Unboxing the Silents: The Epic of Everest (1924)

Today’s unboxing involves a documentary film from 1924, which chronicles an ill-fated attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a mission that would cost two mountaineers their lives. The Epic of Everest was recently restored and is now available to the general public for the first time.

(Thanks to Kino Lorber for the review copy.)

Climbing Mount Everest was a seemingly unattainable goal for decades until the first successful ascent in 1953. But was it the first? The great controversy is whether Everest was conquered in 1924 by George Mallory, who was assisted by Sandy Irvine.  With both men dead, there is no way to know for certain. (Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999, Irvine’s remains are still missing. Their cameras have never been found.)

The expedition was carefully documented with both still photos and movie footage. This footage was then cut together to create an 87 minute record of the work that went into the mission and natural beauty of the world’s most famous mountain. Captain Noel, the film’s director, was obsessed with the idea of Everest and had a lightweight, rubber-sealed motion picture camera specially made for the purpose of documenting the climb. (He had provided the teams attempting an ascent with a camera for still photographs and a small motion picture camera capable of recording a snippet of footage.)

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The film itself is a fascinating document of imperialism, the Lost Generation and the sport of mountaineering, as well as the culture of the area’s native people.

Packaging and menu: Single disc in a standard DVD or Blu-ray case. The menu is simple and easy to navigate with no annoying animations to deal with.

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What’s included: In addition to the film itself, the disc also contains three featurettes on the history of the film (including an interview with Captain Noel’s daughter), the scoring of the picture and how the restoration work was accomplished.

Featurette menu
Featurette menu
Restoration work demonstrated.
Restoration work demonstrated.

Look: The film looks fantastic. The image has been stabilized and the original tints have been restored. Here’s a sample:

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Sounds: The score by Simon Fisher Turner is absolutely splendid. He sought to create a raw soundscape for the picture and the result is music that accompanies the film but also respects its audience enough to allow them to draw they own conclusions. Thoroughly modern (thank goodness!) and very suitable.

Buy? Yes, if you have any interest at all in the evolution of the documentary film or want to appreciate the glorious natural beauty on display. I confess that I had little interest in the European players of this tale but I loved seeing the culture and hard work of the native guides and residents.

William S. Hart seems to have had a cousin in Tibet. Who knew?
William S. Hart seems to have had a cousin in Tibet. Who knew?

Availability: This film was released in the U.S. on DVD and Blu-ray on September 8, 2015.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this film for free for the purpose of reviewing it on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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