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 Post subject: 376 49th Parallel
PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:21 pm 
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49th Parallel

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At once a compelling piece of anti-isolationist propaganda and a quick-witted wartime thriller, 49th Parallel is a classic early work from the inimitable British filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. When a Nazi U-boat crew, headed by the ruthless Eric Portman, is stranded in Canada during the thick of World War II, the men evade capture by hiding out in a series of rural communities, before trying to cross the border into the still-neutral United States. Both soul-stirring and delightfully entertaining, 49th Parallel features a colorful cavalcade of characters played by larger-than-life actors Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook, and Leslie Howard.

Disc Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Audio commentary by film and music historian Bruce Eder
- The Volunteer, a 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson
- A Pretty British Affair, a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger, which considers their WWII-era collaborators and features rare footage of the filmmakers together
- Excerpts from Michael Powell's audio dictations for his autobiography
- Original theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Charles Barr and an excerpt from Powell's 1941 premiere speech

Criterionforum.org user rating averages



Last edited by kinjitsu on Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:27 pm 
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This is a terrific film, effortlessly entertaining on an impressive scale, and it's good to see it getting treated so nicely. The short is an unexpected bonus - has anybody seen it?


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 7:10 pm 
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Dammit. This movie is corny and now I feel like I have to buy it so I can get that documentary and the Powell dictations.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:46 am 
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The doc is a decent BBC Arena from 1981, featuring P&P plus Scorsese, Coppola etc... Have on tape...

Also from original 1943 Press Release for THE VOLUNTEER...

Quote:
"The Volunteer", the story of a typical youth - any youth from London, from Penzance, Liverpool, Newcastle or Glasgow. In the film he is called Alfred Davey, but it could as easily be Smith, Davis or McGregor.

The film was made by The Archers for the Ministry of Information at the request of the Admiralty. It tells the story of a youngster who joins the Fleet Air Arm and traces his career from the day he enters - so ham-fisted he can hardly hit a nail with a hammer - until the day he finds himself responsible for the maintenance of a Seafire aircraft in the height of an attack by enemy planes.

In order to find out what happens to the typical recruit when he joins the Fleet Air Arm, Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell visited pilots and ground crews on Aircraft carriers, in training establishments and air stations. The camera unit itself visited nine Naval Establishments - six in Great Britain and three in the Near and Middle East.

A number of scenes were shot on the Aircraft carrier "Indomitable" whilst she was on active service in the Mediterranean. Among the scenes aboard the aircraft carrier there is a film show - a film within a film - for which the commentary is given by Lieutenant Commander Tommy Woodrooffe, who happened to be aboard.

Lieutenant Commander (A) Ralph Richardson R.N.V.R. plays himself in the film, and the part of the typical recruit Alfred Davey is played by Pat McGrath.

The film was writted, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It is being released for the Ministry of Information by Anglo-American, and opens its pre-release run at the Odeon, Leicester Square on Friday October 29th.



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 4:31 am 
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I always know I'm in for a good commentary as soon as I hear that immortal trademark Bruce Eder "Hullo". This was the first commentary I ever listened to, back in the mid-90s on laser, and it's still one of the best I have ever heard.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 12:47 pm 
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First John Powers sneers that Black Narcissus is "condescending" in his Fresh Air review of the Janus Films megabox, and now Matt smacks down 49th Parallel as "corny."

I'll disagree on both counts, but then I'm also willing to buy Conrad Veidt as a credible romantic lead in P & P's Contraband.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 4:31 pm 
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Much in agreement. "Contraband" may not be P&P's greatest film, but it is perfect, perfect, perfect entertainment, and incredibly stylish, of course.

As to "49th Parallel": the above applies to this one, too, but in addition you have a very differentiated, thoughtful portrait of the Germans (totally unusual for the time), fantastic landscape photography, very good acting, a marvellous soundtrack by Vaughan Williams. What else could you possibly wish for in a 1941 film? That "49th" does not quite reach the heights of "Canterbury Tale", let alone "The Red Shoes" is obvious, but not surprising. But take it for what it is: a thoughtful reflection of the political and human situation at the time, again great entertainment, and the first glimpse of what was to come from Britain's most outstanding director of the time.

Ah... I think I must re-buy it in this new Criterion version, if only for "The Volunteers" and that BBC documentary. Although I thought I was really happy with the Institut Lumiere set...


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:08 pm 
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How can anyone dislike a movie that features Laurence Olivier as a French-Canadian trapper?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:45 pm 
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jonah.77 wrote:
How can anyone dislike a movie that features Laurence Olivier as a French-Canadian trapper?

He's easily the worst part of that movie, but I love it anyway.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 8:37 am 
Great! Every Powell and Pressburger release is a reason to celebrate!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2006 6:27 am 

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Matt wrote:
Dammit. This movie is corny and now I feel like I have to buy it so I can get that documentary and the Powell dictations.

You certainly do. There's some tremendous footage in this 1981 piece - Powell and Pressburger nattering away together like the Beales at a gentlemen's club in Mayfair, Powell giving a hilarious walk-round of the sights in Hollywood and Powell & Francis Coppola wandering the then-functioning American Zoetrope studio lot discussing their love for the "good old days". It's not terribly well-structured but a lot of the stuff in it is priceless. I suspect the clips from The Thief of Bagdad and A Matter of Life and Death will have to be removed, and the version I saw was a 1990 repeat in tribute to Michael Powell's death which only ran 35 minutes - was it a cut-down repeat?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 2:21 pm 
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Back cover and spine


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 9:45 pm 
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DVD Beaver review is up


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 12:18 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 11:40 am
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Why doesn't this box carry the Image logo, whereas the Bicycle Thieves box does?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 12:45 am 
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Bicycle Thieves carries an Image logo because it was licensed from Image. 49th Parallel does not because it wasn't.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:34 pm 
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Just picked this up today. Will put it on as soon as I regain the use of my thumb after extracting Disc 1 from the figure-eight case.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:08 pm 
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You were able to dislodge the discs? Lucky bastard!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:29 pm 
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Have only seen this film once, and didn't like it. I may give it another ago.
From what I can remember, it was a pretty routine war film, not on par with P/P later films. It never left an indelible impression.
I may reappraise, however, my gut is telling me that this one may be now "grossly" overrated.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:50 pm 
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This was the first P&P film I saw, and I adored it. It was the gateway film for me to the entire Archers oevre, and I value no filmmakers higher. It still sits in my top 5 Archers films.

The Eder commentary, ported over from the old LD, is excellent.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:50 pm 
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I certainly far prefer earlier Powells like Contraband and Spy in Black (if only these were given the Criterion treatment.)

49th Parallel is one of those second tier Powells like Ill Met by Moonlight. Which is actually more narratively intricateand is at least blessed with a decent perf from Dirk, unlike the supersized ham served up by Dame Larry in Parallel - with only a couple of exceptions - Carrie, Bunny Lake and Love Among the Ruins - he must be one of my least admired movie actors.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:59 pm 
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davidhare wrote:
I certainly far prefer earlier Powells like Contraband and Spy in Black (if only these were given the Criterion treatment.)

I'd buy them from Criterion as well!

I'm certainly fond of Contraband and Spy in Black, but don't bear the same love for them as for 49th Parallel. I don't find either quite as audacious (or clever, for that matter) on the script level, and for that alone they seem less "Archers-esqe". It also affords Powell greater opportunity to indulge in his love for tramping about in wild places - the Naturist in him is given fullest rein since Edge of the World.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:20 pm 
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starmanof51 wrote:
It also affords Powell greater opportunity to indulge in his love for tramping about in wild places - the Naturist in him is given fullest rein since Edge of the World.

Sorry, what do you mean by this?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 12:55 am 
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Have to agree with DavidHare, THE SPY IN BLACK is first-rate, and a m m much beter film.

49th is only v v mediocre. However, I can see how easily one can be brainwashed into thinking it is a substantial film, with some even labelling it a materpiece (which I think is an absolute joke). The plethora of internet reviewers are the modern-day indoctrinators.
The film is v v average, and Olivier is always a yawn.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:36 am 
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Shame, I haven't seen "Spy in Black", but comparing "49th parallel" to "Ill met at moonlight" seems absurd to me. The latter is incredibly dragging, with really dull dialogue from Pressburger far below his usual standards, whereas "49th parallel" has all of their usual sparkle and is a very differentiated film in its non-clichéd depiction of the Nazis. Like "Canterbury Tale", the film is a sort of road-movie with the object of self-realisation for many of the characters; only the main character fails in this, of course (but is given a stunning showdown nevertheless). I would agree about Powell the naturalist having free rein here: the landscape photography is incredible, also the scenes with the Canadian Indians. All of this totally unlike anything else shot at around the same time. The actors are all very, very good and fit their roles perfectly (also unlike "Ill met by moonlight"), and the whole thing is perfectly accompanied by the music of Vaughan Williams. And so on and so on...
Sorry for feeling unable to give a deeper or more intellectual analysis of why I think this film is great, but I find everything in it so incredibly perfect that all my critical faculties seem to melt into nowhere everytime I think about it. As I said in an earlier post, I ultimately think that some of their later works are even better, but still "49th" is a gem of filmmaking.

BTW: What do you think of their next film, "One of our aircraft is missing"? This is very much a companion piece to "49th parallel", but this time it's the good guys who have to find their way through enemy land. The film seems to be curiously overlooked here, but I think it's pretty marvellous, especially in its absence of ANY music, with the hum of the airplane in its opening 25 min. or so becoming almost musical instead. A striking effect. Also "Aircraft" has wonderful female actors again, Googie Withers and the gorgeous, gorgeous Pamela Brown... ahm, sorry....I think what I said above about my reaction to "49th parallel" goes for this film, too....


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:54 am 
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Subbuteo wrote:
starmanof51 wrote:
the Naturist in him is given fullest rein since Edge of the World.

Sorry, what do you mean by this?

He directed much of 49th Parallel and Edge of the World naked. What else could he mean?


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