described as “the Soviet answer to The Lost World”. The film is very 70s in style with explorers in sculpted hairstyles and tribeswomen wearing eyeliner.
|Return to Top | Return to Home Page | Email||[c] Storylines In Review 2017|