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MAJESTY OF EVEREST ON IMAX LESSENED ON TV.

Byline: Eric Mink New York Daily News

Having seen the original IMAX version of ``Everest'' four times, I have some advice for anyone planning to watch its world television debut at 8 tonight on TNT:

Sit really close, and turn up the volume really loud.

Assuming your TV is superb and your reception flawless - hardly minor qualifications - you will see stunningly sharp, clear, vibrant images shot during a May 1996 film-making expedition to the top of the world.

Your memory is correct if you recall 1996 as the year eight Everest climbers lost their lives. The IMAX crew, led by Ed Viesturs of the U.S. and Jamling Tenzing Norgay of India, was on the mountain at the time.

Indeed, as ``Everest'' recounts, the crisis halted production of the film for a period of time, first to allow Viesturs and his colleagues to assist in rescue efforts and then to allow them to recover from the emotional shock of the events.

To its credit, ``Everest'' is restrained in its account of these matters, touching on the inherent drama of the deaths and the miraculous survival of Texas doctor Beck Weathers, but exploiting neither.

The meat of the film is the step-by-step efforts of the Viesturs/IMAX team to reach the top of the world's tallest mountain. A simple and direct narration read by Liam Neeson (written by Tim Cahill and co-producer/co-director Stephen Judson) explains the demands and dangers of thin-air climbing and the techniques required to cross different kinds of terrain.

The photography (by cinematographer/co-director David Breashears and his colleagues) is as dazzling as you'd expect, with climbers using ladders to bridge deep crevasses, battling the strength-sapping, mind-numbing lack of oxygen and picking their way up a wall of snow and ice in the blackness of midnight, their way illuminated only by the battery-powered lights strapped to their heads.

The emotional center of the film, though, lies mainly with the summit attempt by Jamling. In 1953, his father, Tenzing Norgay, and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first humans to ascend to the top of Everest and live to tell about it. Before Jamling's ascent on this expedition, nine other members of his family had reached the mountain's peak.

Make no mistake: Even with the finest home equipment and connections, the TNT experience of ``Everest'' can be no more than a faint approximation of the multistory images and multichannel sound in an IMAX theater. Is it worth seeing? Yes. But keep in mind that after you've seen it on TV, you still haven't really seen it.

Earlier in the day, ``The Making of `Everest:' On Location in the Death Zone'' offers some insights into IMAX film making and the equipment developed to shoot in the often brutal environmental conditions of Everest. Produced and directed by Laura Davis, it's an enlightening 30 minutes.

The facts

The show: ``Everest.''

What: A team of climbers took on Mount Everest in 1996, and you get to see it all via this 1998 film. Repeats at 10:30 p.m. Why? Because it's there.

Where: TNT.

When: 8 and 9 tonight, repeating at 7 and 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

The show: ``The Making of `Everest:' On Location in the Death Zone.''

What: Discusses the making of the documentary.

Where: TNT.

When: Noon today.
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Nov 20, 1999
Words:550
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