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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 November 2014
In 1924, a team of British explorers headed by Charles Bruce made the third recorded attempt to scale the summit of Mount Everest. The attempt led to the deaths of two mountaineers, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, at or near the summit. It remains a matter of conjecture whether Mallory and Irvine had in fact reached the summit of Mount Everest.

The 1924 team included a photographer, Captain John Noel, who made a detailed documentary of the climb as well as purchasing all rights to the film. Noel used a hand-cranked camera which is much more primitive than today's equipment but he captured the stark beauty and coldness of the mountain and the difficulties of the climb. For many years, Noel's documentary has been unavailable but it has recently been beautifully restored and released as this silent film, "Epic of Everest". I saw the film in a theater in a presentation sponsored by the National Gallery of Art and the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. Stephen Horne, a composer and a leading British accompanist of silent film, beautifully improvised on the piano for the eighty-seven minute duration of the film.

This film is an outstanding historical record of the attempt on Everest. In addition to showing the climb, the film offers excellent rare footage of Tibetan people, villages and monasteries, including scenes of the world's highest village and of the Rongbuk Monastery at the foot of the mountain. A Lama at the monastery had wished the expedition well, but he predicted that the spirits surrounding the mountain would result in the failure of the attempt on the summit. The film also captures the lengthy trek to the mountain in a caravan of yaks. The yaks needed to abandoned when the mountain air became too thin for them to breathe.

Mount Everest appears in cold, rocky, forbidden, and snowy grandeur. The film captures the heroism and difficulties of the climb for the mountaineers and the accompanying sherpas. There are scenes of early bad weather which resulted in the deaths of two members of the parties and of the slow, treacherous work in the ascent. With a high-powered lens, the film offers a glimpse of Mallory and Irvine tantalizingly close to the summit just before they disappeared. Then, the party waited and searched before realizing that the pair had died. The remaining members of the party constructed a cairn to their memory.

The film includes extensive subtitles commenting upon and explaining the action. It is in black and white with some tinted scenes. The quality of the restoration is excellent.

I enjoyed seeing this film in a theater with a live musical accompaniment. It taught me a great deal about Mount Everest, early 20th Century Tibet, and the 1924 expedition.

Robin Friedman
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Another superb work of restoration by the BFI Natonal Archive to the same standard as the wonderful "The Great White Silence", and an epic undertaking on the same scale as that endeavour. Much has been written and discussed about the question of whether or not Mallory and Irvine reached Everest's summit in 1924. It seems improbable, but it is something that is unlikely to ever be known. In this film the two climbers are seen fleetingly, like ghosts from the past, the tragedy of their deaths seemingly not so distant.

Such an important piece of British mountaineering history is brought to life by the filmmaker Captain John Noel who turns out to be as skilful as Herbert Ponting was. Noel's artists eye lingers over the awesome landscapes and with the beautiful use of colour tinting highlighting the desolate beauty of these high places. The innocence of an age when the climbers had no idea if they could breath or not at such extreme altitudes is captured perfectly.

Perhaps most important, some might argue, was Noel's film of a medieval like Tibetan society untouched by outside influence, which was to sadly change after the later Chinese invasion. The scenes of the simple Tibetan folk that the expedition meets en-route to Everest, are perhaps the films crowning glory. It is a miracle that Noel managed to cart such primitive equipment to those incredible heights, let alone film. A large part of that credit should go to those indefatigable local Sherpa’s! An achievement that is worth all those painstaking hours of restoration! Thank you BFI for a job well done!
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on 29 January 2014
I had the opportunity to see The Great White Silence restoration by the BFI which I thought was well done and so I was really looking forward to see The Epic of Everest. The story of Mallory and Irvine always impressed me. Comparing the two, The Epic of Everest has a different energy, being more esoteric in way with beautiful time-lapses and a slow-paced energy, it is a completely different approach but nevertheless beautiful.

I saw the previous review so I'm compelled to give you a different opinion. I think Simon Fisher Turner's music is the embodiment of that energy that comes from the film, a modern and timeless way to channel the true emotions embedded in it, the optimism, the hesitation and ultimately the spectre of death.
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on 27 February 2014
Don't be put off by the fact that this is a silent movie, it is absolutely gripping from start to finish. A must see for anyone interested in mountaineering history or Tibetan culture.
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on 12 December 2014
Mallory is one of my heroes, the information on the indigenous people of the area is fascinating though the commentary at times appears patronising to 21st century ears. They climb Everest with less clothes and equipment than I'd use in the Lake District!
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on 8 November 2015
A fascinating insight in to the conditions Mallory and Irvine endured in their fateful attempt to conquer Everest. Like others have said, don't be put off that a great deal of the film is made up by scores and silence, the footage is fantastic! I was amazed by the quality, considering the age of the footage this is a great restoration! All in, it's a great double set for under £8, would recommend to anyone with an interest in Everest.
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on 3 April 2014
This is a beautifully restored reconstruction of an unusual film made by Captain John Noel. It was made to tell the story of Mallory and Irvine's fateful attempt to climb Everest and is very-much a product of it's time, being released shortly after the 1924 expedition. I strongly recommend it. Please don't be put off by it's age. If you have seen Frank Hurley's "South" South [1919] [DVD] or the superb restoration of "The Great White Silence" The Great White Silence / 90 Degrees South (DVD + Blu-ray) [1924], then you will find this equally gripping. It is, as I have said, very much a product of those inter-war years with all the curious remnants of Empire and the dated oddities of National psychology to go with it. Many of the inter-titles are unintentionally hilarious for these reasons. However, the scene-setting in the Tibetan Himalaya is a really extraordinary ethnological document, for all it's self-conscious staginess. The long-distance filming of the activity on the mountain is also amazing for it's time and the conclusion very moving. If you want a modern retelling of the story in a well-constructed documentary, then see the excellent "...Wildest Dream" The Wildest Dream [Blu-ray] [Region Free]. However, the Epic of Everest gives you a truer understanding of what it was like to climb such a mountain in the 1920s.

I was lucky enough to see the film projected in Cambridge University's West Road Concert Hall with a live orchestra in November 2013. This superlative performance was introduced by Julie Brown who had recently reconstructed the original score, in a form as close as possible to that which would have been heard on the film's release. The score is a "compiled" score based around "found" music. It includes, for example, the entire score of Borodin's Second symphony (although the movements are not played in the order in which you would hear them in the concert hall) as well as a huge variety of other pieces by Rabaud, Mussorgsky, Korngold, Lalo, Smetana, Fourdrain and many others. It also includes some specially composed interludes based on Tibetan chant by T. Howard Somervell; who was responsible for constructing the score with the eminent conductor Eugene Goossens Snr. On the day following this showing, Andrew Gourlay and the superb Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra recorded the entire score in London and this is included on the DVD disc of this double-disc edition. It should be on the Blu-ray as well, in my opinion. On the Blu-ray you will find Simon Fisher-Turner's specially-comissioned new score. This is in very similar vein to the score that he created for The Great White Silence. While appreciating the challenge of finding a suitable response to the pictures on the screen, I find both scores unsatisfactory. They're not awful; just adding little (to my ears) to the experience of watching the film. Of course, this is largely a matter of personal taste and opinion. You may find his scores really good and, equally, you may find the "original" score rather weird. It is no longer something that we are used to hearing. However, this ingeniously constructed score gets us closer to the audience experience of the original showing, bizarre as it may seem to us now. I found it a wonderful window into the era and there were several splendid (and unjustly neglected) pieces in the score that seemed "just right" for what we were seeing. It also gives you an excuse for watching the film at least twice and it's well worth your time to do so.
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on 16 January 2015
What can you say about this film that hasn't already been said? Yes, its from a bygone age and I'm sure that many people will drone on about Imperialism and such like. BUT this is a piece of mountaineering history - in fact the film is, effectively, what paid for the expedition. The shame is that similar films were not made of the 1930's trip to compare.

Watch this after reading Wade Davis' Into The Silence for the full effect.
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on 11 March 2014
If you are interested in the early attempts to climb Everest then this film is worth watching, if only to be able to actually see film footage of some of the people who we normally only read about. I watched it after reading the book Into The Silence by Wade Davis, which tells the stories of the early Everest expeditions and gives background details on many of the characters who took part in these early climbs. The film is ninety years old and has been restored well, I was hoping to have had more footage of the actual climbing so I was a bit disappointed by the film.
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on 10 May 2016
A mesmerising glimpse into a period of time where the world still held mystery and wonder, and a thrillingly modern and inspiring piece of film making which holds its own even today. Under the hypnotic coloured lenses of this re-edited version, we are transported across the Himalaya, through the razor sharp forests of ice on the glaciers and up into the screaming atmosphere of the slopes of Everest, all set to a superbly evocative, considered score.
Quite simply hypnotic, and unlike anything you will have seen. A fantastic silent documentary which will thrill, chill and wow you. Buy it for the mountain lover or adventurer in your life, and enjoy the journey!
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