While recent years have been better for me in terms of seeing documentaries, there are honestly a lot from the past I have not caught. Aside from older docs that tend to be shown in school, there are likely plenty of great films out there that really delve into interesting topics. Such is the case with The Man Who Skied Down Everest, a documentary I had never even heard of, which was also the winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature back in 1975. Well, the intrigue from that very literal title was enough to get my interest and now I have seen the Blu-ray thanks to The Film Detective Archive.
The Man Who Skied Down Everest is a documentary focused on Yuichiro Miura, a Japanese alpinist who skied down Mt. Everest in 1970. He was a part of The Japanese Everest Skiing Expedition 1970, where six members died and Muira was able to achieve his goal to some degree, despite the intense danger presented. The film was directed by Bruce Nyznik and Lawrence Schiller. Narration is provided by Douglas Rain, the voice of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
If I had to pinpoint what I found so interesting about this documentary, it has something to do with the nature of the filmmaking. Nowadays, the style of documentary has become so familiar that ones that impress tend to have some ambitious approaches to the presentation. Sometimes it involves animated interstitials or even a rotoscoping technique. Digital cameras and other technological developments have also made documentaries find new ways of approaching their subject, in terms of ease and the vast amounts of footage that can be obtained.
For this film, it is obviously old-fashioned, but incredibly well executed. Part of that obviously has to do with the location. Seeing actual footage of Everest is pretty impressive and this film is full of wonderful shots. It helps that the film finds us matching this footage with the intimate thoughts of Miura. Rain reads from Miura’s actual diary, so we have first-had thoughts of what it was to be ascending Everest and planning to ski down a part of it.
The use of other filmed moments to help juxtapose this adventure with other aspects of life further helps to make this film quite engaging. There is also the nature of what it is to be involved with an idea like this. The narration and the footage paint a unique portrait of one’s emotional journey that builds up to this point.
At 86 minutes, it is not as if the film takes up a huge amount of time, but it still feels like a lot of information, footage and more is seen in the span of time we spend seeing how this whole thing plays out. That makes The Man Who Skied Down Everest well worth watching, as it tells a story that time could easily forget, but fortunately won’t be, thanks to this terrific documentary.
As the film has been branded a “Restored Classic” it is great to note how strong the Blu-ray’s video quality is. Obviously age has its effect and the fact that we are not getting a lavish re-release of the film, but this AVC-encoded transfer does a fine job of allowing for a proper viewing. I always love the look of snow on Blu-ray and a film set at Mt. Everest certainly does the job in allowing a viewer to really enjoy the clarity of this sort of picture. The level of grain, as mentioned, should be expected, due to age, but it does not distract. There is a great amount of authenticity seen here, which is even better reflected by the rigors of filming a documentary like this and still getting some great footage.
While we merely get a DTS-HD 2.0 audio track, it does a fine job of blending the strong and easily heard narration with the various other audio elements. The sounds of the mountain environment, the various people who speak, music and more all go a long way in providing a fine soundtrack overall. The film relies heavily on the center channel, but the balance is strong enough that you get a fine sense of how everything should be auditorily playing out.
Nothing here but the film, which is a shame, as Miura has gone back to Everest, since this film was made, becoming one of the oldest men to have ever done so. Getting some sort of feature focused on his legacy could have been interesting.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The lack of any extras hurts this release a bit, as I would love to know more about a film like this, but it can be said that The Man Who Skied Down Everest is a worthwhile documentary I was happy to catch up on. It looks and sounds pretty great thanks to this restored edition. The film is an obscure release for sure, but try to catch up on it, if interested.