Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1975, this stirring chronicle tells the tale of Japanese alpinist Yûichirô Miura and his attempt to ski down Mt. Everest in 1970. Narrator Douglas Rain reads from Miura’s actual diary giving a first-hand look of his thoughts as he ascends the mountain. The grueling expedition resulted in the deaths of several people, all so Miura could live his dream. Co-director Lawrence Schiller would go on to produce and direct some exceptional television productions, including The Executioner’s Song, and the Emmy-winning mini-series Peter the Great.
What is it that drives people to do the impossible? Part of me wants to believe that it's the nobility of the pursuit, that because a particular thing hasn't been done before makes the achievement that much more grand. On the other hand, part of me believes it's merely avarice, someone looking to wax their ego in order to mask a failing elsewhere in life. When looking at a documentary like 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest,' it's impossible not to ask these sorts of questions. How does one man's goal justify the extreme physical, economical, and mental toll - not to mention the loss of life that goes with its achievement. Such is the story behind Yuichiro Miura's infamous attempt to ski down Mt. Everest.
Narrated by Douglas Rain from Miura's own diaries, 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is a fascinating, often frustrating look at what it took for one man to achieve a seemingly outlandish and impossible goal. In 1970 two Japanese lead Everest expeditions were made. One so that Miura could ski down the South Col of the mountain and the other a true summit attempt. The film opens as the Japanese teams reach Nepal with a mountain of gear. The amount of equipment is extraordinary and the fact that it had to be hiked to base camp is even more incredible. The line of porters and men look like ants scurrying their way towards the towering mountain.
Like so many Everest expeditions, when tragedy strikes, it takes a serious mental and physical toll. A group of Miura's team were out reconnoitering the icefalls leading up towards the summit when the ice shifting causing a slide. Six men of Miura's team were killed and for the first time doubt sets into the group. While the film doesn't actually show the fateful ice slide, it doesn't hold back from showing the team's emotional punch. Coupled with Miura's own words, the film's honesty is unflinching as it is dumbfounding how they managed to continue with their expedition. It's a particularly interesting moment when Miura meets Sir Edmund Hillary and two share a moment of mutual appreciation. These are men of extremes and they understand that seemingly insane drive to do something so dangerous.
Throughout 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' I kept asking myself "why would anyone want to do this?" After reviewing 'Everest' and the documentary 'The Epic of Everest,' climbing that beast of a mountain is probably the last thing I would ever feel compelled to do. Even to reach basecamp (which admittedly sounds appealing) requires a level of physical fitness I do not possess and a level of mountaineering experience I likely will never achieve. I just do not have that drive. But others do. While I am forever mystified at the people who feel that compulsion to conquer such a deadly mountain, I tip my hat in awe at the men and women who made the top and conquered the beast.
As you watch 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' it's easy to question Miura's goal. Risking his own life let alone the life of the film crew and his support team may seem egotistical and ludicrous, but then the moment he straps on those skis, you can't help but sit back in awe at the man. His achievement is especially impressive considering that the man is still alive today and has summited Everest several more times and just four years ago at the age of 80 he became the oldest person to have ever reached the summit of the great mountain. 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is a fascinating piece of work. Honest and unwavering, it treats its subject with the passive respect required of a good documentary. It doesn't sugar coat the questionable merits of such a goal, but at the same time, it's impossible not to stare slack-jawed at the screen as a tiny man with a parachute zips down the near-vertical face of the world's tallest mountain.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of The Film Detective pressed onto a BD-R BD-25 Disc. Housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case, the disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
With a 1080 2.35:1 transfer, 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is a stunning looking film. Fine film grain is present throughout leading to impressive detail levels. The wide expansive scenery shots are very impressive as there is a notable sense of depth and dimension to the image. From the streets of Nepal to the top of Everest, the image detail is incredible allowing the viewer to soak in every little nook and cranny of the mountain. Black levels are strong with deep inky blacks and solid shadow separation. Colors are bright, bold and beautiful with impressive primary saturation. Miura's hiking gear and the bright colors of the early 70s come through with a vivid clarity. The print sourced for this image is in relatively clean shape, only some occasional speckling is apparent.
'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' arrives with a strong English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. As much of the audio mix is comprised of the narration by Douglas Rain, there really isn't a whole lot to grade here. This is a relatively simple audio mix but it is very effective at the story it aims to tell. Scoring by Larry Crosley is on the subtle side and simply adds mood to any given scene without drowning out the slightly muted background sound effects or the narration. Given the makeup of this mix, the simple stereo presentation does a great job with the material as there isn't really any call for a full separated surround mix.
No bonus feature content.
Taken on its own, 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is a fascinating and thrilling documentary experience. While the film may revel in the glory of one man's accomplishment, it's honesty is grounding and keeps the film from being an ego piece. The Film Detective has done a terrific job bringing this film to Blu-ray with a first-rate A/V presentation. Sadly this release lacks any extra features. Even without bonus content, I'm calling this one Recommend.