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Criterion Collection: A Canterbury Tale [DVD] [1944] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Eric Portman , Sheila Sim , David Thompson , Emeric Pressburger    DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £18.97
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Frequently Bought Together

Criterion Collection: A Canterbury Tale [DVD] [1944] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] + I Know Where I'm Going [DVD] [1945] + The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Special Restoration Edition) [DVD] [1943]
Price For All Three: £30.27

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Product details

  • Actors: Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price, John Sweet, Esmond Knight
  • Directors: David Thompson, Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
  • Writers: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
  • Producers: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, Jock Laurence
  • Format: Black & White, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 25 July 2006
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,068 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



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

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
In 1980, Emeric Pressburger said, "A script can only create nests in which magic may settle." With A Canterbury Tale, he and his partner, Michael Powell, created one of the most magical, luminous and eccentric movies ever made. The film is far removed from the obvious patriotic product they were asked to produce and yet it is one of the most effective evocations of why Britain and America were fighting a common enemy.

The plot is so slight and off-hand it can't be taken too seriously. It's just a device to have three modern pilgrims stay awhile in the English village of Chillingbourne on Chaucer's pilgrims road to Canterbury. The three are Alison Smith (Sheila Sim), a land girl from London, come to work on a farm and who has been notified her fiance has been killed in action; British sergeant Peter Gibbs (Dennis Price), a trained organist who played organs in cinema houses and is joining his unit on the outskirts of the village; and U. S. sergeant Bob Johnson (real life Sergeant John Sweet, recruited by Powell to play this part), on leave for a few days who got off the train at the wrong station and who hasn't heard from his wife for months. Someone in the village is pouring glue on the hair of village girls who have been dating soldiers. As the three leave the train station during blackout, Alison has glue poured on her hair. The three make their way to the magistrate, Thomas Colpepper (Eric Portman), who seems cold and uninterested in Alison's plight. The three determine to find out by themselves who the mysterious "glueman" really is.

Powell and Pressburger use this slight device to evoke a deep feeling of the continuity of life, the sense that history is just as much a part of what is now as what has been.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like to save some money? on 4 Sep 2013
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. It is issued by an Italian company with the rather unappetising name 'Sinister Films'. Don't be put off by that as the quality is excellent. The real plus point, apart from price, is that as extras it contains the complete version of the film made for the American market and a short documentary made in 2000 in which John Sweet returns to Canterbury and shares his memories of the film. The American version of the film has a different prologue and an additional sequence towards the end featuring an un-billed Kim Hunter. It can be found on Amazon under it's Italian title 'Un Racconto di Canterbury'.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Glue Man 1 Oct 2006
The tale starts out with a historical reference to Chaucer. For a fraction you wonder if you are watching the film you expected. And then you see the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger eagle that transitions us form mid-evil times to present day (1944) England.

Time is taken to give depth and background to all the main characters by the use of interactive dialog. We find that each brings different technical skills and interpretations of the road to Canterbury:

U.S. Army Sergt. Bob Johnson (U.S. Sergeant John Sweet) on his way to Canterbury mistakenly gets off in the hamlet of Kent. He is accused of having his stripes on upside down.

British Sgt. Peter Gibbs (Dennis Price) is temporarily stationed at Kent while staging for overseas. He was and theater organ player before the war.

Alison Smith (Sheila Sim) a London store clerk before the war is now seeking a job as a `Land Girl'. She seems to have an uncanny knowledge of Kent and the Pilgrims' road to Canterbury.

The night they got off the train at Kent they had a strange encounter with the mysterious "Glue Man". Then befriended by the local magistrate, Thomas Colpeper, JP (Thomas Colpeper, JP). Mr. Colpeper is interested in the history of the Pilgrims' Road from Kent to Canterbury.

Until you get pretty much through this story you are never really sure where they are trying to take you. Is the focus on a local mystery? The interaction of the players or the lives of the characters themselves?

Be sure to get the Criterion version with the second DVD.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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Another masterpiece from this team: the 2nd of 7 in a row over a consecutive 7 year period from 1943 to 1949. Think of that. Name another film maker (or team) from any country that has achieved this. Powell wasn't even done after that with a further masterpiece released in 1960, Peeping Tom. Further enhancing their brilliance, every single film was great for a different reason.
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, released in 1943, was a hugely stylised and yet at the same time exact film, and at the same time biased from the main character's perspective, and so, a lie! A film to combat the establishment at the hardest time to do that, in wartime. And the hardest time not to tell it's audience what its stance should be, and which it refuses to do.
I Know Where I'm Going! from 1945 is marvelous for being wonderfully romantic while managing never to be sentimental. It also evokes a mythic Scotland, and Scotland was adored by Powell.
A Matter of Life and Death is the supreme technicolor fantasy including special effects and superb technical set-pieces. The only boundaries for the imagination in this film is the imagination of the character who's mind is supplying it, which accounts for all the amazing happenings.
Black Narcissus is a British film for once not stiff and repressed but truly sensual. The art design too is simply wonderful. In addition it's very funny.
The Red Shoes is a study of obsession with as it's centrepiece one of the Archer's greatest achievements, the magnificent 15-minute special effects ballet sequence. This film is probably the best place to start for a person interested in beginning to explore the magic of Powell and Pressburger's films.
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