Tuesday, November 23, 2021

#2,666. The Epic of Everest (1924)


This documentary, shot on-location by Captain John Noel, is a filmed record of the now-infamous 1924 British Mount Everest expedition, during which mountaineers George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared without a trace.

Relying heavily on intertitles, The Epic of Everest offers a full account of the journey, tagging along with the explorers when they entered the village of Phari-Dzong on the border of the Tibetan Plateau before making their way to Everest itself, where the British adventurers set up several campsites and made three different attempts to reach the summit, a height of almost 29,000 feet (8,800+ meters). The third and final attempt ended tragically when Mallory and Irvine never returned, and were presumed dead (their disappearance sparked a debate that raged for decades, with many wondering whether or not they became the first men to reach the summit before perishing).

The Epic of Everest is mostly a dry, straightforward account of the expedition; the opening shots of Mount Everest, interspersed with title cards that wax poetic about nature and the indomitable spirit of man, run on far too long, and the scenes in Phari-Dzong, though interesting, aren’t exactly kind to the indigenous population (one title card in particular referred to the fact that the locals never bathed). As for the expedition itself, a majority of the sequences were shot from a distance away, and feature little more than the explorers walking to and from their base camps.

Yet as routine as the first hour or so is, the final third of The Epic of Everest will have you on the edge of your seat. The most stirring scene occurs when Noel’s camera, shooting up the mountain, spots Mallory and Irvine high atop Everest, some 4,000 feet away, the last time anyone would see them alive.

Ultimately, the true miracle of The Epic of Everest is that it exists at all, recording for posterity a historic event, and ensuring that George Mallory, Sandy Irvine, and the entire 1924 expedition will never be forgotten.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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