The Epic Of Everest

John B.L. Noel

F.: John B.L. Noel. Prod.: John B.L. Noel per Explorers Films 35mm. L.: 1989 m. D.: 89′ a 20 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

“We expect no mercy from Everest” said George Mallory as he started his final ascent of the treacherous mountain and he got none. Captain John Noel, the official photographer on the legendary 1924 British Expedition to Mount Everest, arguably the first serious attempt and famed for the tragic loss of mountaineers, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, puts this human struggle at the heart of his magnificent film The Epic of Everest while conveying to us his fascination with the unknown land of Tibet. The film follows the large contingent of men, animals and equipment across the Tibetan Plateau towards Everest. En route it records some of the earliest images of the Tibetan people and their culture. Noel was an adventurous explorer who had tried but failed to get to Everest through Tibet, in 1913. He financed the film of the 1924 expedition himself, sought advice from Herbert Ponting who had accompanied Scott to Antarctica, and assembled special equipment such as a long range telephoto lens and even built his own lab in Darjeeling to process the reels. Later he toured extensively around the world lecturing with the film footage and beautiful colour slides. It was the film print that Noel carried around for his lectures which was the key to the film’s eventual restoration, safeguarded by his daughter Sandra and donated to the BFI. Its superior condition meant the restoration team could improve damaged sequences from the archive’s original nitrate print. However it was incomplete and lacked both intertitles and the film’s original tints and tones. The prints were scanned at a resolution of 4K using a wet gate to eliminate scratches and a novel technique was developed to scan selected scenes using individual colour LED’s to compensate for deterioration of the blue toning and the severe mould damage. In 1984 Captain Noel wrote to David Francis at the BFI, of his wishes for a restoration of The Epic of Everest. “The picture film and colour stills needed to be edited with a lot of technical treatment into a finished story film all in colour… so that the finished film would be worthy of being a classic story of British Pioneer Exploration and so be truly worthy of a place in the National Archives. […] I would welcome this destiny for my picture… a sort of maximum attainment in my life”.

Bryony Dixon

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Restored by BFI National Archive