Found Footage 101: ‘The Forbidden Quest’ (Netherlands, 1989)

❉ As we look at the found footage films that lead up to ‘The Blair Witch Project’, we go on a ‘Forbidden Quest’…


Plot Teaser

“The unknown story of the Hollandia South Pole expedition, 1905-1906.  As told by Ship’s Carpenter J.C. Sullivan.”

You’ll Like This If You Like…

Silent films, the South Pole and tall stories.


Spoile- Free Review

Mostly narrated by the sole survivor of the expedition, the footage he has is in reality gathered from real footage of early Polar expeditions and adapted cleverly for the story.  This is fascinating to watch as a result, for although his story is compelling, so too is the footage, both as a record of early cinema, but also for showing the audience something rarely seen – genuine accounts of people risking their lives to explore previously unknown lands.




The South Pole.


None, or maybe mankind himself.

Why Are You Still Filming?

Never asked – if anything we regret that more isn’t filmed: the footage is fascinating.


Review and Analysis

As we look at the films that lead up to ‘The Blair Witch Project’, it’s understandable that not all of them can be described as properly “found footage” (‘Special Bulletin’ and ‘Without Warning’, for example, are live TV), but this is the only one which is comprised of truly found footage: director Peter Delpeut has edited together reels of old, silent film to tell a new story, taking recordings of Arctic and Antarctic explorers and adding a new, fantastic narrative.  It’s an achievement that elevates this from the world of normal film and sees it become true art.  Some viewers may find this distracting (and in truth, all that there is of this as a film is practically a monologue delivered by an aging actor.


True, the delivery of this monologue is breathtakingly good – Joseph O’Conor’s delivery is beautiful, and thoroughly engrossing – although it should be admitted that some of his material is a trifle overblown and, in places, over-written, but O’Conor delivers it perfectly) as this isn’t a normal film in any real sense, but the story told is compelling, if somewhat derivative of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, whilst the notion of a passage between the Poles is something from Verne by way of modern conspiracy theory.

As the film reaches its climax the narrative takes a turn for the mystical, and the audience is never entirely sure of what really happened (it’s strongly suggested that God Himself intervenes to save Sullivan), especially as the footage isn’t there to show it (which is hardly surprising given that the footage is real, and the story is not), but the tale will stay with the viewer, and the notion of Eskimos and polar bears at the wrong end of the planet is intriguing, whilst the images of the mad Italian, the poor huskies and the ill-fated Captain will stay in the viewer’s mind.  It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly fascinating to watch.



Only released in the USA (and region 1 locked) the DVD also includes another film by Peter Delpeut comprising recovered silent footage.

❉ ‘The Forbidden Quest’ can be viewed in full on YouTube.


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