Bill O’Byrne’s Bargain Bin Blues: Beyond the Edge


Welcome to a new weekly column dedicated to Blu-rays that collector of all things cult and dirt cheap, Bill O’Byrne, has unearthed. A failed practitioner in the art of making movies, he has an imaginary Masters degree in being able to sit goggle-eyed and stare at TVs for hours on end. He is previously the official astrologer for the New Zealand Army and and once made a complete cock of himself in front of Douglas Adams in Palmerston North. His first ScreenScribe.tv column revisits Beyond the Edge the same week producer Matthew (Dean Spanley) Metcalfe’s most recent movie, The Dead Lands, is released on Blu-ray. He has more assorted nonsense here: kiwispacepatrol.wordpress.com.

Beyond the Edge: $$$

  • Directed by Leanne Pooley.
  • Written by Leanne Pooley and Matthew Metcalfe.
  • Starring Chad MoffittSonam Sherpa and John Wraight.

AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW By Philip Wakefield Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mt Everest is painstakingly recreated in this vivid docudrama that was filmed in 3-D. Only the 2-D version is out on disc but at least the Blu-ray delivers the detailed resolution Beyond the Edge deserves. It so seamlessly blends restored footage from the 1953’s Conquest of Everest with new sequences shot in the Southern Alps and on Everest that it can be hard to distinguish the actual from the re-enacted. Just as effective is using extracts from interviews with those on the expedition to tell their own story. Beyond the Edge lacks Touching the Void’s suspense but is as close as you’ll come to experiencing a climb that then was as risky as going to the moon.

PHIL vs BILL
Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mt Everest is painstakingly recreated in this vivid docudrama that was filmed in 3D. Only the 2D version is out on disc but at least the Blu-ray delivers the detailed resolution Beyond the Edge deserves. It so seamlessly blends restored footage from the 1953’s Conquest of Everest with new sequences shot in the Southern Alps and on Everest that it can be hard to distinguish the actual from the re-enacted. Just as effective is using extracts from interviews with those on the expedition to tell their own story. Beyond the Edge lacks Touching the Void’s suspense but is as close as you’ll come to experiencing a climb that then was as risky as going to the moon. — Phil Wakefield.

You’ve probably got two options if your father was the first guy to climb Mt Everest.

One, to prove yourself worthy as a son, is to climb a higher mountain. The other option, realising you’re totally screwed there, is to become a world leader in a slightly different field. Like developing the adventure sport of whitewater macrame. Or becoming the best ballroom-dancing microbiologist the world has ever seen. Anything, anything but becoming a feckin’ mountain climber.

That particular insight was sparked by listening to Peter Hillary’s comments about his dad during Beyond the Edge, the documentary created to mark the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund’s rise to the top.

Hillary junior, who has climbed Everest and gone to the South Pole and done charitable work, all rather just like Ed, didn’t have much to say of huge interest, apart from speculating on the inner working of his dad’s mind.

Poor bastard. It’s why Neil Armstrong’s son Rick plays prog rock guitar. It’s just easier. (Neil was apparently a pretty good musician as well, but he went to the brass side before majoring in rocketry.)

But as to the movie, well, it is a funny kind of a thing. It’s a good watch and is obviously a giant tribute piece to Sir Ed and, to be fair, the rest of the team of the 1953 British expedition, including Tenzing Norgay and Hillary’s climbing buddy and filmmaker George Lowe.

It makes a passing mention of Hillary’s early days (being beaten by his dad for disciplinary infractions, presumably, and befriending ants when a lonely schoolboy at Auckland Grammar) but it’s not a biopic as such. For that sort of detail a good source is Tom Scott’s Hillary: A View From the Top, which was excellent (if a little “Look, it’s Sir Ed Hillary!!’, which is what it is always going to be).

Unless footage of him strangling puppies as a recreational pastime ever pops up, and I doubt even that would dent his aura. But Scott’s doco does pinpoint the respect people had for Hillary that arose from his work in helping the people of Nepal as much if not more than for being Captain Adventure.

But the movie is a good yarn. It uses footage from the 1953 documentary The Conquest of Everest by Lowe and recreates the bits, mainly in the upper altitude, using Chad Moffitt as Sir Ed and Sonam Sherpa as Tenzing Norgay. (I was at a party in Wellington a few years ago with Cousin Zak when a giant, raw-boned muscular bastard walked in who was a dead ringer for Sir Ed. It was indeed Mr Moffitt.)

Director Leanne Pooley (Topp Twins – Untouchable Girls, Shackleton’s Captain) says in the making-of bits that Sonam Sherpa was working in the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook when she was doing a recee for the film. Right place, right time, and a right ringer for Tenzing too. Screw the casting agents on that one.

Along the way to the top the movie goes into the politics of the personnel on the climb, who was going to be the team to have a go at the summit and what went wrong with the first team. Of course, what happened is never in doubt but it still does a good job showing just how tough the whole thing was, how determined and hardy Hillary and Tenzing were, and just what a hell of an achievement it was.

The marking of the climbing trail through the Khumbu Icefall by the pair as a way of showing their chops to expedition leader John Hunt was a feat in itself and quite riveting.

At one stage Hillary fell into a crevasse and a quick thinking Tenzing managed to save him.

In one of the voiceovers from archive material, Hillary said people would say to him he must have been very grateful to Tenzing for saving his life.

Hillary deadpans he wasn’t actually grateful: “I would have been very annoyed if he hadn’t saved my life.” Ah, Sir Ed, you were a card.

The soundtrack by David Long is atmospheric and moody and something to throw into your ears if you get that mountaineering urge.

Long, the guitarist with the Mutton Birds (fanboy alert!!) has since carved out a career in music soundtracks, while doing music for Jackson movies and still playing in bands around Wellington. Here’s a link to some bits from the soundtrack and other recent work of his: http://www.nativetongue.com.au/writers/david-long/

As for the extras, nothing too flash. The making-of has the producer Matthew Metcalfe (credited as the writer, with Pooley) saying crazy things like he hopes the Hillary family likes the movie, it was tough to do up in the mountains at Mt Cook National Park and it was an honour to tell the story and that sort of thing.

(There are a lot of shots of the crew up in the Mt Cook region. Apparently areas up there are dead ringers for bits of Everest but they had a team shooting footage there as well, probably, to quote from The Rutles, “to find out just how expensive it is to make these documentaries.” )

There is also an extra called B Roll of Mt Cook, which looked like the person who usually buttered the Marmite sandwiches was given a camera and told to go and shoot footage of the backs of people’s heads while on a mountainside. I am sure it meant something to someone.

Oh, and the aking-of stuff makes mention going the extra mile to shoot in 3D and what that means for the final product. Poor sods. 3D is the cinematic version of “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.”

I give it three stars out of five. Anything less and it’s probably instant revocation of New Zealand citizenship.

http://kiwispacepatrol.com/2015/03/29/film-review-beyond-the-edge/

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2 Responses to “Bill O’Byrne’s Bargain Bin Blues: Beyond the Edge”

  1. Good this has been released on BD. Now what about the expo film This Is New Zealand. It was remastered years ago but I suspect it may need another remastering for BD.

  2. I probably scrimped on praising the quality of the Blu-ray picture, but it is quite beautiful.

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