In 1924, English climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine perished, disappearing into cloud cover while attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Nobody knows if they made it to the top, but audiences saw the expedition footage shot by Captain John Noel, which he assembled in the documentary feature The Epic of Everest. It contains the longest telescopic shot to date, at two miles distance, providing the world’s last glimpse of the specks that were Mallory and Irvine against a snowy expanse. (This isn’t, however, the same final glimpse recorded by climber Noel Odell, who was closer.) Mallory’s body was found in 1999.
The British Film Institute has performed its own amazing feat in digitally restoring this film frame by frame, using more than one source print, and applying the original tints and tones audiences saw in 1924. The resulting clarity is almost miraculous, and the effect is enhanced by Simon Fisher Turner’s newly commissioned score, which combines modern synthesized tones with instrumental melodies. There are several examples of ambient sounds and effects, especially in the footage of Tibetan villages and people.