Cry of the Penguins / Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (1971)

Cry of the Penguins / Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (1971)

“Now remember this, Forbush: sex and Scotch in either order do not a biologist make.”

A womanizing biology student (John Hurt) tries to impress his latest crush (Hayley Mills) by accepting a job studying penguins in Antarctica.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Antarctica and the Arctic
  • Hayley Mills Films
  • John Hurt Films
  • Scientists

This intriguingly titled film is sure to pique the interest of most film fanatics, especially given that it stars cinematic favorites John Hurt and Hayley Mills — but be prepared for disappointment. While Arne Sucksdorff’s extensive footage of penguins struggling to survive in the Antarctic is impressive (and must have been especially so to audiences at the time), we’ve since seen the exact same “story” told to even greater effect in the haunting, must-see documentary March of the Penguins (2005). Meanwhile, the surrounding narrative — involving womanizing Hurt’s infatuation with Mills, and his bizarre attempt to impress her by taking a position as a penguin researcher:

— is unspeakably lame on every count. Hurt’s character is not only insufferable, but — even worse — we never really believe in him as a viable researcher, given that the screenplay fails to offer us any credible scenes actually showing him intelligently engaging with scientific material. Once he’s out living with the penguins, we see him keeping vague track of the birds, and (in one truly weird scene) slaughtering a penguin to analyze its innards (?? really ??) — but unlike Charles Martin Smith’s protagonist in the infinitely superior Never Cry Wolf (1983), he’s simply never convincing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Impressive footage of penguins in Antarctica
  • The exciting blizzard scene

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book, most likely because of the novelty of the penguin footage at the time — but rent March of the Penguins (2005) instead.


One thought on “Cry of the Penguins / Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (1971)

  1. First viewing. Agreed; skip it (for the reasons given) – even though it’s always fun being in Hayley’s company. She’s almost completely gone from the film’s second half – and she spends the first half trying to keep Hurt at bay. (~which, of course, makes it that much more strange when she’s suddenly *gone* over him!)

    That said – it can be amusing or intriguing observing the penguins here – if you’re into that sort of thing.

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