Everest: A Must See DVD

Narrated by Liam Neeson. Directed by David Brashears, Greg MacGillivray, and Stephen Judson. Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (full frame). 45 minutes. 1998. Dolby Digital 5.1. Miramax Collector's Series 16539. NR. $24.98.

When the IMAX team set out in 1996 to make a film about Mt. Everest, little did they expect the drama that was about to unfold. It was a scary enough prospect to start with: the plan was to haul a special "lightweight" (but still roughly 40 lbs.), weatherproof IMAX camera to the top of the mountain. Amazingly, they made it, and the result is perhaps the best film ever made for that big-screen format. The photography is spectacular, and while I can recommend this documentary for viewing on any television, it's tailor-made for big-screen projection systems.

But there's more. What the filmmakers could not have anticipated was that they would be shooting their movie during the tragic 1996 storm that took the lives of eight climbers. The IMAX team was not among the group affected, but while they did what little they could, they could not prevent the disaster. This event gives an added, unexpected resonance to the film.

While Everest itself lasts only 45 minutes, this collector's-edition DVD is loaded with extras, including the feature Making of Everest, deleted scenes, a trailer, climbers' video journals, and animated topographical maps of the mountain. There is also an extended, poignant interview with Beck Weathers, who miraculously lived through the storm that claimed so many of his fellow climbers.

This is one of the best of the IMAX video transfers, some of which have been disappointing. The image is sharp and clean for the most part, with only a hint of an occasional video artifact. The transfer is 4:3—the actual ratio used for IMAX photography.

The sound is perhaps even more noteworthy than the visuals. While not loaded with spectacular effects—the occasional avalanche excepted—the music track is superbly recorded, conveying most of what I heard when I saw this film in the Edwards IMAX theater in Irvine, California. (That theater has one of the best commercial sound systems I have ever heard, a quality not duplicated in the large conventional theater in the adjoining multiplex.)

This is a must-see film, and a great DVD to add to your library.