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49th Parallel (The Criterion Collection)

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Frequently Bought Together

49th Parallel (The Criterion Collection) + The Films of Michael Powell: A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven) / Age of Consent + Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, Richard George, Eric Portman, Raymond Lovell
  • Directors: Michael Powell
  • Writers: Emeric Pressburger, Rodney Ackland
  • Producers: Michael Powell, George H. Brown, Roland Gillett
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 20, 2007
  • Run Time: 123 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000KRNGN6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,529 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "49th Parallel (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Commentary by film and music historian Bruce Eder
  • The Volunteer, a 1943 Powell and Pressburger short starring Ralph Richardson
  • A Pretty British Affair, a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Booklet with new essay by film scholar Charles Barr and an excerpt Powell's 1941 premiere speech

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 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.

Additional Features

Criterion's print of this 1941 film is fabulous, however, a few hairs remain, which is odd with the high bar the Criterion Collection sets. The best of the second-disc special features is a 1981 BBC show on directors Powell and Pressburger. We follow Powell around Hollywood with his new job, Senior Director in Resident for Zoetrope Studios, Francis Ford Coppola's all-too-brief attempt to create an independent film studio. We visit the ill-fated set of One from the Heart and also Martin Scorsese (the contemporary Powell advocate) on the other side of town shooting The King of Comedy. There's an hour of Powell's audio dictations for only the serious buff and a rare short by the two filmmakers, The Volunteer. Ralph Richardson plays himself in this little ditty about how a clumsy dresser becomes a sharp volunteer for Britain's war effort. --Doug Thomas

Customer Reviews

This film is genuinely great.
This was quite a different story than from some of the other Hollywood formula films and we found it was a very crisp & clear enjoyable classic film.
By 1940, Britain and it's Empire, including Canada, were at war with Nazi Germany.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 13, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
These are the words spoken by the Nazis in this film to strike enough fear into the hearts of Americans to encourage them to join WWII, in this all-star propaganda vehicle that is riveting and features terrific performances; some of the big names involved in this production were also behind the camera, with Michael Powell directing, Emeric Pressburger as writer, Freddie Young as cinematographer, David Lean as editor, and a score by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

As the German U-boat gets bombed by the Canadian Air Force, stranding the six man landing party led by Lt. Hirth (Eric Portman), you follow them as they try to "blend" into the Canadian populace, with the intentions of crossing the border into the US.
Some of the stellar performances include Sir Laurence Olivier as a French Canadian trapper who has spent so long in the wild he is not aware the world is at war, Anton Walbrook ("The Red Shoes") is fabulous and so handsome as the leader of a peaceable community, where we also find a lovely young Glynis Johns, who is an orphan living there. Leslie Howard, an actor who I could watch read the proverbial telephone book, is marvelous as a writer who invites the strangers into his teepee in the woods, and Raymond Massey gives a delicious portrayal of a young man who has overstayed his leave from the military.

Also starring in this film is the Canadian landscape, which we get to see and admire as the Nazis make their way from coast to coast.
Though the plot has some gaping holes, it is well written, fast-paced, and quite exciting, and is a fascinating film from an historical perspective, and because of the participation of so many great performers and filmmakers.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By dooby on March 9, 2007
Format: DVD
This was Powell and Pressburger's contribution to the British war effort. It's main aim was to help sway the American public into joining the war on the British side. By 1940, Britain and it's Empire, including Canada, were at war with Nazi Germany. America remained adamantly neutral. The US Neutrality Act forbade any direct appeal by the British to the American people but P&P sidestepped this by having the Germans stage a landing in Canada instead and showing how the Nazis were a threat even to far-away America.

The crew of the German raider U-37, after torpedoing a Canadian merchant ship, is sunk by the RCAF in northern Hudson Bay, near the Canadian Arctic (Talk of propaganda - as we learn in the commentary, the three B-10 bombers we see attacking the sub, actually made up the entire fleet of the RCAF in 1940). Six of the U-37 crew make it to shore alive. They have to cross hostile Canadian territory to reach the safety of neutral America. The film contrasts the kindness and decency of Canadians, emphasising their kinship with their American brethren to the south, against the brutality and inhumanity of the Nazis. As the U-37 crew trek southward, they encounter various Canadians who prove their loyalty in one way or another, often delivering ringing lectures about the rightness of the allied cause. Laurence Olivier is almost unrecognisable as the jolly French trapper whom the Nazis try to tempt by declaring that Hitler has sworn to free French Canadians from the tyranny of the British. Instead he risks his life trying to warn the Americans. Eskimo hunters (Inuit), described as semi-apes by the Nazis, manage to kill one of the Germans as they flee south.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 7, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Michael Powell directed this odd wartime propaganda film, set in Canada, before the American entry into WWII. A German U-boat has infiltrated the Canadian coastline, seeking to attack and subvert our neighbors to the North, before Uncle sam can wake up and get into the fight. The Canucks make short work of the Nazi, sub, sinking it in Hudson Bay, but a reconnaissance team, now stranded in Newfoundland, sets out to smuggle themselves into the US, where, sheltered by American neutrality, they intend on spreading Nazi propaganda, or perhaps even blowing up the American capitol, or some other act of terrorism. Viewed in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 bombings, this was a remarkable film, particularly as the German strategy was specifically to subvert the openness and freedom of the "decadent" democracies, and turn the rule of law into a weapon against them. Sound familiar? Two sequences bear the unique Powellian stamp of the director's odd, askew sense of humor. The first is a prolonged "Witness"-like interlude in a rural Mennonite community, where the gentleness and loving acceptance of the farmers threaten to upend the authority of the fanatical German leader. Once he manages to peel his men away from the embrace of pacifism and equality, the commandant leads his men Westward in a reckless race towards the border in the Pacific Northwest. The film's most brilliant scene unfolds as the manhunt traps them in an "Indian Days" celebration at a national park: when the police take over the PA system and address the crowd to warn them of the hidden spies, the Germans shrink with terror as they are described to the tiniest, most accurate detail.Read more ›
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