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A Canterbury Tale [VHS] [1944]

Eric Portman , Sheila Sim , Emeric Pressburger , Michael Powell    Universal, suitable for all   VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price, John Sweet, Esmond Knight
  • Directors: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
  • Writers: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
  • Producers: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, Jock Laurence
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, Mono
  • Language: English
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Carlton
  • VHS Release Date: 26 Jan 2000
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CLDI
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,169 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

From Amazon.co.uk

One of the most beloved of all British films, A Canterbury Tale marks yet another occasion to celebrate the Criterion Collection's growing DVD legacy of Powell and Pressburger classics. Originally conceived as good-natured propaganda to support the British-American alliance of World War II, the film became something truly special in the hands of the Archers (a.k.a. writer/director/producers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger). Taking its literary cues from Chaucer's titular classic, it begins with a prologue that harkens back to Chaucer's time before match-cutting to present-day August of 1943, with the night-time arrival of U.S. Army Sgt. Bob Johnson (played with folksy charm by John Sweet, an actual American GI) on the shadowy platform of Canterbury station in the magically rural county of Kent (where Powell was born and raised). He is soon joined by two fellow train passengers: Alison Smith (Sheila Sim), a brashly independent recruit in the British Woman's Land Army; and Peter Gibbs (Dennis Price), a sergeant in the royal Army, and before long they're tracking clues to find "the glue man", a mysterious figure who's been pouring "the sticky stuff" on unsuspecting women as the midnight hour approaches. Their investigation leads to Thomas Colpeper (Eric Portman), a village squire whose local slide-shows celebrate life in an idyllic rural England threatened by wartime change. As Graham Fuller writes in an observant mini-essay that accompanies this DVD, is this a whodunit? Historical documentary? War film? Rustic comedy? It's all these and so much more: As photographed in glorious black and white by Erwin Hiller (faithfully preserved by one of Criterion's finest high-definition digital transfers), A Canterbury Tale has an elusive, magical quality that encompasses its trio of Canterbury "pilgrims" and translates into a an elusive, spiritually uplifting sense of elation that has made it an all-time favorite among film lovers around the world. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

A British sergeant, a land girl and a United States Army officer arrive at a Kent village on the same train. The newcomers are brought face to face with the bizarre menace causing bewilderment in the tight-knit community: someone is pouring glue onto the hair of girls who dare to venture out at night with visiting servicemen. Powell and Pressburger offered this 'propaganda' piece as their contribution to the war effort, but the authorities were unsure how its oddball tone would go down with the Allies.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical film 19 Sep 2002
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I had the extreme luck of watching this film for the first time at a special showing in Canterbury itself. I found it compelling and wonderful. It is British in the same sense as 'Brief Encounter'. Both of them capture the nuances of midcentury England. This film focuses on the beauty of the dwindling countryside, evoking wonderfully a way of life that was disappearing even then. The director, Michael Powell, came from Canterbury, and it shows. This film is clearly a labour of love. It even understands the magic of Canterbury cathedral, with each of the main characters setting out on a pilgrimage of their own, to have a boon granted or do penance. Even though it is in black and white, it is a film filled with sunshine. I recommend it to anyone who feels nostalgia for the past, even a past they never experienced.
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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unease of Being English 19 Dec 2002
This is the most effective account of what it is like to be English within the encroaching tide of American popular culture.
That it was made when it was makes it truly prophetic.
It's blissfully hard to categorise. It is sentimental, it does have comedy but there is an underlying menace - a malevolent incongruity that seems to hallmark director Powell's best work. The whole notion of a midnight prowler deliberately pasting glue into women's hair is a good example of this kind of alternate reality. There is a specific scene where a many hands are vigorously washing the hair which seems disturbingly loaded with sadism.
Yet the subject (and the reason for buying) is history - what in the middle of WWII can be realistically retained. What has to give way? So we see the cocky GI find an affinity with an English carpenter, a cynical cinema pianist collaborating with a cathedral organist and a middle aged magistrate judged and sentenced by one of his own victims.
It's beautifully photographed, particularly the scenes of rural life yet contains a strangely powerful message for this generation, faced with the cultural narrowing of globalisation of the arts.
Not a Multiplex fave...but you should see it for just this reason.
Recommended unreservedly.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaucer would have loved this.... 18 Sep 2000
This is one of the best films of its type - with some stunning photography and effects like the change from the pilgrim's falcon in flight to a diving Spitfire fighter plane and the same pilgrim changed from mediaeval dress to WW2 khaki. Some wonderful characters, like the station master, played by Charles Hawtry, and Sheila Sim as the Landgirl. Dennis Price is suave and convincing. The film is a wonderful evocation of life in wartime Kent and its portrayal of the way in which the characters find what they are looking for is sensitive and believable. There's a lot of gentle humour and portrayal of local people is done sensitively.
Certainly one of my top ten films of all time.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a canterbury tale 12 July 2002
This is one of my all time favourite movies, it has a wonderful nostalgic feel for England before the 2nd World War, and an eerie timeless quality as you imagine all the lives played out through the ages on the Pilgrims Way which leads into Canterbury. The theme of the Glue Man who pours glue on girls' hair is just a part of it, the real theme is peoples lives then and how they lived through the war. As I was brought up 7 miles from Canterbury it is also an interesting historical document as you get to see what it was like right after the bombing - something you cannot imagine until you see just how much of the city was left as piles of rubble. A classic bit of British life circa 1930s if you like old b&w "brief encounter" type movies you will love this one. The photography is lovely and shows English countryside in its heyday. The plot is about three young people whose lives are changed after an eventful weekend in the East Kent countryside and arrive in Canterbury on the day a local regiment embarks for the Second Front. This is intercut with the pilgrims travelling to Canterbury in the Middle Ages. Trust me, it works! This film is just a lovely modest little treasure everyone should see - I highly recommend "A Matter of Life and Death" by Michael Powell too, which stars David Niven and is, again, set in the Second World War.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love conquers all in wartime Kent 2 Aug 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
There are so many beauties in this film it seems carping to mention its faults; if such they are, like the fact that one is never really in any doubt about the identity of the glue-throwing molester of young women. That part of the mystery is not so much a "whodunnit" as a "whydunnit" - the "Glueman's" motivation being to preserve a threatened way of life by discrediting the soldiers from a nearby Army camp. That way of life - with the trades, hierarchies, scenery of rural Kent - is what really pervades this film. War is not here a matter of battles, bullets and bombs, but of dislocations, of people finding themselves somewhere they have no connection with, of lost contacts, of finding unexpectedly things worth knowing. An American sergeant finds common ground with a Kent wheelwright; wood being their common language, and develops a taste for tea. A cynical British sergeant picks up the threads of his lost musical career at the organ of Canterbury Cathedral, and land girl Alison looks for nostalgia and finds a more tangible love. The Canterbury pilgrims of the 14th century open the film: the bells of the Cathedral close it: in between all are on a pilgrimage of one kind or another.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars HEARTWARMING
This is one of my favourite films ever (my actual favourite probably changes with time, but this one is ALWAYS number one or two on the list). Read more
Published 3 months ago by MeB
5.0 out of 5 stars A Canterbury Tale
A gem of a film and evocative of its time. Yes, people were really like that in those days, it's sad that spirit has been lost.
Published 8 months ago by GRAHAM FREEMAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming
I think that's probably the best word to describe this. It's a film made during the war years but, typically of Powell & Pressburger, the propaganda ("Aren't we a wonderfully... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr M.R.Watkinson
3.0 out of 5 stars OK for me, but a real oldie
An old film, but I knew Canterbury in early post-war years when there were holes in the ground and signs to say where a shop was now functioning in spite of the big hole in the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dr. W. N. G. Kendall
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic!
A very good record of bygone era during the war years of the 1930's onwards, coupled with the updating of the traditional Canterbury Tales saga. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Opus simplex
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of those iconic films
I had this on video and have now purchased it on DVD. It is a lovely film with the acting good. Good atmosphere and camera work briliant. One of my Top Ten films!
Published 12 months ago by Josephine Blann
5.0 out of 5 stars Like to save some money? .......read on
While this is an excellent version of A Canterbury Tale I would like to point out that there is another version out there which costs half the price. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ergophobe
5.0 out of 5 stars A Canterbury Tale
A wonderful film, a great favourite of mine and my late husband's (Eddie was older than me and remembered WW2 only too clearly)- I have tears in my eyes as Onward Christiona... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tedsgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, understated, classic, heart warming
Yes it's old but it is a lovely film.

Sure, we can do a detailed analysis of it, with points including:

- Music afficienados will have a double-take when they... Read more
Published 17 months ago by foodcymru
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
A beautifully realised work of true art and stature. Magical, mesmerising and profoundly moving in its depiction of the innocence and humanity of the central characters. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Chev Chelios
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