49th Parallel [2 Discs] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1941]

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's thoughtful exercise in pro-British World War II propaganda makes its American DVD debut in this richly appointed package from the Criterion Collection. 49th Parallel has been transferred to disc in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and looks quite good; while the source materials look a bit soft in spots, for the most part the visual quality is excellent, and the location work (shot in Canada by Frederick Young) truly stands out. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and sounds just fine, as good as any film produced in 1941 is likely to sound. The dialogue is in English (with a smattering of French and German for character color), with no multiple language options included, though the disc does feature optional English language subtitles. The feature include an optional commentary track, in which Bruce Eder discusses the style of the film and shares anecdotes about its production, while the original theatrical trailer is also on board. A bonus disc includes more bonus material, including a BBC television documentary on Powell and Pressburger, audio recordings of Powell discussing (#49th Parallel} as he dictated material for his autobiography (the sound quality is less then pristine, but he's clearly understandable), and The Volunteer, an entertaining 43-minute short ($Powell} directed to promote military recruitment during the war which stars Ralph Richardson. A well-designed booklet featuring an essay by Charles Barr and a transcript of Michael Powell's speech at the film's premiere is the icing on the cake. If 49th Parallel isn't at the top of Powell and Pressberger's list of cinematic accomplishments, it certainly merits a viewing (especially for Laurence Olivier's con brio performance as a Quebecois trapper), and this edition treats the material with tender loving care.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Disc One: The Film -
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Audio commentary by film and music historian Bruce Eder
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Disc Two: The Supplements -
  • The Volunteer, a 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson
  • Excerpts from Michael Powell's audio dictations for his autobiography
  • A Pretty British Affair, a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger, which considers their World War II - era collaborations and features rare footage of the filmmakers together
  • Plus: A new essay by film scholar Charles Barr and an excerpt from Powell's 1941 speech

Synopsis

The 49th Parallel
49th Parallel is a British wartime entreaty for Empire solidarity, concentrating on rousing the patriotic fervor of the citizens of Canada. A group of Nazi naval officers and crewmen are stranded on Canadian soil (we have no sympathy for the castaways, inasmuch as we have just seen them refusing food and water to a group of torpedoed British seamen). Led by lieutenant Eric Portman, the Nazis try to stir up sympathy amongst the Canadians, beginning with apolitical Quebeckian trapper Laurence Olivier. Failing to convert Olivier--even by force--the Germans move on to a Hutterite farming community, where again they are unsuccessful in winning adherents (though, conversely, German seaman Niall Mac Ginnis defects to the other side). They then cross the path of professorial author Leslie Howard, who is living amongst the Indians to soak up "local color". Even Howard proves too formidable for the Nazis, and by film's end the surviving invaders are hiding out in a train, where they are discovered and captured by AWOL Canadian soldier Raymond Massey. Most TV viewers know 49th Parallel under its alternate title, The Invaders. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Leslie Howard
    Leslie Howard - Philip Armstrong Scott
  • Raymond Massey
    Raymond Massey - Andy Brock
  • Laurence Olivier
    Laurence Olivier - Johnnie
  • Anton Walbrook
    Anton Walbrook - Peter
  • Glynis Johns
    Glynis Johns - Anna
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.