The Conquest of Everest (1953)

May 15th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: George Lowe | UK Doc

Marking the 70th anniversary of the historic expedition, this dazzling new restoration of the classic British documentary tells the awe-inspiring story of the first successful attempt on the peak of Mount Everest. Narrated by Meredith Edwards (A Run For Your Money) and featuring the mountaineers Sir Edmund Hillary, Wilfred Noyce and Tenzing Norgay, the documentary details the history, preparation and description of the route as well as fascinating footage of previous attempts and the social context of the achievement.

It’s a good thing the expedition was a success or all the beautiful colour footage shot before the final assault on the summit would have gone to waste! Simply bringing all that unexposed stock along with them as they climbed up Everest (and then getting it back down again afterwards) must have been quite a logistical feat in its own right, although not on a scale of that achieved by the Captain J.B.L. Noel in the 1920’s; some of whose footage is included here.

The main title carries the credit ‘Print by Technicolor’, which means the makers thankfully didn’t actually lug a three-strip Technicolor camera up Mount Everest. Fortunately they wouldn’t have been short of light surrounded by snow at that altitude (although they were lucky Technicolor didn’t insist on them going back to redo the shot where a hair was visible in the gate).

Dramatic licence is occasionally apparent in cases such as an insert of an ice-pick going into snow, but the cameramen would have had to cut most of the footage in the camera since discarding footage in the editing room would seldom have been an option; the first take usually being the one they used. @RichardChatten


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