'Wildest Dream' Retraces Mallory's Everest Climb

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British mountaineer George Mallory wanted to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, but his 1924 expedition instead ended in his tragic death. Mallory's body was found 75 years later. The movie The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest,retraces Mallory's expedition.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Now let's go to an even higher altitude. Even if you have never heard of mountaineer George Mallory, you have probably heard what he reportedly said before he launched an expedition to Mount Everest in the 1920s. There's a new documentary about him called "The Wildest Dream." Here's Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN: Why climb Mount Everest? For British mountaineer George Mallory, the answer was because it's there. Mallory wanted to be the first man to conquer Everest, but his 1924 expedition ended with his tragic death.

Did Mallory manage to summit Everest before he died? That still unsolved question was personal to American climber Conrad Anker. He discovered Mallory's body on the mountain in 1999.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WILDEST DREAM")

CONRAD ANKER: I was curious. I stopped, turned around, and there was a patch of white. It wasn't snow. As I got closer, I realized this was the body of one of the pioneering English climbers, frozen onto the mountainside.

TURAN: To reach the summit, Mallory would have had to free climb a rock face known as the Second Step. This obstacle is so difficult that mountaineers argue whether or not it was physically possible.

Anker wanted to find out, so he and National Geographic organized an expedition to recreate that 1924 climb.

Anker and Mallory turned out to have more in common than a passion for Everest. Both had been on previous expeditions where friends had died, and both had wives who were understandably concerned about their husband's fate.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE WILDEST DREAM")

NATASHA RICHARDSON: (as Ruth Mallory) We ought to live together all the time and share thoughts and joys and sorrows. And we can't apart, as we can together.

TURAN: "The Wildest Dream" uses interviews, newsreels and beautiful color footage taken on Everest to tell the story of both expeditions. Anker's expedition is interesting but it is Mallory's that stays with us longest. There have been a lot of Everest stories, but Mallory's was the first and remains the most compelling.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. We review more of the week's openings, including Will Ferrell's new buddy cop comedy at npr.org.

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